KUSA – Inside a lab at the Colorado School of Mines, Hunter Williams stood next to the moon. Or maybe it was an asteroid? Or could it have been Mars?
“The goal is to recreate the environment that you see on the moon or on an asteroid, or Mars,” said Williams, describing the large vacuum chamber.
Williams uses the vacuum chamber to run simulations in the lab.
“We’re going to take the light of a thousand suns, focus it down to a spot about this big and blow up a fake asteroid,” Williams said.
If that sounds cool, imagine what it’d be like to do it for real in space.
“Like Armageddon!” Williams said with a laugh.
Williams has done more than imagined. He’s enrolled. In the fall, he’ll be part of a new space resources graduate program at the Colorado School of Mines.
“This is the very first program in the world focused on space resources,” said Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Center for Space Resources.
Students like Williams will explore ways to discover, extract and process resources in space.
“[The Colorado School of Mines] for 140 years has been concentrating on earth resources,” said Abbud-Madrid. “Now, we’re just doing the same thing we do on earth, which is identifying resources and processing it and utilizing it, but we’re just doing that in space.”
Research in the field of space resources could ultimately cut our dependence on earth.
“Ever since we started launching rockets into space 60 years ago, we have been carrying everything from our planet to explore space,” Abbud-Madrid said. “Obviously that is not sustainable. That is not efficient.”
Abbud-Madrid said we might be able to use resources found in destinations like the moon, Mars and asteroids to help us continue exploring space. Materials mined from space could eventually help us travel like we do in cars today, making pit stops for gas and food along the way until we reach our destinations. The idea has inspired aspiring space miners.
“I want to be the guy who’s making the robots, who’s flying the drones on the moon,” Hunter Williams said. “I want to be the guy who is making it happen and making money for the big corporations who are going to be getting involved in this.”
The Colorado School of Mines gauged interest in the new space resources program with a couple pilot courses. Abbud-Madrid said there are applicants from all over the world in a variety of disciplines.
“We got economists, we got aerospace engineers, we got roboticists, we got policy analysts,” he said.
The new graduate program at the School of Mines will offer post-baccalaureate certificates, masters degrees and Ph.D. degrees. Aspiring space miners have until March 31 to apply.