For a while, traditional mining has been stigmatized. People in developed countries have a less than positive view of this activity. Greenhouse gas emissions and habitat destruction are some of the effects that give the industry a bad image. Greenhouse gases on the Moon or asteroids are inconsequential and there is no habitat to speak of on these barren rocks. What do the general public think about mining in space? An answer has been given by a paper from a group of researchers in Australia.
The paper states that no one had ever studied this aspect of space resources. Despite the general media interest in ventures such as Planetary Resources and the success of missions such as Hayabusa-2, no one has tried to understand how the general public feels about space mining.
There are some potentially negative environmental factors to consider when mining in space. In the case of the asteroids, it does destroypristine environments that have existed since the dawn of the solar system. There will always be a part of humanity that wants to leave space as portrayed in the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson.
Resources mined in space could potentially be used for products back on Earth. If we simply recycled the material we already have in these large deposits, they could end up in landfills, which would cause a longer-term environmental problem. There was still a question as to whether the risks were worth the potential drawbacks.
Space mining is supported by the public in a lot of countries. The researchers performed two different studies, one involving almost 5,000 people in 27 rich countries and the other around 600 people in the US
In the first study, the researchers asked a series of questions about the participant's attitudes towards mining, which ranged from the ocean floor to asteroids. The researchers wanted to know the positive and negative reactions that mining elicited in their subjects.
People generally had negative feelings towards mining on the ocean floor and positive feelings towards mining on the moon. People in all 27 countries had the same responses regardless of their income level or environment.
The results from the first study were not very deep into factors such as the participant's political affiliations or individual morals. The impact of these on an individual's stance towards mining and the environment is known. It wasn't clear what effect it would have on someone's views of space mining.
Similar in structure to the first study, the second looked at people's responses to questions about how they felt about mining in a number of different places. One of the more divisive aspects of American life is the person's political orientation.
A person's political persuasion was not found to be a good indicator of whether or not they would support mining in space. There was a correlation between support for lunar mining and those that scored higher on the test. They think of the Moon as a pristine environment and think mining activities could be harmful to it.
Public support for asteroid mining seems to have been endorsed by these studies. The authors point out that the real impact of lunar and asteroid mining is hard to comprehend for many study participants. Waiting until after there is a fully-fledged mining mission on the Moon to see if it has public support may be late. The public is on the side of those who want to move forward with economic development of space.
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Hornsey and his team wondered if protecting the planet or destroying the universe was the right thing to do. Reactions to space mining are understood.
What impact would asteroid mining have on the world's economy?
Two spacecraft could work together to capture an asteroid and bring it to earth for mining.
Moon mining is a topic of discussion in UT.
UT is mining water and metal from the moon at the same time.
UT would like to mine the moon. There is a detailed map of its minerals.