A group of scientists want to declare much of the solar system to be official “space wilderness” in order to protect it from space mining. As The Guardian reports, the proposal calls for more than 85 percent of the solar system to be protected from human development.
“If we don’t think about this now, we will go ahead as we always have, and in a few hundred years we will face an extreme crisis, much worse than we have on Earth now,” Martin Elvis, senior astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge , Massachusetts, and lead author, told The Guardian. “Once you’ve exploited the solar system, there’s nowhere left to go.”
The research will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Acta Astronautica.
It suggests that we could use up as much as an eighth of the solar system’s supply of iron — the researchers’ proposed “tripwire” threshold after which we’d run the risk of running out of space resources indefinitely — in just 400 years.
Numerous private companies have suggested that space mining could further human advancements in space — while turning a huge profit. For instance, U.S.-based mining company Planetary Resources is already planning to look for “critical water resources necessary for human expansion in space,” according to its website.
And the next generation of human explorers is bound to be swept up by the great promise of space resources as well. The Colorado School of Mines has started offering a PhD program that focuses on the “exploration, extraction, and use of [space] resources.”
What’s less clear is whether humankind has learned its lesson here on Earth.
“If everything goes right, we could be sending our first mining missions into space within 10 years,” Elvis told The Guardian. “Once it starts and somebody makes an enormous profit, there will be the equivalent of a gold rush. We need to take it seriously.”
READ MORE: Protect solar system from mining ‘gold rush’, say scientists [The Guardian]
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