Help Wanted: Miners; Place of Assignment: A Choice Between Moon or Mars

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By Vittorio Hernandez | February 22, 2013 10:01 AM EST

If scare minerals found on Earth are called rare earth, what about other minerals in other planets or the moon? Would you call it rare moon or rare jupiter or rare mars?

What such resources would be called has not yet been settled since miners, space industrialists and academics are still currently exploring the idea of mining in other planets and the moon. They gathered on Wednesday in Sydney to tackle these possibilities and the logistics involved.

The very futuristic approach comes at a time that space exploration is taking a larger and faster leap forward as a Dutch company plans to start a human settlement in Mars within a few decades and NASA aims for one of Jupiter's many moons.

They are eyeing not only other planets and the moon, but even asteroids which could possibly yield platinum and diamonds, while the moon could yield minerals now in short supply used in the manufacture of computers, missiles and wind turbines.

While the thought may seem far or very, very farfetched, University of New South Wales space robotics specialist Gordon Roesler does not discount the possibility since the race to find these hidden treasures had already started.

He pointed out that two companies, one in the U.S. and another one in UK, backed by billionaires, are planning to even mine asteroids. Mr Roesler attributed the surge in interest in space exploration to further progress in robotics.

Rene Fradet, the deputy director of engineering and science directorate of the U.S. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said at the conference held at the University of New South Wales that the success of Rover's exploration in Mars would further move efforts for more space exploration missions.

"I think Curiosity just last week, we performed our first drill, execute a hole on the surface of Mars. So, it is kind of the first step of mining. So, I think we can share some of the experience and lessons learned in executing those kinds of missions and give people a bit of an appreciation for what it takes to make these things happen," VOA News quoted Mr Fradet.

Based on NASA's mineral mapping of the moon, there are indicators that it has some minerals considered rare on Earth, such as yttrium, lanthanum and samarium. Titanium were also found in some lunar rocks at 100 times the rate on Earth.

The conference being held in Australia is appropriate since the land down under is enjoying a mining boom despite the recent decline in commodity prices in the international market.

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