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Turning Asteroids Into Spaceships for Off-Earth Mining, Is it Possible?

Jun 07, 2016 09:57 AM EDT
European Space Agency Captures Images Of Asteroid Lutetia
NASA is looking at near-Earth objects such as asteroids and their potential benefit to Earth. They chose in-space manufacturing company, Made In Space to see how asteroids can be turned into off-Earth mining spacecraft.
(Photo : ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team via Getty Images)

NASA and the commercial space industry are looking at near-Earth objects (NEO) to seek their valuable contribution to Earth. There are companies whose asteroid-mining technologies are already in the works. But aside from that, asteroids can be of use to men in an entirely different manner.

NASA is funding a study to see how asteroids can be turned into spaceships for off-Earth mining.

The California-based company, Made In Space (MIS) was recently funded by NASA to develop the technology. The retrofitting of asteroids is called the Reconstituting Asteroids into Mechanical Automata (RAMA) project. This is part of MIS' plan to initiate space colonization by making off-Earth manufacturing more effective and economical.

Man's capability to bring objects off-Earth is no longer in question, what needs to be developed is the capacity to bring back resources from outside the planet.

"But when we get to a tipping point where we need the resources in space, then the question becomes, 'Where do they come from and how do we get them, and how do we deliver them to the location we need?' This is a way to do it," said Jason Dunn, co-founder and chief technology officer, in an interview with

RAMA was established to study the possibility of existing computer mechanisms to transform an entire asteroid into autonomous spaceships, said NASA in a press release. According to the report, when complete, the project will be beneficial for NASA's long-term goals in deep space explorations.

The technology is called "Seed Craft." The company is looking at attaching the mechanism to a near-Earth asteroid. To turn the asteroid into an autonomous off-Earth mining spaceship, propulsion, navigation, energy-storage and other operational systems must be installed in an asteroid. MIS is also looking at using 3D printing technology with the Seed Craft.

MIS will receive $100,000 funding under NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts program. Once an asteroid is successfully retrofitted, its maximum potential can be used for the benefit of the Earth.

"Upon completion, the asteroid will be programmed mechanical automata carrying out a given mission objective," said Dunn, in a statement published by Daily Mail.

The company is likely to finish the project in 20 to 30 years. Asteroids have immense power; which are said to have obliterated dinosaurs. This is  why scientists wanted to make use of the asteroids for the benefit of the Earth. NASA is continuously funding different commercial space companies with projects, which the agency deems to be useful in their future space missions.


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