Scientists Suggest Areas of Space be Designated as ‘Protected Wilderness’
Our solar system is a place teeming with immense resources, and enterprising ‘space entrepreneurs’ are suggesting we start exploiting it. Space mining is a burgeoning industry that will have massive applications in the coming years, yet some scientists say that areas of space should be designated as protected areas.
A new proposal calls for more than 85% of the solar system to be designated as being ‘off-limits’ for space mining and other human development, leaving less than an eighth of it to be used for space mining. The limit would mean our solar system would remain in pristine condition, in hopes of protecting a far-off future solar system from becoming used up as has happened on Earth.
“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,” said Martin Elvis, a senior astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Once you’ve exploited the solar system, there’s nowhere left to go.”
The amount of raw materials available across the solar system is nearly unimaginable. Trillions of pounds of precious metals like gold and titanium, along with frozen water can be found on the thousands of asteroids and celestial bodies of space. Space mining companies have the aspirations to gather up these materials, and ferry them back to Earth. Such materials could also be used for developing space habitat and making rocket fuel.
According to a study conducted by researchers at King’s College London, the resources spread out across the solar system could potentially be used used up at a extremely high pace if using an assumed annual growth rate of 3.5%. Knowing this, this proposal looks to be proactive in establishing guidelines for how the future of humankind will use the resources of the solar system.
These guidelines may be a bit premature, as there has yet to be any space mining companies launch any missions. It is estimated that the first missions could take place in the next ten years, though they will be on such a small-scale that we will not see it make any noticeable impact on available resources.