TECH

NASA Wants To Turn Asteroids Into Giant Spaceships

Who needs a self-driving car when you've got a self-driving asteroid.

07/06/2016 11:08
Brad Kohlenberg

In the decades to come asteroid mining is going to be big business.

As Earth's rare metals start to run out our only hope of finding more gold, platinum and more will be to look at the stars.

In our solar system alone lies an asteroid belt filled with more resources than we can get our heads around, the only problem left is working out how to access it.

Well NASA has just funded a daring new project which aims not to help us go to asteroids, but instead to bring the asteroids to us.

Made In Space have come up with a bold new idea which would see a robotic spacecraft travel to the target asteroid, land and then 3D print a simple propulsion system, essentially turning the asteroid into a giant engine.

Codenamed RAMA, it would then steer the asteroid back to Earth where we can more effectively mine its resources in orbit.

While it might sound like something out of science fiction the plan is nowhere near as far-fetched as you might think.

Maciej Frolow via Getty Images

3D printing has moved forward leaps and bounds and with entire buildings now being constructed through 3D-printing the idea of creating complex machinery isn't as far out there as you might think.

Made In Space's Co-founder Jason Dunn explains that the only way we're ever going to make this goal achievable is by setting what seems like an unreasonable goal.

"Cool technologies have long been inspired by crazy visions of the future — made real by teams ready to take on a daunting new challenge." he explains.

"For Made In Space, projects like RAMA that exist somewhere near the edges of our product roadmaps help drive all our closer term work in the right direction."

So what can we expect to see soon then? Well NASA has given the company nine months of funding to create a 'Phase 1' plan.

Johannes Gerhardus Swanepoel via Getty Images

This is a feasibility study, so Made In Space will create a plan that outlines what we can currently do, the technologies we would need to invent and then create a rough timeline for when it thinks we can start doing it.

With millions already invested in the asteroid mining industry, don't think it'll be long before this science fiction becomes science reality.

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