To Colonize Space, We'll Need an Unlikely Ally

Trees against a purple night sky. Credit: Ryan Hutton/Unsplash

Trees against a purple night sky. Credit: Ryan Hutton/Unsplash

Every human has called Earth their home. They were born, lived their lives, and died without ever leaving this pale blue dot. But thanks to recent advancements in science and technology, that has changed.

Already, humans have stepped out into the cosmos and planted their feet on other worlds. On July 20, 1969, American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin became the first humans ever to land and walk on the Moon. Over the next few years, ten men would follow them.

And in the not too distant future, we may have a host of colonies that are spread across the solar system. Notably, Elon Musk has committed himself to establishing colonies on Mars. By the turn of the century, he hopes to see 1 million people living on the Red Planet. But our voyage beyond Earth is more than just a fun adventure. It is more than just tourism. Our survival depends on our conquest of space.

It helps to picture our planet as a hard drive that stores information. The information that it stores just happens to be, well, us. In fact, this hard drive stores everything that we’ve ever contributed to the universe. Every song that’s even been sung. Every book that’s ever been written. Every thought that any human has ever thought and every word ever uttered.

But of course, our world stores far more than just us. It also houses every other species. And all of this is saved on a single hard drive. So it makes sense to make a backup. Eventually, whether it is a hundred years from now or a hundred million years from now, our planet will be uninhabitable, and future humans will need to find another home.

However, in order for us to leave Earth, we’ll have to enlist the aid of an unlikely ally — asteroids.

Transporting materials from Earth to outer space takes an extravagant amount of time, money, and fuel. As a result, our current processes are neither efficient nor scalable. But the metals and minerals found on asteroids can provide us with the raw materials we’ll need to build our colonies and space structures. Similarly, the ice recovered from asteroids can supply interplanetary travelers with both drinking water and oxygen.

In short, if we are able to mine materials from asteroids, then we will be able to support ourselves in space.

Mitch Hunter-Scullion established the Asteroid Mining Corporation in order to make this a reality. Notably, through this work, Hunter-Scullion hopes to do more than just provide for future settlers. He plans to move polluting industries out of Earth's fragile biosphere and into space.

While this is an enormous undertaking, one that will require the assistance of policymakers and scientists and engineers across industries, the goal is not a singular one. As we advance towards this goal, we will develop new technologies and processes that will benefit humanity in a multitude of ways.

Hunter-Scullion is also a Member of The Hague International Space Resources Governance Working Group, where he works to develop an international legal framework for the space mining sector to ensure the industry is grown in an ethical and sustainable manner. He notes that he is motivated by the conviction that, if you really want to create change you have to start now, as tomorrow is always too late.

He will be speaking about what others can do to transform their ideas into positive action at the upcoming Boma France Campfire. Learn how you can attend, and discover how to bring your vision to life.