China reveals grand vision for space resource utilization

Could you mine all the resources needed for space exploration from space itself? China reveals plans to achieve this goal by 2100.
Amal Jos Chacko
Representational image of China's presence on the moon.jpg
Representational image of China's presence on the moon.


Chinese space scientists have unveiled a preliminary roadmap that aims to establish a comprehensive space resources system spanning the solar system by the year 2100. 

The ambitious initiative, named after the Ming dynasty scientist Song Yingxing's work, "Tiangong Kaiwu" or "The Exploitation of the Works of Nature," has the potential to transform the global space economy and elevate China's standing in the world of space exploration, reported South China Morning Post.

Led by Wang Wei, a distinguished scientist from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the project primarily aims to economically explore, mine, and utilize water ice and mineral resources beyond Earth's confines

Wang Wei emphasized that the rapid advancement of space technologies has paved the way for the economic exploitation of space resources and could soon extend beyond the Earth-moon system and become significant in the global economic competition among nations.

"Just like the miracles created in the great age of navigation, a 'great space age' featuring the use of space resources will … create the next miracles in human history and bring new prosperity to our civilization," Wang Wei declared during a recent Chinese Society of Astronautics meeting in Beijing.

The blueprint for space resource utilization

Wang Wei and his team outlined an intricate plan that relies on strategically positioned gravitationally-balanced regions between celestial bodies, including planets, the moon, and the sun, as nodes to expand their reach step by step. 

Chinese-state-owned China Space News reported that the team rigorously examined the feasibility and key technologies required to optimally utilize deep space resources, over the past three years.

This research culminated in the plan presented by Wang which includes the establishment of facilities for extracting water ice from the moon, near-Earth asteroids, Mars, main-belt asteroids, and the moons of Jupiter. 

These facilities are expected to form a resupply system spanning the solar system, strategically placed at gravitationally stable Lagrange points 1 and 2 between Earth and the moon, as well as at points between the sun and Earth, Mars, and Jupiter.

Additionally, the plan encompasses the construction of infrastructure such as resource transport routes and extraterrestrial mining and processing stations. These would facilitate large-scale, commercial space operations.

Wang stressed that their grand vision hinged on the further development of technologies related to space resource mining and processing, flight-based transport, and cost-effective resource return.

More space exploration initiatives

China's commitment to space exploration extends beyond Wang's plan, with the nation actively pursuing various missions aimed at advancing its capabilities in space resource utilization.

China plans to launch its robotic probe Tianwen-2 in 2025 with the mission to collect samples from the near-Earth asteroid named 2016 HO3. This mission would go a long way toward understanding the feasibility of asteroid mining.

Another mission, slated to land on the moon’s south pole in 2026 is the Chang'e-7 spacecraft, searching for water ice. This ice can be purified for drinking water, converted into oxygen, and utilized as fuel, supporting extended stays of astronauts on the lunar surface.

The nation revealed its plans to send humans to the Moon for the first time by the end of this decade earlier this year.

Several Chinese companies, including the Nanjing-based start-up Origin Space, have joined the race to develop space mining technologies, further highlighting China's commitment to gaining a strong foothold in the evolving space resources industry.

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