Space mining is a pulp sci-fi idea that isn't far from becoming a reality, as increasingly companies and now countries are taking it seriously. Asteroid mining could begin within the next few years, so it's worth thinking about what this new industry might look like. Locker Group is heavily involved with traditional, earthbound mining, but what sort of role could our products play on the final frontier?
The new space race
Earlier this year, Luxembourg announced it had a fund of 200 million euros devoted to helping space mining initiatives. Luxembourg's economy minister Etienne Schneider has said that the country wants to be in the world's top ten spacefaring nations. The fund is a step towards encouraging companies to choose Luxembourg as a base of operations.
If there's no difference between up and down in space, there's no need for somewhere to stand.
One company that has taken up the offer is Deep Space Industries, an asteroid mining company that has announced plans to run a test flight next year, with the intention of launching its first space mining exploration mission before the end of the decade. Based on what Deep Space Industries has revealed, the company's mining exploits at least will be done by unmanned drones and robots, but it's hard to shake the image of something more spectacular (Armageddon and Tintin loom large in the imagination), transplanting the idea of mining as it exists here on Earth but with space suits and more lasers…
We'll leave the rockets and drones to others, but if mining in space did take place in manned facilities, what Locker Group products would they potentially need? We look at a few of the ways our equipment could help:
For zero-gravity situations, flooring isn't much of an issue – if there's no difference between up and down then there's no real need for somewhere to stand. But what about miners working in a reduced-gravity setting, such as on the moon or a large enough asteroid? For them the need for secure footing, although different from that in today's terrestrial mines, is no less important.
In the Australian mining industry, more than a fifth of the serious injury claims made between 2007 and 2012 were caused by falls, trips and slips. This is enough of a cause for concern as it is, without the added difficulties of dealing with the unfamiliar physics of reduced gravity and no atmospheric resistance. Keeping a firm grip as you navigate gantries or walkways is made easier by one of our non-slip industrial flooring products.
For similar reasons, handrails will be important safety equipment in our hypothetical space mine. These provide not only a secure grip for miners to hang on to, but also a place to tether themselves so that if something does go wrong and they find themselves adrift, they'll be able to pull themselves back to safety.
The sun can be uncomfortably bright here on Earth, but that glare will be far worse out in space without any atmosphere to diffuse it. A partial solution would be a sun screen like our Atmosphere facade or wire mesh curtains, which reduce the impact of direct sunlight without too much of an obstruction to visibility. These are used on Earth for a range of industrial and architectural applications, and their affect on heat and light management would almost certainly have an application in a space mining setting.
Space mining is still a little way off, and by all accounts it won't look like mining as it does today. In the mean time, Locker Group will continue its focus on what it does best – supplying safety equipment and architectural products for use here on Earth.
If you'd like to talk about how some real-world applications of Locker Group safety products could help your business, please get in touch today.