Speaker Spotlight: Dr Angel Abbud-Madrid

26 August 2019

In the build up to the International Mining Geology Conference 2019 we will be interviewing the keynote speakers on some key issues related to the conference theme, Mining Geology: 2020 and Beyond.

This month we interviewed Rod Smith, Chief Advisor – Planning and Scheduling, Rio Tinto and Dr Angel Abbud-Madrid, Director, Center for Space Resources Colorado School of Mines.

Angel Abbud-Madrid is the Director of the Center for Space Resources at the Colorado School of Mines, where he also leads the Space Resources Graduate Program, aimed at educating scientists, engineers, economists, entrepreneurs, and policy makers in the field of extraterrestrial resources.

Q. In your area, where are the biggest technological advances being implemented and how is this influencing key metrics such as safety, productivity, all in sustaining costs?

A. The concepts of safety, productivity, and sustaining costs are premature for the space resources mining field. This field is at a very early stage of development, when resource identification, exploration plans, technology, and economic business cases to utilise resources beyond our planet are just starting to take shape. Nevertheless, the biggest technological advances that are bringing space mining from science fiction to realistic objectives are the rapid development of robotic systems, machine learning, artificial intelligence, materials, electronics, communications, and advanced manufacturing.

Q. What advances do you see in the mining industry that are applicable for space mining?

A. The move in the mining industry towards increasing automation, as clearly seen in Australia, is directly applicable to what will be needed when we start conducting mining operations in space. Advances in automated and autonomous systems will have a tremendous impact both on Earth as in space. In the space resources field, reliable, low-cost automated rover/excavator/drilling systems are considered a top priority for early lunar exploration operations. The extremely high cost of human spaceflight makes the development of these automated systems an imperative for any resource extraction plans.

Q. What message would you like to provide to the delegates – what do you hope will be the main message they will take away from your keynote presentation?

Just like terrestrial resources have been the driving force and the means for humans to explore every corner of our planet and to live off the land in ever more extreme environments, while becoming the main economic engine of our technological society, so resources beyond Earth will enable us to explore further into space, to stay longer in planetary bodies, and to expand our economy outside our planet. For its first 60 years, space activities have focused mainly on scientific exploration, operations in low Earth orbit (LEO), and communication satellites. Space resources have the potential to radically improve the status quo by lowering transportation costs beyond LEO, expanding operations in cislunar space, providing a sustainable robotic and human presence on the Moon, and increasing the number of commercial opportunities in space.

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