The pros and cons of resource use in space 

Module details

  • Offered to 3rd Year students in Spring Term, Thursdays, 16:00-18:00 
  • 1 Term module worth 5 ETCS 
  • Available to eligible students as part of I-Explore 

The use of space resources will transform human space exploration and create a new economy. In this module, you will explore the legal, technical and economic basis for resource use in space. You will be introduced to the potential target resources (e.g., oxygen), consider the legal aspects of using space resources, and propose a space resource extraction operation. The economic case for your proposed operation will be determined. You will address the challenges of developing new technology for space as well as the potential crossover into terrestrial resource use.  

This module will teach you to evaluate critically the feasibility of space mining from a legal, technical and economic perspective. You will learn about current activity in this field, using this knowledge to identify limitations in technology, and to propose creative solutions. This module will encourage discussion within and between groups, and you will communicate outcomes to students and experts in the field. 

Accordian

Learning outcomes

By the end of this module, you will better be able to: 

  • Evaluate critically the feasibility of space mining from a legal, technical and economic perspective 
  • Identify limitations in knowledge and technology and propose creative solutions 
  • Communicate effectively the outcomes as a group to other students and experts 
  • Reflect on the potential for the transfer of ideas and technology to terrestrial resources 

Indicative core content

This module comprises 10 sessions of 2 hours. There are three areas of study: space resource law, technical aspects, and the economic case including technology transfer to terrestrial resources. In the first session, an overview of space resources and space mining will be followed by discussions within and across groups on the order in which the different aspects of space resources should be addressed (i.e., legal, technical and economic). In the subsequent sessions, you will be assigned material to study prior to each session. You will discuss this material with an academic or sector expert in the first part of the session, before breaking into groups to apply the concepts to the tasks assigned. Sessions 2 and 3 will focus on space resources and space law. In sessions 4 to 6, you will design a space resource operation (e.g., oxygen production on the Moon), including estimations of scale, displaying your final design as an interactive poster in session 7. Also in session 7, you will consider case studies of technology transfer, and identify opportunities for technology transfer between your operation and terrestrial mines. Sessions 8 and 9 will focus on the economic basis, evaluating the feasibility of your designed operation. The final session will conclude the module with a final group presentation to peers and an invited industry figure. The module content is designed to build up a complete case for a space resource operation. 

Learning and teaching approach

This module will involve active and individual learning, alongside group tasks and some student-led learning. Examples and case-studies will be discussed, and you will work on your projects in small groups before delivering your final interactive poster presentation to other students and an industry expert. 

The legal framework assignment will be assessed by module leaders; this will be returned within two weeks. Informal feedback on the interactive poster will be given by module leaders and by peers on completion of the technical aspects of resource extraction. Formal feedback for the final interactive poster (including the economic case) will be given within one week of completion. 

Assessment

Coursework: 

  • Legal Framework document submitted as a group (20%)  

Practical: 

  • Interactive Poster Presentation submitted as a group (80%) 

Key information

  • Requirements: It is compulsory to take an I-Explore module during your degree (you’ll take an I-Explore module in either your 2nd or 3rd year, depending on your department). You are expected to attend all classes and undertake approximately 105 hours of independent study in total during the module. Independent study includes for example reading and preparation for classes, researching and writing coursework assignments, project work and preparing for other assessments 
  • I-Explore modules are worth 5 ECTS credit towards your degree; to receive these you will have to pass the module. The numerical mark that you obtain will not be included in the calculation of your final degree result, but it will appear on your transcript  
  • This module is designed as an undergraduate Level 6 course 
  • This module is offered by the Department of Earth Science and Engineering