Robotic resource exploration is a key to human expansion through the cosmos

Jeffrey S. Kargel, Wolfgang Fink, Roberto Furfaro, Hideaki Miyamoto

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


If the goal of planetary exploration is to build a permanent and expanding, self-sustaining extraterrestrial civilization, then clever and myriad uses must be made of planetary resources. Resources must be identified and evaluated according to their practicality. A new economy should be devised based on resource occurrence, ore accessibility, options for ore transport, material beneficiation, and manufacturing; end uses and demand; and full economic cost/benefit assessment. Locating and evaluating these resources should be done with coordinated robotic assets arrayed in orbit and on the surface. Sensor arrays and tandem on-ground means of physical manipulation of rocks should incorporate highly capable onboard data processing, feature detection, and quantification of material properties; intelligent decision making; a flexible capacity to re-order priorities and act on those priorities in carrying out exploration programs; and human-robot interaction. As resource exploration moves into exploitation, sensors working in tandem with robust physical manipulation will place increased emphasis on automation in effective and safe robotic quarrying, tunneling, boring, and ore beneficiation. Any new global planetary economy will have to weigh the efficiency of resource identification and utilization with full-spectrum cost/benefit assessment for human health and safety, the environment, future habitability and sustainability, and human priorities in the development and growth of civilization. It makes no sense to rove from one planet to another in a wave of resource use and depletion, like interplanetary locusts. Robotic systems will open new worlds to human use, but they will also place a premium on human ability to control exponentially growing consumption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSpace Exploration Technologies
StatePublished - 2008
EventSpace Exploration Technologies - Orlando, FL, United States
Duration: Mar 17 2008Mar 18 2008

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X


OtherSpace Exploration Technologies
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityOrlando, FL


  • Asteroid
  • In situ resource utilization
  • Mars
  • Moon
  • Robotics
  • Space exploration
  • Space resources

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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