NASA announced this month that its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) will proceed to the next phase of design and development ahead of a planned launch in late 2021. ARM will demonstrate a solar electric propulsion system as a robotic spacecraft travels to a near-Earth asteroid (NEA). After collecting a multi-ton boulder from the asteroid, the spacecraft will redirect and place the rock in orbit around the Moon. NASA’s announcement raises the possibility of mining rare earths and precious metals in space. Miners will be challenged, however, with getting to space, identifying and mining the correct samples, and returning home safely.

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