Atmospheric mining

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Atmospheric mining is the process of extracting valuable materials or other non-renewable resources from the atmosphere. Due to the abundance of hydrogen and helium in the outer planets of the Solar System, atmospheric mining may be easier than mining terrestrial surfaces.[1]

History of atmospheric mining[edit]

Atmospheric mining of outer planets has not yet begun.

Types of atmospheric mining[edit]

Hydrogen mining[edit]

Hydrogen may fuel chemical and nuclear propulsion.[1]

Helium mining[edit]

Helium-3 may fuel nuclear propulsion.[1]

Methane mining[edit]

Methane may fuel chemical propulsion.[1]

Exploration for atmospheric mining[edit]

Hydrogen and helium are abundant in outer planets.

Atmospheric composition of outer planets[1]
Resource Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune
Hydrogen 89.8 96.3 82.5 80.0
Helium 10.2 3.3 15.2 19.0
Methane 2.3 1.0
Other 0.4 1.0

Methods of atmospheric mining[edit]


An aerostat would be a buoyant station in the atmosphere that gathers and stores gases. A vehicle would transfer the gases from the aerostat to an orbital station above the planet.[1]


A scooper would be a vehicle that gathers and transfers gases from the atmosphere to an orbital station.[1]


A cruiser would be a vehicle in the atmosphere that gathers and stores gases. A smaller vehicle would transfer the gases from the cruiser to an orbital station.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Palaszweski, Bryan (April 2015). "Atmospheric Mining in the Outer Solar System: Resource Capturing, Exploration, and Exploitation" (PDF). Cleveland, Ohio 44135-3191: National Aeronautics and Space Administration John H. Glenn Center at Lewis Field. Retrieved August 13, 2015.  External link in |website= (help)

External links[edit]