My name is Pascal Koch...


... and I want to bring the raw materials from asteroids to the earth. 

 

I studied Physics of the Earth System: Meteorology, Oceanography and Geophysics (B.Sc.) at the Institute of Geosciences at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Science of the Christian-Albrechts University Kiel.

 

While I’m pursuing my Master of Science in Geophysics – also at the University of Kiel – I’m studying asteroids. My particular interest lies in the discovery of raw materials, which can be found on such objects, through the use of remote sensing technologies and satellite-based geophysical exploration. 

My Motivation

Through my studies, I’m gaining an insight into the complex processes that are going on inside, on the surface and in the atmosphere of our planet. Another cornerstone of my education is learning about the exploration of raw materials here on earth.

 

Mankind’s demand for raw materials is ever increasing, at the same time, exploration and extraction are becoming more and more complicated. New sources of raw materials are badly needed, which leads to a lot of interest in methods whose environmental impact has hardly been researched. Processes with high ecological risks will nevertheless be used in the future to provide the required raw materials.

 

I wonder why we don’t take a look into our solar system instead?

 

Many of the raw materials we need can be found on or in other celestial bodies, e.g. asteroids. Unfortunately there are some obstacles. First, space mining is (until now) not profitable. Second, the mining techniques are not developed enough - many systems require complicated maneuvers which are not easy to implement. Third, there are also legal hurdles – raw materials can’t simply be extracted everywhere.

 

I can’t influence the legal situation but I can work on developing methods for satellite-based exploration and classification of asteroids to minimize the risk of catching an asteroid with low mining qualities. Furthermore, only prior satellite-based exploration allows effective planning of the future mining mission.

 

If asteroid mining is to be possible in the future, it first requires a pre-selection of the objects by remote sensing methods. Following this, these objects have to be explored by satellite. We need to know where the main part of the previously found raw materials is located in the asteroid. Is it evenly distributed in the regolith of the surface or is the main part located in a certain depth? This is the main factor for the mining strategy. The satellite must also be able to determine the gravitational field of the asteroid. Only with this information save landing or capture maneuvers are possible. The industry needs a robust exploration of as many asteroids as possible as well as a classification of these objects. Remote sensing methods are not enough for this purpose.

 

Exploration lays the groundwork for successful mining missions.

 

Let's exploit this planet a little less.

Awards

In my school days I dedicated my free time to the development and patenting of a controllable ion thruster for satellites. For the concept of the engine, my team and I received the 1st place in the “Jugend forscht” regional competition, 1st place in the “Jugend forscht” federal state competition and the “Jugend forscht” prize from the Erich-Becker Foundation.