Adapting Earth Skills to Space

As we migrate out into space, many of our jobs and their attending skills will need to change. Some skills that have been needed on Earth may dissipate and new ones will need to be cultivated for the space environment. Changes in gravity and atmosphere will be among the driving factors.

Skills associated with what we consider to be “indoor” jobs may not change much. But “outdoor” jobs will change dramatically because of the difference in gravity and pressure in space. The skills linked to those jobs are more likely to change.

In our current Earth based society, we have many tasks in similar categories of driving and piloting a wide range of vehicles. In space, many of those same tasks will exist, but they will be mostly performed by autonomous vehicles and/or remote operations to avoid the harshness of the space environment. When it is actually necessary for a human pilot to occupy a vehicle, they will act more like supervisor that is there to override the self-guiding software when needed. In either case, whether remote or on-site, the skills will become more like software based simulations

Mining operations on Earth are already being automated. The big change when mining in space is the lack of gravity. Most existing mining, extracting, refining, and processing operations are designed to use gravity. These tasks will all need to be redesigned to operation without gravity. This is problematic but not unsolvable for drilling and blasting operations. Some “outdoor” jobs can be moved indoors for the space environment, allowing gravity to be provided by rotational motion. But large mining and extraction processes will need to be accomplished on-site (in zero-gee and vacuum) for the most part. While this means designing new tools and processes, all of them will be performed by automated robotic machines wherever possible. And like piloting tasks, the skills required for human intervention will be based on software manipulation.

Growing food in space will be drastically different from the same process on Earth. Crops will be consolidated into ranges selected to provide high nutritional content, like algae. With final food products being synthesized from simple ingredients, only crops that provide the basic nutritional building blocks will be needed. Algae and soy beans and fish can all be grown in carefully designed environments that are completely automated. Once again, human oversight and supervision will be needed to some extent. And once again, the skills needed will be software based manipulation and operation.

All of these industry sectors share common migration patterns to automated processes with some level of human supervision. Most if not all physical work will be accomplished by machines. Most human intervention will be done remotely through software interfaces. New skill focus will be on using software to guide machines and on designing both the machines and the software required.

Mining 24 Hours a Day with Robots – []

Each of these trucks is the size of a small two-story house. None has a driver or anyone else on board.

Mining company Rio Tinto has 73 of these titans hauling iron ore 24 hours a day at four mines in Australia’s Mars-red northwest corner. At this one, known as West Angelas, the vehicles work alongside robotic rock drilling rigs. The company is also upgrading the locomotives that haul ore hundreds of miles to port—the upgrades will allow the trains to drive themselves, and be loaded and unloaded automatically.

Rio Tinto intends its automated operations in Australia to preview a more efficient future for all of its mines—one that will also reduce the need for human miners. The rising capabilities and falling costs of robotics technology are allowing mining and oil companies to reimagine the dirty, dangerous business of getting resources out of the ground.

Building a Mining Base on the Moon
Asteroid Mining Process
Robots in Space

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