Let's say Earth's nations meet up and decide to start to colonize space in the next ~50 years. What would the first resources/materials be, that we gather in space/from other planets that we need to build and sustain a colony? Where would we get them from? And which would we prioritize over others?

For clarification: Money is not a limiting factor here and these colonies don't need to be economically speaking successful. We want these colonies ASAP. Also, launching everything we need from Earth is not the goal of the mission, we want to build production facilities, farms and living space on other planets, moons, etc. Planetary colonies should be accompanied by space stations, so building materials and food production is needed for that too. Also colonization should only start in the ~ next 50 years and doesn't need to be done at that time. And only use technology that is likely to be around then, if possible.

I imagine a priority list for materials like this:

  1. Fuel: Maybe harvested from the atmosphere, e.g. methane
  2. Building materials: Mine for metals and carbon on the planets surface
  3. Materials needed for repairing already built stuff: more high-tech materials to repair electrical stuff
  4. Resources for humans like water, food, oxygen: water may be extracted from icy asteroids, food can be produced in greenhouses, plants produce oxygen, but it can also be harvested

2 Answers 2


According to USA Congress, and the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act first things will be "water and minerals".

Most common minerals we could mine seem to be nickel, iron, cobalt, magnesium silicate, aluminium and ammonia. This makes sense, it opens up a way to some really usable alloys.

Water, more precisely ice, would be an answer for basic fuel needs, and for breathable oxygen source. Ammonia as a source of nitrogen for your plants and nitrogen for your atmosphere is also pretty sweet deal. What is lacking is an easy source of carbon. This element would be at premium. No one would dare to jettison biological waste.

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    $\begingroup$ I find it amusing the lengths people will go for acronyms. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre When it comes to acronyms, astronomers are in a league of their own. For example: GADZOOKS! = Gadolinium Antineutrino Detector Zealously Outperforming Old Kamiokande, Super! $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 17:42

If mining for materials, colonists could be digging out living quarters in solid rock, a good insulator and protective covering, and the mining could continue at a faster rate with an oxygen atmosphere in the tunnels. Hydrogen is abundant, and other minerals are easily found on asteroids...if there was a small, highly maneuverable ship that could land and harvest them.

  • $\begingroup$ Not quite following… is your answer “oxygen”? «other materials are easily found» is as non-answer as yiu can get. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 21:57

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