Mining Mars

“Hispanically Speaking News” ran this story yesterday:  Scientists Will Simulate a Space Colony in Chile to Study Life In Mars:

Chilean scientists along with scientists from several other countries will construct a base in the most-arid desert in the world, Chile’s Atacama (where the 33 miners got trapped) aiming to simulate life in a space colony on the planet Mars, which shares a lot of characteristics with Atacama.

While the tie-in to the Chilean mine rescue is interesting, it is not clear if mining will play a significant role in any simulations.  It would certainly seem to be relevant.  As we portray in “In the Shadow of Ares”, mining will certainly be a crucial part of the economic development of any off-Earth settlements. 

At least the Chinese seem to think so:

In March 2011, a delegation from the Chinese space agency will visit the Chilean desert project.  The Chinese are projecting that by 2020 they will have below-ground bases on the Moon to extract minerals and are eager to research and test their cutting edge space technology.

Where can we expect the United States to be in 2020?  Will the recent shift to private enterprise see the economic and regulatory incentives necessary for this fledgling industry to survive and thrive?