This artist’s rendering made available by NASA in July 2016 shows the mapping of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.

NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona via AP

It may sound like science fiction, but the new space mining program at the Colorado School of Mines is all fact. The university’s Center for Space Resources launches the world’s first Ph.D. and Master’s degrees in space mining this month. The center’s director Angel Abbud-Madrid​ talked to Colorado Matters about the futuristic program.

Space mining has long been of interest for the School of Mines, which first held a conference on this topic in 1999. Abbud-Madrid sees mining asteroids and the Moon as the logical conclusion to humanity’s pursuit of new materials. The first mining probes won’t blast off into space for another five or eight years, but the School of Mines is hoping to ready students for those jobs ahead of time.