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"it slowly dawned on me that the landscape of science is maybe what interests people a great deal in science fiction."
- Gregory Benford

Coal Mole  
  Robotic device for asteroid mining chews through the interior, preparing raw materials for use  

The changes to the Spiders to speed up the extrusion process had been made quickly, and had given Rob and Darius Regulo their first surprise. The material supply rate that would be needed to keep the Spiders running at full speed was more than either had expected. Conventional asteroid mining methods would fall behind their demand. The raw materials were there in abundance, silicon for the load-bearing cable, niobium and aluminum for the superconducting cables and the drive mechanisms. Getting it out fast enough was another matter. It had been a problem, until Rob placed an urgent call to Rudy Chernick and asked if there were any way to modify a Coal Mole to work on different materials and in a vacuum environment. A lot of technical discussion, even more hard negotiation between Chernick and Regulo, and the beanstalk project had acquired another working partner. Now a whole family of modified Moles was chewing away happily in the bowels of the asteroid, gobbling up its interior and spitting millions of tons a day of raw materials out through the chutes that connected to each Spiderís waiting proboscis.
From The Web Between the Worlds, by Charles Sheffield.
Published by Not Known in 1979
Additional resources -

Compare to asteroid mining from Edison's Conquest of Mars (1898) by Garrett P. Serviss, asteroid mining (blasting) from Asteroid of Gold (1932) by Clifford Simak, the meteor miner from Salvage in Space (1933) by Jack Williamson, asteroid claim law from Jurisdiction (1941) by Nat Schachner, space placers from The Day We Celebrate (1941) by Nelson S. Bond, the asteroid mining robot from Catch That Rabbit (1944) by Isaac Asimov, the asteroid mine from Love Among the Robots (1946) by Emmett McDowell, and asteroid metal from The Mechanical Monarch (1958) by E.C. Tubb.

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  More Ideas and Technology from The Web Between the Worlds
  More Ideas and Technology by Charles Sheffield
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