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"Science fiction and science have always danced around each other. Science fiction is the subconscious of science."
- Greg Bear

Mining Worm (Robot)  
  An autonomous mining robot shaped like a worm.  

One way to get materials out of an asteriod is to send a mechanical worm to chew through to what you want.

"D'you realize what R-7 has done now?"

"He's taken the mining worm apart - that's what. I knew that he would! ...The worm was strewn all over the floor!

From Love Among The Robots, by Emmett McDowell.
Published by Planet Stories in 1946
Additional resources -

Larry Niven made use of the idea in a 1968 story - see the mining worm (organic) from A Gift From Earth.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Love Among The Robots
  More Ideas and Technology by Emmett McDowell
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  Tech news articles related to works by Emmett McDowell

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