The race for space mining began several decades ago at the hands of countries and companies. They intended to investigate asteroids close to planet Earth. For some years, important global startups have been looking for a way to send a ship to one of the asteroids in nearby space. Now, technology may be on the verge of doing just that, though there are still risks and legal considerations to keep in mind.
Up to this point, more than 12,000 mineral-filled space rocks have been recognized. The wealth of valuable metals in fixations is a lot higher than those found on Earth. These space rocks are situated in a span of around 45 million kilometers from our planet.
Asteroid PSYCHE 16 and other asteroids
The spearhead of these space mining prospects was the discovery by NASA of a large asteroid valued at 700 quintillion dollars. This is a price greater than that of the entire global economy of our planet. It would contain enough heavy metals (gold, iron, and nickel) to give each person on Earth a trillion dollars. Its name is PSYCHE 16, and it is situated among Mars and Jupiter. The importance of this space body is so great that NASA plans to start exploring the asteroid in 2022, together with Space X, the company of billionaire Elon Musk.
In the same region as PSYCHE 16 is another asteroid composed predominantly of platinum. It is estimated that it could be worth more than 30,000 million dollars. Suppose extraterrestrial space is exploited and made the most of. In that case, it could offer for life all the mineral resources necessary for science, the health industry, and much of the rest of the business sectors on the planet.
A fortune in space
The gold owners, who currently control the most productive mines globally, produce 4 to 5 million ounces of gold annually. These amounts pale compared to the possible conquests made possible by space mining. All that will rely upon two key factors: The financial reasonability of these ventures and the advancement of organizations in space innovation.
At least 1500 asteroids can be reached near the Earth more easily than on the Moon. From them could be extracted countless tons of metals such as plutonium, rare piles of Earth to make electronic devices, and water that in the future will be used as fuel in spacecraft. The reason asteroids are easier to get to is because a spacecraft would not have to land but instead dock. Because the gravitational field of asteroids is not as strong as that of the Moon or Earth and does not require as much fuel. Another advantage of space mining is that, unlike on Earth, where minerals and other resources are found close to the core. On the other hand, asteroids do not have to dig far to get them since they are all the more equally disseminated on a superficial level.
The Moon is also home to gold, platinum, and rare terrestrial metals. Scientists say that the satellite has enough gravity for mining activity to work there.
Countries and companies in space mining
The United States and China are already taking positions for the next “boom” in the space mining industry. Even Japan and Europe are also interested. According to the English company Asteroid Mining Company, the possibilities will be almost endless once the infrastructure is set up. The first “trillionaire” in history will be the individual. Who takes advantage of the regular assets of space rocks, and there is now a contender for it.
The Planetary Resources organization is supported by financial backers. Like Larry Page, James Cameron, or Richard Branson, has been dealing with its ARKYD transport. The same happens with DSI, which is very advanced in the design of its FIREFLY ship. And although there is at least a decade to go before these ships deploy their mining operations, they have decades of research and work in space mining behind them. These companies intend not only to extract minerals and fuels from these huge rocks but also water. They consider water the most important resource. Because it is the foundation on which to build large-scale human exploration of space.
In the initial phase in the United States are the companies Aten Engineering and TransAstra Corporation, which have facilities for engineers to develop their technology.
Luxembourg, one of the richest countries in the eurozone, offers facilities for companies dedicated to this sector to settle there. In 2016, his government approved dedicating some 200 million euros of its budget to offer financing and subsidies, trusting. It was so that space mining would bring the same profits that communications satellite companies.
The future market of space mining
In general terms, it is estimated that the global market for asteroid mining will reach 3,800 million dollars in 2025. Taking into account ongoing and future missions and the increase in investments in technologies for the sector, such as spaceships. Other international forecasts place this market at 2.7 trillion dollars by 2040.
It is believed that the International Space Station, or even human colonies, could be supplied with water from asteroids in the future. In contrast, metals from asteroids would be used in different construction sites elsewhere in the Solar System.