The Earth orbits sluggishly around the sun with about 13,000 asteroids passing close by. These are known as Near-Earth Objects (NEOs), these asteroids are not just heavenly curiosities, but can be considered as space treasures. They contain resources which could unlock the door to large amount of riches and wealth, the space equivalent of oil fields!
Asteroid mining can be simply put as the utilization of raw materials from nearby minor planets and asteroids. Minerals and fuels mined from these asteroids or planets could be used in space for manufacturing construction materials and rocket propellant or they may be taken back to Earth. Some of the minerals include gold, silver, platinum, iridium, rhenium, palladium, rhodium, tungsten, oxygen and water (which is useful for the astronauts). Some are transport back to Earth for further usage, these include; manganese, nickel, iron, cobalt, molybdenum, titanium and aluminum, for construction; as well as hydrogen, oxygen and ammonia, used as rocket propellant.
The question asked by most people is “would it be worth it”? Some doubt the possibility of staging such a decorously out-of-this-world plan. Those associated with asteroid mining company, however, argue that most negative views about asteroid mining are misconceptions about their endeavors.
As regards to these asteroids being the space equivalent of oil fields, NASA statement estimates that mineral wealth of these asteroids in the asteroid belt could exceed $100 billion for everyone one of the six billion people living on Earth. An asteroid spanning a distance of approximately 1 kilometer would have a mass of around two billion tons. There are up to one million asteroids of this diameter in the solar system. Just one of these asteroids, would embody close to 30 million tons of nickel, 2 million tons of cobalt and about 1 million tons of platinum. The platinum alone, when valued would worth more than $150 billion!
This can provide capital for a lot of life benefiting investments. For example, in the month of May, 2016, Bayer and Planetary Resources intended to collaborate to improve agriculture with space data. By making use of the joined technologies from both companies, farmers will be able to time their irrigation systems better to save water, receive information on planting date and re-planting, and make an assessment of their soil’s capacity to hold water.
This is just one of many project carried out by the asteroid mining companies in view of improving the quality of human sustainability. Also, asteroid mining can be source of trillions of dollars for the world’s economy.