The Reality of Space Mining
Despite a truckload of Hollywood's apocalyptic asteroid space flicks and a general sense of skepticism, many scientists, politicians, business men, and existing companies believe space mining is tantamount to the future of mining. How real is Space Mining? Pretty real. To our surprise, there are several legitimate companies that are already in existence and are hoping and planning to jumpstart the industry in a very real sense. Planetary Resources is a leading company in the endeavor to begin space mining for rare metals and water. They believe that they have the right technology and the community to begin carrying out this task. In particular, Planetary Resources motives appear to be rooted in human expansion into space and unique forms of economic growth. They openly state, "our vision is to catalyze humanities growth both on and off the earth".
Much of the popular opinion appears to be shifting toward the necessity of exploring the possibility of opening up different approaches and gaining new resources. Is it as simple as that? See a need, meet a need? To get an inside view of how Planetary Resources views space mining and the need for gaining new resources in the video below.
What Is An Asteroid?
Contrary to popular thought, asteroids are more than random rocks rocketing through the expanse of space. Many scientists believe that asteroids are actually the remnant of the substance that was involved in the forming of our solar system. According to Planetary Resources, there are three major types of asteroids that exist in our solar system: The C-type, X-type, and S-type.
Asteroid research are based upon the 50,000 plus meteorites that have made their way to earth and have been analyzed in numerous labs over the last several decades. Asteroids that have entered Earth's atmosphere and survive the journey to earth are referred to as a meteorite.
The Japanese Hayabusa Mission
In the Summer of 2010, Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) sent an unmanned spacecraft on a mission named Hayabusa. The aim and goal in completing the mission was to reach asteroid 25143 Itokawa and collect the first samples ever analyzed. This was a huge break through in regards to the legitimacy of space mining becoming an actual reality. Finally, there was a way to examine the resources asteroids actually had to offer. The reasoning behind JAXA's Hayabusa mission was based upon the belief that Asteroids, were small enough in size to have remained in a state of preservation dating back to the inception of our solar system. JAXA's research leading up to the launch of this mission viewed the fossils and soil samples from an asteroid as a potential groundbreaking grasp at the evidence from the scene of our solar systems formulation. While many saw the potential of this discovery as a way to see into to the beginning of creation, others saw a great wealth of new resources, some saw brilliantly flashing dollar signs, and some saw a roadmap out of current economic troubles. Unbeknownst to many, this mission was crucial to the development of a potentially gargantuan future industry. HAYABUSA took off in May 2003 and successfully completed its mission and returned to Earth in June 2010.
How Space Mining Could Work
Is Space Mining Worth The Trouble?
There are many questions surrounding the future of space mining as a legitimate and sustainable industry. The plethora of challenges facing space mining include the cost to operate, the method and process, the resources that are actually readily available, and the transportation of said resources back to earth.
The proverbial elephant sized question in the room is, is it worth the trouble? According to the FW: Thinkingcommunity, "an asteroid the size of a football field could be worth more than the super bowl." To paint a more vivid picture, the last estimated worth of the super bowl was calculated in 2014 and weighed in at an incredible $25 billion. In a 2013 Forbes.com telephone interview, Deep Space Industries CEO, David Gump stated “In terms of asteroids, they’re not worth anything until a) you identify one with the right mix of resources that your particular market needs and b) you go through the effort of bringing it back from its current orbit back to stable orbit around Earth.” What is the next step in this new frontier? Well, you do what any good miner would do, you prospect and assess the value. Gump hits another home run in the following statement, “This is similar to the terrestrial mining industry phases, you establish value by prospecting then you establish more value by test mining and that’s where we’re up to initially.”
As the technology is developed, the asteroids are targeted, and the red tape is in hindsight, the future of space mining is bright. Let the races begin!
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