Scientists and private companies are readying for a new space race – a very lucrative one, with companies racing to grab asteroids worth billions each.
America’s U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has begun to seriously evaluate the potential of space-based mining targets.
At a discussion held in Colorado this summer, Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Center for Space Resources at the Colorado School of Mines said, ‘The space-resources community will benefit greatly from working together with the USGS to assess the location and value of minerals, energy and water on the moon, Mars and asteroids.’
Goldman Sachs has predicted that the world’s first trillionaires could be created by a new asteroid ‘gold rush’.
British company Asteroid Mining Corporation aims to be at the forefront of this, says founder Mitch Hunter-Scullion in an interview with Yahoo News.
Hunter-Scullion says, ‘A single metallic asteroid just 25 meters in diameter (2 double decker buses) would contain 29 tonnes of platinum worth £725 million (15% of current global supply), while the rest of its metals would bring the total value to £2.3 billion.
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‘AMC are working to develop the Asteroid Prospecting Satellite One (APS-1), this will launch in late 2020 to conduct a survey of the Near Earth Asteroids to identify ones that contain Platinum Group Metals and Gold.
‘It is now possible to do such a mission on very cheap budgets thanks to CubeSats, we estimate it will cost £2.3 million for the Prospecting phase.
‘Once we have this information then we will then use it to compile a database of asteroids that are closest to Earth and cheapest to fly to, that contains the most Platinum and Gold that we will sell access to. The demand for this data stems from its disruptive impact to the global economy.
‘We will then use the revenues from the Space Resource Database to fund our own Asteroid Mining mission in the mid to late 2020’s. Therefore being both the Shovel Salesman and the Miner.
‘Asteroids of this size could in theory be moved into a Lunar Orbit to be easily accessible from Earth but easy to mine. And could alongside the Deep Space Gateway form the bedrock of a Lunar Orbital infrastructure to facilitate the colonisation of the Moon.’
Several companies are now building the machines which will take us there – including Deep Space Industries, which is building a steam-powered thruster for spacecraft.
American companies such as Planetary Resources – backed by Titanic director James Cameron – are already planning to send robotic vehicles to mine precious metals and rare resources from asteroids.
NASA’s Psyche mission is set to launch in 2022 – and will target a metal-rich asteroid known as 16 Psyche, estimated to be worth £8,000 quadrillion.
Christian Schroeder of the University of Stirling says, ‘Asteroids crossing Earth’s orbit may become convenient targets for mining operations, providing materials that are running out on Earth.’