World Asteroid Day is celebrated annually on June 30th. The reason behind the celebration is a bit unnerving. On that date, in 1908, a 130-foot wide asteroid exploded in the Earth’s atmosphere and destroyed an estimated 800 square miles of Siberian forest. Thankfully, the area wasn’t anywhere near populated areas. What were once considered planet destroying projectiles are now being considered valuable sources of minerals.
Two companies—Deep Space Industries, out of California, and Planetary Resources in Washington—are both contending for the chance to begin the efforts to mine valuable minerals from asteroids. Regardless of which companies become the leaders in this revolutionary new business, the European nation of Luxembourg has agreed to invest over a quarter of a million dollars to support the mining efforts as long as offices are set up in Luxembourg.
That’s a lot of incentive!
There’s an almost unfathomable amount of money in the mining of asteroids, too. Just how much money are we talking about here? Consider this…
NASA is currently looking into mining an asteroid called 16 Psyche. This asteroid is located between Mars and Jupiter. Should the mission succeed, the amount of iron that could potentially be extracted from 16 Psyche would be worth $10,000 quadrillion! To put that in perspective, it’s about 161,600 times more than the current amount of TOTAL currency in circulation on Earth.
We’re likely a long time from actually having to process that kind of revenue, though. The cost of sending spaceships that far into our solar system and the logistics required to haul the materials back to earth.
Another challenge the industry will face is of a legal nature. Just who holds the property ownership in space? Do the resources belong to the private mining companies? The investors? What if we said the material was the mutual property of all the countries on earth? Clearly, the business is going to need a boatload of lawyers to iron out the details.
Needless to say, we’re going to need to advance unknown categories of technology before the process will be feasible, but there’s no denying how valuable the idea of asteroid mining could be.