If you want to take your mind off the depressing news appearing on the front page of every newspaper every day, stretch your brain to consider the idea of mining asteroids for raw materials to build and fuel spaceships.
11/2 – Visual Capitalist – There’s Big Money to Be Made in Asteroid Mining – The theory is that an entire class of asteroids (the X-type) were once a large asteroid which has gone through several collisions which tore off most of the material leaving a very dense core of valuable metals. One particular X-type asteroid is thought to hold more platinum that has been mined from planet Earth throughout all history.
The real payoff would be asteroids out in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Resources there are staggering.
The annual value of production of raw metals on the earth is around $660 billion per year.
The article has an infographic of 48 asteroids, each of which has minerals worth more than an estimated one quintillion dollars. The guessed values range from just over one quintillion to about 27 quintillion.
For perspective, here’s how big numbers flow:
- million – 1,000,000
- billion – 1,000,000,000 (bi-, or, two sets of zeros after the thousands)
- trillion – 1,000,000,000,000 (tri-, or three sets of zeros after thousands)
- quadrillion – 1,000,000,000,000,000 (quad-, or four sets)
- quintillion –1,000,000,000,000,000,000 (quint-, or five sets)
So an asteroid might possibly contain $1,000,000,000B of resources compared to annual production on planet Earth of $660B. That’s a billion dollars of resources on an asteroid for every $660 mined on earth.
So, yeah, if someone could grab even a minute fraction of the resources on even one asteroid the wealth generated would be astronomical (pun intended).
The even more phenomenal payoff would be much of the resources needed to create space craft would be available in outer space instead of having to be lifted off the earth at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars per pound.
Stretching out to the asteroid belt would be phenomenally expensive and require massive amounts of technology that does not even exist, according to the article.
Intermediate step would be grabbing some near Earth asteroids.
That is where Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries come into play. Both companies are focused on prospecting some near-Earth asteroids as a first step. Planetary Resources has named eight asteroids they are focused on and Deep Space Industries says they’re looking at half a dozen.
And the race is on.
11/3 – The Seattle Times – Planetary Resources Inc.’s $28M deal with Luxembourg to prospect asteroids – The government of Luxembourg signed a deal to invest $13.3M in Planetary Resources and provide the company grants of an additional $14.4M. As part of the deal, a member of the official advisory board to the government of Luxembourg will get a seat on the board. The company will also open an office in Luxembourg for its European headquarters
Previous articles on mining asteroids
Here are some of the articles I’ve written in the past as I slowly caught on to this idea of mining asteroids. By the way, the future is so bright we need sunglasses.
- 6/13/16 – Great news on the open frontier, private space exploration edition – Luxembourg announces €200M line of credit to Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries.
- 12/4/15 – Diverging opinions on the U.S. bill to allow asteroid mining.
- 11/20/15 – Updates on open frontier of private space exploration
- 8/27/15 – Wide open frontier, asteroid mining edition
- 8/26/14 – More good stuff on the open frontiers – 8/26
- 4/18/13 – Interview with an asteroid miner – Yeah, I did say mining of asteroids and it’s coming from the private sector
- 4/4/13 – Space frontier is open – legal analysis of mining asteroids and private round-trip supply runs
- 5/3/12 – Some skepticism on mining asteroids
- 4/25/12 – Mining asteroids? I get it!
- 4/22/12 – Mining asteroids?