Let the Asteroid Mining Begin!

And so asteroid mining begins…

“This radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55 was obtained on Nov. 6, 2011, at 1:45 p.m. PST (4:45 p.m. EST/2145 UTC), when the space rock was at 6.4 lunar distances, which is about 1.5 million miles, or 2.46 million kilometers, from Earth.”
Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Asteroid Mining?

Yesterday, Planetary Resources announced its intention to “mine Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) for raw materials, ranging from water to precious metals.” Not wanting to be outdone, Moon Express used the opportunity to update the public on its plan to mine the moon for precious metals. These developments are, in our view, a game changer of epic proportions.

“NASA’s space ventures have proved exceedingly disappointing in the four decades since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on the moon. The overall focus has shifted from manned missions and space colonization to unmanned missions and hyper-specialized research projects.” ~ David Meyer, Asteroid Mining & Space Invaders

Asteroid mining holds tons of promise and not just in financial terms. This budding young industry could very well lead mankind to begin colonizing space in the not-so-distant future.

“If you look back historically at what has caused humanity to make its largest investments in exploration and in transportation, it has been going after resources, whether it’s the Europeans going after the spice routes or the American settlers looking toward the west for gold, oil, timber or land. Those precious resources caused people to make huge investments in ships and railroads and pipelines.” Peter Diamandis, Co-Founder, Planetary Resources

How will Asteroid Mining Work?

So, let’s get down to the details. How is this going to work? Well, Planetary Resources doesn’t expect to do mining work, at least not at first. Instead, it hopes to “launch a telescopic space surveyor into Earth’s low orbit in less than two years to identify potential metal- and water-rich asteroids.” After achieving success, this low-cost robotic surveying equipment will be marketed to private firms and government agencies.

In four years, Planetary Resources plans to send explorers to space to begin prospecting asteroids for raw materials. This is easier than it sounds. Asteroids lack air and for the most part, gravity as well. Thus, the technological requirements for landing a spacecraft on one are far less advanced than for landing on the moon.

The next step is developing mining equipment. Although asteroids are relatively rich in metals like platinum, the concentrations are still quite low. So, mining will likely be done by robots. In ten years, the company hopes to build its own galactic fueling stations and use hydrogen and oxygen from mined asteroids to refuel spaceships, allowing for deeper forays into the galaxy.

“We’re going to have to use the resources of space in order to explore space. Instead of having to build a new telecommunications satellite we can refuel the ones already up there.” ~ Eric Anderson, Co-Founder, Planetary Resources

The company expects space mining to be a multi-trillion dollar business over the next fifty years. From a consumer standpoint, as space mining becomes a reality, the cost of raw materials will decrease, allowing for cheaper and higher-quality goods.

“Looking to space, everything we hold of value on Earth – metals, minerals, energy, real estate, water – is in near-infinite quantities in space. The opportunity exists to create a company whose mission is to be able to go and basically identify and access some of those resources and ultimately figure out how to make them available where they are needed.” ~ Peter Diamandis, Co-Founder, Planetary Resources

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, there you have it, folks. Asteroid mining and rhe race for space has begun. As we indicated the other day, if things proceed as planned, yesterday could go down as one of the most important days in the history of space exploration…the day mankind set forth to conquer the universe.

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