Amazing Facts about Asteroid Mining

Amazing Facts about Asteroid Mining

Amazing Facts about Asteroid Mining
Image Credits: Minor Metals Trade Association

Asteroid mining was nothing but science fiction until it became a reality, a decade ago. Asteroids are the materials left over after the formation of the Solar System. During the formation of Earth, all the heavier metals were pulled towards the core of the planet. Consequently, the crust was depleted of most of the heavier metal, such as iron and nickel.

The crust was replenished with these metals when a large number of asteroids smashed into the Earth. Some of these precious metals include iron, gold, cobalt, nickel, manganese, and tungsten. According to some theories, it happened about 4 billion years ago while others suggest that the bombardment happened over time.

Limited Resources of Earth

Limited Resources of Earth - Asteroid Mining

Earth has a limited amount of resources. The materials used in our everyday gadgets are among these finite resources. The rapid emergence and use of gadgets mean that we are burning up these resources quite quickly. For this reason, we need to figure out a way that could lessen the burden on our planet’s limited resources.

Asteroid mining is an interesting prospect that can help in this regard. These precious metals are near-infinite in space and asteroid mining can help extract them. For instance, Platinum is a rare resource on Earth but our asteroid belt is extremely rich in this metal.

Platinum is used for many important purposes, like developing pacemakers and refining crude oil. If humanity can manage to mine asteroids, it will provide a massive boost to the limited resources of Earth.

Estimated Financial Worth of Asteroid Mining

Estimated Financial Worth of Asteroid Mining

Distance in outer space is so large that  an average person can’t comprehend. It is so huge that the distance units used on Earth are not enough to represent the vastness of space. Consequently, space distance is measured in light-years (1 light-year = 9.5 trillion kilometers).

Just like distance, asteroid value also needs its own units. For example, the cheapest asteroid near us is valued at $1.07 Quintilian dollars. To put it into perspective, one Quintilian dollars can easily buy the entire world’s economy. Therefore, if anything is going to make some people trillionaires, it is definitely asteroid mining.

Methods and Equipment for Asteroid Mining

Estimated Financial Worth of Asteroid Mining

Traditional mining methods and equipment do not work when it comes to asteroid mining. The low gravity nature of space requires a different approach.

Some asteroids are chunky rocks that can be drilled for extracting heavy metals. However, many others are so delicate that gentle, precise scraping is needed to get any usable materials. These asteroids are called C-type Asteroids (or Carbonaceous Chondrite). They also have a high concentration of water and damaging these asteroids will be disastrous.

For this reason, many scientists suggest magnetically pulling the chunky, metallic asteroids towards Earth for mining. It is also suggested to use drones or bots to work on the C-type asteroids.

A Strain on International Relations

Strain on International Relations

Russia and the United States have been competing for space supremacy for a long time. The race between these two countries is not limited to the Earth and has continued to the moon. Both nations want to claim the moon for themselves but can’t do that because of an international treaty.

Having said that, there are no clear-cut laws regarding the ownership of asteroids. The two superpowers always end up competing over things and the asteroids seem no different.

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty still holds to this day. According to this treaty, no nation can lay a sovereign claim to any place in space. The 1967 Moon Agreement also says the same thing, but specifically states this for the moon. However, only five nations have signed this agreement (the US and Russia haven’t signed).

This treaty allows the members to hire private contractors that can work for them in space. Many people speculate that this could create further problems in the future as these countries look to overcome each other.

A Possible Solution to Climate Change

A Possible Solution to Climate Change

The fuel we use on Earth adversely affects our environment. Yes, there are green alternatives available, but they are not accessible or cheap enough for everyone. In space, traditional fuels aren’t used. Instead, water is split into hydrogen and oxygen to be used as fuel.

If more research money is allocated towards this fuel, it could be used here on Earth. This could allow for the cheaper hydrogen-fuel-cell car that could become mainstream one day. This will prove a major help in our fight against climate change. If asteroid mining becomes common, more research will be done into developing better, cost-effective fuels.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *