Can humans afford to mine in space?
Asked by ‘Mad Moules’ via Facebook. As the human race rapidly continues to grow larger, not only are we running out of space, but we’re also short on resources. Sooner or later, as we outgrow our planet, we will have to start branching out towards space. One idea is to start mining on asteroids. Earth and asteroids came from the same starting materials (they’re like brothers but Earth was far more successful, depending on what you measure success on!) If humans were to mine asteroids, they would find a wealth of resources like gold, platinum, cobalt and ice water. At present, it would cost tens of billions of dollars to set-up a mining facility in space, as there is no affordable way to supply and launch a rocket into space. In fact, we currently have the technology needed to mine asteroids; we have spaceships that can orbit and land on asteroids. The problem lies in making this technology faster and cheaper so as to make mining worthwhile. There are a great variety of ways to make the venture cheaper. All cosmic mining missions will concentrate on near-Earth asteroids which, quite obviously, fly near Earth’s orbit. Most resources would not be brought back to Earth – the process most asteroid mining projects would follow is called ‘in-situ resource utilisation’ (I wouldn’t want to have to say that often). ‘In-situ resource utilisation’ is the biggest way of keeping costs down, and involves using all mined resources on facilities specifically in-space. It would mean cosmic mining companies would be able to finance themselves with what they mine. To put it into perspective, a metallic asteroid about 200 metres across could be worth $30 billion dollars. You can imagine all the prospectors in spacesuits slapping their knees and shouting “gold, gold!” Read the full answer online
Answered by Matt Powell