Asteroid Resources

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As we’ve already known, earth’s natural resources is limited and some have even begun to depleted to the point we have to search for other resources to replace it. One of the alternative resource that have existed so far is asteroid resources by mining the asteroids. Asteroid mining is the exploitation of raw materials from asteroids and other minor planets, including near-Earth objects. This plan to mine asteroids for their resources was announced by billionaire entrepreneurs on April 24, 2012. And the company is called Planetary Resources.asteroid-mining2

Although it have already been considered as one of possible alternative source that could be used, this plan hasn’t become reality yet. Asteroid mining isn’t an easy job and the cost for it is also very high. Many prototypes has been used to see how well it’ll work and of course asteroid selection have been done as well through comparison of delta-v requirements for standard Hohmann transfers.

Mission ∆v
Earth surface to LEO[1] 8.0 km/s
LEO to near-Earth asteroid 5.5km/s[2]
LEO to lunar surface 6.3 km/s
LEO to moons of Mars 8.0 km/s

[1] Low Earth Object

[2] The average amount; asteroids with much lower delta-v exist

There are three main types of asteroids as result from the selection:

  1. C-type asteroids have high abundance of water which isn’t currently used for mining but could be used in an exploration effort beyond the asteroid, also a lot of organic carbon, phosphorus, and other key ingredients for fertilizer for growing food.
  2. S-type asteroids carry a bit of water but look more attractive because numerous metal contained, including: nickel, cobalt, and more valuable metals such as gold, platinum, and rhodium.
  3. M-type asteroids are rare but contain up to 10 times more metal than S-type.

Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries are currently working on this project. They are developing technologies to locate (Planetary Resources; satellites), examine, sampling, and harvest (Deep Space Industries) asteroids which is divided into three families of spacecraft; FireFlies, DragonFlies, and Harvestors. This asteroid mining project is currently expected to be realized in 2025.

I guess from this point on, there should be at least an idea of how big the risk of asteroid mining can be, including the miners’ safety in space. So what do you think of this project?