Asteroid Mining

Planetary Resources

Asteroid mining refers to exploiting raw materials from asteroids and planetoids in space, especially near-Earth objects. Minerals and volatiles could be mined from an asteroid or spent comet to provide space construction material (e.g., iron, nickel, titanium), to extract water and oxygen to sustain the lives of prospector-astronauts on site, as well as hydrogen and oxygen for use as rocket fuel. In space exploration, these activities are referred to as in-situ resource utilization.

A relatively small metallic asteroid with a diameter of 1 mile  contains more than $20 trillion US dollars worth of industrial and precious metals. The gold, cobalt, iron, manganese, nickel, palladium, platinum, and other metals that we now mine from the Earth’s crust, and that are essential for economic and technological progress, came originally from the rain of asteroids that struck the primordial Earth. Earth’s massive gravity pulled all such siderophilic (iron loving) elements into the planet’s core during its molten youth more than four billion years ago. Initially, this left the crust utterly depleted of such valuable elements. Asteroid impacts re-infused the depleted crust with metals.

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