Asteroid Mining. Sci-fi or Reality?

In these days I noticed that this infographic regarding asteroid mining was buzzing in every website and, completely ignorant on the argument, I decided to gather data. What I found out is that this business has a huge potential in terms of revenues and technological improvements.

Firstly, why is it so interesting in terms of business? Asteroids, classified  in three types (Carbonaceous, Silaceous, Metallic), contain a huge quantity of resources, including precious and rare metals such as platinum, gold, iron and silver. There are more than 10.000 asteroids travelling in orbits close to the Earth. What’s more, being much smaller than the moon, they have a much lower gravitational force and the resources are much more concentrated.

Then, which asteroids can be “easily” exploited? The majority of the asteroids can be found between Mars and Jupiter in a particular zone called Asteroid Belt. They are sized from 600m to 1000 km in diameter, so if we put together all the known asteroids together, their mass is less than the 5% of the moon. But they are not all eligible for the exploitation. Thanks to the gravitational influence of Jupiter some of them have orbits which allow them to pass close to the Earth and are called Near Earth Asteroids. These are the ones that we need to hive off.

asteroid-2011-md-near-earth-object

But this project won’t admit any fail and will be carried on in three main stages. The first one is the creation and the launch of the “Arkid Series 100” mostly knows as “Leo Space Telescope”. It has to be launched within 2 years and will determine the position of minable asteroids. Leo, thanks to spectroscopy and radar technologies will be used to define the chemical composition, metal concentration, position and orbit of the asteroids. The second stage will be the creation of an interceptor called Arkid Series 200 and a prospector called Arkid Series 300. These satellite will analyse asteroids closer and provide high-resolution data in the most efficient way. The final stage will be carried on by governmental and private companies which will create asteoid mining droid (the technology to build these droids doesn’t exist but, considering the evolution of space technologies, they will probably be developed if the business model is considered remunerative).

Arkyd-Series100-LEO-Space-Telescope

If we look back in history, we can easily notice that the human kind always looked far for resources (considering the evolution of transportations). This new challenge, carried on by the company Planetary Resources Inc. is just another step in this quest and, within some years, it will be considered as important as solar energy for the developpement of humanity.

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