Future Gold Rush: Is Asteroid Mining the New Frontier?
NASA is planning on a new project that will create a new source of revenue. Asteroid mining is the future and two companies have already signed contracts with Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources with the intent of pursuing the project.
The groups are working on finding a sustainable strategy of gathering resources in space.
Bringing in resources from space to Earth can cost anywhere between $5,000 to $25,000. Therefore, harvesting resources in space is the main option the companies are looking at. They are also searching for asteroids close to Earth that host ice, minerals, metals, silicate minerals and carbonaceous minerals. They are still keeping an open eye toward the option of bringing the resources to Earth.
Planetary Resources plans to use several mid-sized space telescopes to help find the asteroids with the best potential for return. The company also looks to build revenue from commercializing its Arkyd 200 or 300. At some point, the company hopes to create a depot that will allow for mining operations.
Deep Space Industries plans to use "FireFlies", a compact spacecraft, in missions that will gather the same information that Planetary Resources wants, through telescopes. Later on, the company hopes to use its "Dragonfly" spacecraft to capture asteroids. Their "Harvestors" will be the spacecraft that will help bring the resources back to Earth's orbit.
NASA launched several studies on the potential of asteroid mining. Platinum metals and water are the most profitable potential for operations of asteroid mining. NASA even has some plans for extraction of water.
OSIRIS-Rex, a NASA spacecraft purposed with the study of the "Bennu" asteroid, which orbits close to earth, will make an attempt to land on an asteroid and gather information in September 2016.