“Mining in Space for People on Earth”
The topic of asteroids gets me so excited it’s really tough for me to get all my thoughts into a piece under a minute. But I’ll try.
There is an abundance of natural resources on near-Earth bodies with the potential to not only support long-term human habitation in space but also provide a whole new source of critical natural resources that we need on earth. Many of these are resources that we humans fight over today on earth.
I’ve previously written about asteroids in Aviation Week for the Apollo 50th Anniversary:
Carbonaceous C-Type asteroids are estimated to contain about 600 million km3 (144 million mi.3) of water, a little less than half that of Earth, and copious amounts of carbon. Siliceous and metallic near-Earth asteroids contain vast quantities of iron, nickel, platinum, gold, silver and high-tech industry materials such as rare-earths and high-tech essentials such as osmium, iridium, palladium, rhodium and ruthenium. Just one of the 1,000 near Earth asteroids of about 1 km in diameter is estimated to contain 7,500 tons of platinum in addition to rare-earth materials required for high-tech manufacturing.
The best part, though, is in the extraction process:
There is almost no gravity on asteroids out in space. Low gravity would not only make water and metals easier to mine, but it would also eliminate the problem of convection and sedimentation in metal production if we wanted to make ultra pure and strong products. We’d process and manufacture perfect metals directly on space stations. The same goes for making crystals, which means semiconductors could reduce losses that occur because of impurities developed during manufacturing processes on earth today.
Mining operations on earth contaminate its surrounding communities and harm our natural water sources. Why not mine in outer space where it is advantageous to do so and bring these products back to earth to benefit humans, not harm them?
Launching billionaires into space on commercial vehicles is truly a show of how far our industry has come (especially from my Sputnik days as a teenager). However, I consider the mining of asteroids the true commercialization of space.