Have you ever wondered about gold beyond our world? Mining in space sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Scientists believe that asteroids and space debris may contain billions of dollars’ worth of valuable substances such as gold, platinum, and diamonds that are buried deep within them. Now, it appears that humans are moving closer to the possibility of extracting these riches.
What do we know now?
Science fiction enthusiasts are aware that the solar system’s resources seem virtually limitless compared to those on Earth. There are entire planets, many moons, thousands of large asteroids, and millions of small ones that likely hold immense quantities of valuable materials that are rare on Earth.
In recent decades, planetary science has confirmed the long-held suspicion that celestial bodies can serve as sources for numerous naturally occurring materials that are highly valuable under the right conditions. Gold can be a potential “target” of asteroid miners.
The latest mission of NASA which is called Psyche was created to study a metal-rock asteroid. This asteroid is situated in the solar system between Mars and Jupiter. It is of interest to scientists because it contains potential precious metals which can change the total cost of the world’s global economy. So, what is the estimated value of all that metal? Well, it could be about $700 quintillion. In order to understand better, if that money were shared among the population of the Earth, which is 7.6 billion people, each person would receive about $92 billion.
Political and economic factors
Jeff Bezos and other visionaries imagine a future where heavy industry shifts to space, making Earth a residential area. However, as entrepreneurs seek to utilize wealth beyond the atmosphere, accessing space resources is still complicated by economic and governance factors.
The biggest problem is that space doesn’t belong to any country. That makes traditional methods of trading, property rights and much more very complicated. To establish a profitable industry in space, significant progress in technology, finance, and business models will be required because there is not much demand for materials in space, and it takes a substantial amount of energy to bring materials back to Earth.
The competition to engage in space mining is driven by the possibility of various benefits such as economic, scientific, and security advantages. The United States is a front-runner in this competition. The country is the world’s first which has adopted space resources law and the property rights of private companies and individuals to materials gathered in space.
However, other countries also participate in this competition. Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates, which are looking for investments and hoping to become attractive places for them through business-friendly frameworks, establish their own laws regarding space resources. China also plans to jump into this field and has announced that space-resource development is a national priority. As the interests in space resources continue to grow, the current treaty framework from the Cold War era is no longer adequate for governing them. Therefore, there is an urgent need for new agreements that can facilitate private investment and promote international cooperation.
What’s in the future?
With NASA’s mining solicitation, the Moon is now considered a key space mining target and is likely to be the first location for commercial mining. The Moon offers various advantages for this purpose, including its proximity to Earth, which means it can be reached by a rocket in just a few days, and communication delays of only a few seconds that allow remote operation of robots from Earth. Additionally, the Moon’s low gravity means that relatively little energy will be required to transport mined resources to Earth’s orbit.
Asteroids are also being considered as a potential mining target in the near future. These space rocks, found throughout the solar system, contain a range of materials such as water and even precious metals. The asteroid belt, located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, holds the majority of these space rocks, with many being over a kilometre in diameter. Although the asteroid belt has vast potential for water and mineral resources, their long distance from Earth and the amount of energy and time required to travel there make them unlikely targets for near-term mining.
Uncertainties remain high, but sooner or later space mining promises to greatly accelerate space exploration and bolster terrestrial economies. There are several challenges associated with launching into space, including the high levels of stress involved in the process and the need for equipment to withstand both high acceleration and acoustic forces. However, no one can be sure about the consequences – will it help the economy or only create new competition between countries?