- March 27, 2017
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Asteroids: The Next Mining Boom?
Last century, asteroid mining was a concept only possible in Bruce Willis movies. Now, in the 21st century, it has become a viable enterprise with companies already established and working toward getting their rigs into space.
Mining jobs have already been cut thanks to the mining downturn and, with automation rapidly taking over our earthly mines, it’s easy for us humans to start feeling obsolete. But, according to the experts, mines in space will need human workers. We’re not sure what their FIFO arrangement will be like but the trip out will certainly be more exciting than the tedious drive many earthbound miners are used to.
Why would we mine asteroids?
According to the Harvard astrophysics department, a single large asteroid is capable of containing the mineral wealth of our entire planet. And that’s just one of them. By way of example, some of the asteroids they’ve examined have platinum densities 20 times greater than the richest mines on earth. They estimate companies could take home $130 billion worth of resources from an average sized asteroid. This makes the $5 billion price tag of an asteroid mining mission seem like small change.
Unless, of course, you get a dud asteroid. Like a firework that hasn’t gone off, or a beer that has, some asteroids contain thoroughly disappointing innards. Astrophysicists are currently working on detection systems to ensure mining missions are only sent to the richest space rocks.
How will asteroid mining work?
The companies that will one day plant mines on asteroids already exist. You can even sign up to work with them (depending on your skill set).
Getting out there
Intergalactic bounty hunters, Planetary Resources, say their vision is to do the impossible, not in the future, but now. One of their biggest breakthroughs to date is the discovery of outer-space fuel sources—on the same rocks we’ll be mining minerals from—that will allow us to travel further and successfully set up rigs on asteroids. As it turns out, our mining missions will mostly be fueled by solar and hydro power.
The mining process
According to Deep Space Industries (DSI), another company at the forefront of intergalactic mining, the basic process involved will be much like mining on earth. With prospecting done first to establish suitable mine sites, then harvesting of resources, processing and manufacturing. Only difference is, all of this is done in space. Even the manufacturing.
DSI explain building among the stars will allow us to construct massive solar arrays, antenna, and other structures which would be impossible to build on earth and cart out into space. This will greatly improve the viability of our mining missions and perpetuate our advancement into the outer reaches of our galaxy.
Jobs in space
While mining and manufacturing job descriptions will be vastly different in the future, the work will be there. Humans are needed for these space missions and, as our capabilities continue to evolve, it won’t just be astronauts exploring the outer limits.