Could Asteroid Mining Fuel Deep Space Travel?

Could Asteroid Mining Fuel Deep Space Travel?


If we want to colonize space, we have to figure out how to generate a large supply of life sustaining resources. The most important being water. The good news is, traces of water have been
detected throughout our solar system. And asteroids may hold the most accessible
abundance of water that we know of. There are likely millions of asteroids within
our solar system and over 18,000 are classified as near-Earth objects – meaning they’re located
relatively close to our planet. It’s estimated that collectively these asteroids
could hold two trillion metric tons of water. While others are thought to hold rare Earth
minerals and metals worth trillions of dollars. So could we mine these space rocks? There are a lot of different types of asteroids,
all of which orbit the Sun with most inhabiting the region between Mars and Jupiter known
as the asteroid belt. One way they’re classified is by spectral
type, which is based on their emission spectrum, color and albedo. Most asteroids fall into three classes: C-Type,
S-Type and M-type each of which could be extremely valuable for their unique resources. C-type asteroids are thought to be the most common. C stands for carbon, which accounts for their
dark color and a large part of their composition along with silicate rocks and clay. Meanwhile, less common, S-Type or silicaceous
asteroids are greenish to reddish and are thought to be made of silicate materials and
nickel-iron. Similarly, M-Type asteroids also seem to be
made up of mostly nickel-iron, which is why they’re called metallic asteroids. S and M-Types are thought to be instant money
makers due to their abundance of precious metals. It’s estimated a football field sized asteroid
could hold $25 to $50 billion worth of platinum alone. But of all the asteroids, C-Types are referred
to as the best all-around for mining and that’s because they have high abundances of water
bound up as hydrated clay minerals. Water is not only critical for space colonization,
but it can also be broken down into its constituents – hydrogen and oxygen – and used as rocket
fuel. It takes a lot of energy to leave Earth’s
atmosphere, so mined asteroids could potentially solve propulsion problems by providing space
sourced fuel. So are cosmic gas stations really possible? Well, the beginnings of the asteroid rush
are full speed ahead. First, we have to learn more about near-Earth
asteroids and their mining potential. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is on a mission
to the potentially hazardous asteroid, Bennu. The spacecraft will attempt to collect samples
of dust from Bennu’s surface and bring them back to Earth. There are also private companies joining this
futuristic space race – all hoping to crack this potentially trillion dollar industry. All they have to do is figure out a way to
mine massive rocks moving at over 20 kilometers per second… in space. No big deal. If you want to learn more about the potential for cosmic colonization check out this episode here about the great lengths it takes to get to Mars and if you like what you see, make sure to subscribe to Seeker. Thanks for watching!

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