Could an asteroid become a girl’s best friend?
As the possibility of asteroid mining becomes more realistic, a gal like me could get all the diamonds she could ever want from a passing asteroid.
I don’t ordinarily occupy my mind with subjects like mining, except perhaps now and then when the topic of jewelry comes up. My knowledge on the topic is quite limited, and it’s not exactly a word I have tagged for my Google News alerts. I also don’t have an in-depth knowledge of asteroids, to say the least, other than today’s news that a huge asteroid is whizzing closely past our planet (OK, so it’s 3.75 million miles away, a.k.a. 15 times the distance of the Earth to the moon, but apparently that’s pretty close!). But those items combined have come onto my radar recently, and “asteroid mining” is something quite fascinating, and something that caught my interest.
Previously, most of my knowledge about asteroid mining came from the blockbuster, and very plausible film “Armageddon” (featuring one of Ben Affleck’s finest cinematic performances) when the space shuttle landed on the asteroid and blew it up before it could destroy the Earth, but apparently it’s not outside the realm of reality anymore. Asteroid mining has become a trendy topic in science news lately, and for good reason; two U.S. companies plan to harvest rare earths and minerals like platinum, which we earthlings use in electronics, or say, wedding rings, from passing asteroids – a huge and, currently, untapped business.
From a numbers perspective, currently this is not a lucrative business. But a few decades from now, things could look quite different. One of these two companies, Deep Space Industries, intends to fire its first space vehicle (called “FireFly”) into orbit as soon as 2015.
So how would it work?
If you are thinking about drawing up a business plan for asteroid extraction and processing you might come across several problems. The process and its success still remain uncertain.
What are the factors you need to take into account? On space.com an infographic gives a brief look into how asteroid mining could work and what this line of business holds for us in the future.
If you happened to look up into the sky today, you might be able to spot the latest asteroid 1998 QE2 (provided, of course, that you’re carrying extremely strong binoculars, and the sky is perfectly clear, and you’re looking in the right direction at the right time.) Unfortunately, we’re not quite ready yet to take advantage of today’s asteroid. And looking at the factoids (1998 QE2 will be travelling at thousands of miles per hour, while rotating around its own axis), the concept of asteroid mining might seem pretty scary, and out of this world.
But then again, if Ben Affleck could do it, why couldn’t we?