Asteroid Mining & Space Invaders?

We’re fond of space exploration here at Guerrilla Explorer. From where we stand, NASA’s space ventures have proved exceedingly disappointing in the four decades since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on the moon. The overall focus has shifted from manned missions and space colonization to unmanned missions and hyper-specialized research projects. But now, something new appears to be on the horizon. Are we nearing the dawn of asteroid mining?

The Asteroid Mining Industry?

On Tuesday, Eric Schmidt and Larry Page of Google fame are expected to announce a new partnership with director James Cameron to create Planetary Resources, a company devoted to “space exploration and natural resources.”

“The company will overlay two critical sectors — space exploration and natural resources — to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP. This innovative start-up will create a new industry and a new definition of ‘natural resources’.” ~ Planetary Resources Press Release

Space exploration? Natural resources? I don’t know about you, but that sounds like asteroid mining to me. An additional clue in that regard is that Tuesday’s presentation will be hosted in part by Peter Diamandis, a vocal proponent of private space flight as well as asteroid mining. Which makes Cameron’s presence especially intriguing, given that his movie Avatar wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for space-based resource extraction.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, how would this work? Well, it’s long been known that asteroids contain high concentrations of minerals such as nickel and titanium. However, mining it was always considered unfeasible, due to heavy costs and lack of suitable technology. But this was largely because space mining was usually viewed through a government-only prism. As commercial interest picks up, this could change rapidly.

“However, if people were allowed to own space-based property and enjoy commercial benefits from it, whether they be tourism, mining, or something else, there would be far greater interest in colonization. Markets would form, inventors would create new technologies. The cost of space colonization would decline.” ~ David Meyer, Buying Real Estate…on Another Planet?

As for the mining itself, there are several different possibilities. Perhaps the most interesting one is known as in-situ resource utilization. In other words, astronauts would land on the asteroid and uses its resources to sustain themselves. Metals and minerals could be used to construct facilities. Mined quantities of hydrogen and oxygen could be used for fuel. The miners could extract water to drink and oxygen to breathe.

We’ll find out more details on Tuesday. However, if Planetary Resources announces what I think it will announce, April 24 could go down as one of the most important days in the history of space exploration…the day mankind sets forth to conquer the universe.

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