Asteroids are rich in natural resources which are dwindling on our planet, so scientists have identified space rocks as a gap in the market. For example, many asteroids are rich in the mineral platinum, which is growing more and more scarce here on Earth. Platinum is extremely valuable and costs around $1million (£686,982) per 1000 cubic centimetres.
To put that into perspective, an asteroid which passed Earth in 2016 had £3.7trillion worth of platinum.
Now, the European Space Agency (ESA) has confirmed it wants to capitalise on the asteroid mining industry, and that studies are already underway.
Members of the ESA’s planetary defence team have been answering questions on Reddit on how Earth is protected from asteroid.
The main purpose of the event was to promote ESA’s Human Exploration Research Analog (Hera) mission.
In 2024, Hera will head to the Didymos binary asteroid system – where two asteroids, one much larger than the other, orbit one another – to learn more about asteroid protection.
But when asked whether the ESA wants to mine asteroids for their vast minerals, the space agency confirmed its intention.
A member of ESA’s team said on Reddit: “Yes, this is a topic in the field known as space mining, part of what we call Space Resources.
“In fact, learning how we can process material we might find on asteroids or other planetary bodies is increasingly important, as it opens up the opportunities for sustainable exploration and commercialization.
“It’s a technology we need to master, and asteroids can be a great target for testing how we can create space mines.”
The asteroid hunters also reassured Earthlings that the likes of NASA and ESA are making great strides in their understanding of how to knock an asteroid off a potential collision course with Earth.
Detlef Koschny, co-manager of ESA’s Planetary Defence Office, said: “Since we only change the velocity of the asteroid slightly, we need to hit the object early enough so that the object has time to move away from it’s collision course.
“Finding out when it is possible to launch requires simulations done by our mission analysis team.
“They take the strength of the launcher into account, also the available fuel for course corrections, and other things. Normally each asteroid has its own best scenario.”
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