Mining’s Final Frontier: The Rise of Space Mining
As long as it has existed, the mining industry has been plagued by one simple fact: there is a finite number of resources on Earth.
So why not look a bit further?
This is exactly what some companies are beginning to do, entering a new market that could reshape the global economy forever: space mining.
Because mineral reserves and ore grades are declining worldwide, it makes sense that some pioneers are considering the ways in which they can reap the benefits of the over $700 quintillion in minerals that exist within the asteroid belt. Though the asteroid belt—located between Mars and Jupiter—contains almost any mineral one could imagine, its distant location is inspiring some trailblazers to look closer to home. In addition to the many asteroids that pass by Earth’s orbit each year, the moon is also a potential target due to its collection of gold, platinum, and rare earth metals.
With so much potential wealth scattered across such a large area, some experts are predicting the leaders of the space gold rush will not just become billionaires as the leaders of past commodity booms have, but that some may actually become trillionaires. Though this number is astounding, it is less surprising within the context of the over 500 asteroids already known to contain over $100 trillion worth of minerals each.
Looking beyond the large sums of money for those within the industry, space mining may actually be the key to allowing other industries to expand into space as well. Many of the asteroids that will be mined contain water, which can be processed into hydrogen and oxygen: the key components of rocket fuel. If rockets can stop at asteroids to refuel while journeying away from Earth, they will be able to travel far greater distances than ever before and stay in space much longer. This makes it much more economically feasible to work in space. As work begins to occur far outside the atmosphere, the ability to work remotely is of more importance than ever before, but technology is fortunately making this a viable option.
Space mining is so important to the future that even NASA is probing asteroids. In 2022, the United States government agency will send a probe to an asteroid known as Psyche 16 that is believed to contain minerals worth $10,000 quadrillion. Though NASA’s probe is not expected to enter the asteroid’s orbit until 2026, it is possible this event will mark a watershed moment in the history of space exploration. And if it marks the beginning of the era of asteroid mining, the global commodity market will truly never be the same.