Within your and my lifetime, the Earth’s surface reserves of metals and chemicals we use in our consumer-oriented lives will become scarce.
Phosphorus, antimony, zinc, tin, lead, iridium, silver, copper and gold are all elements we have a high consumption of but limited amount of. Some say that we will go empty for some of these materials within 50 years.
So what are we doing then?
Let’s go back to last week, do you remember the car that was sent in orbit between Earth and Mars? What Elon Musk proved by sending his car in orbit was that it has now become less expensive to send equipment into orbit than before. Getting into space for a reasonable amount of money is the first step towards a new commercialization of space.
An industry sector waiting for transport costs to fall is private operators who want to operate mining in space. Some asteroids contain enormous values. The asteroid Opik is estimated to have values of around NOK 155 billion in the form of nickel, iron, cobalt and water.
There are three ways to mine an asteroid for resources:
- Break it into pieces and bring it back to the earth.
- Process the ingredients directly onto the asteroid and bring the product back to the ground
- Bring the asteroid back to either moon or in earth orbit for easier access.
According to Deepspaceindustries, the first resource is to be extracted in space is water. The explanation for this is quite simple, there is a lot of it and water can be used as fuel by splitting the molecules into its constituents, Oxygen and Hydrogen. As we humans ventures further than the ISS, water will also come in handy and we will not have to take it with us from earth. As of today, it goes by approx. 100 kg of fuel to get 1 kg of water in orbit around. Fuel stations in space can quickly become a profitable business.
The first to become trillionaire is he who first extracts minerals from an astroid.
– Neil deGrasse Tyson
Luxenburg said in 2016 that they are going to invest 200 million euros over the next 10 years in space mining. This will be applied to companies that choose to have their base in the country. Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources were two of them. Over the next 10 years, we will get the answer if it is possible to extract water and valuable metals from space.
What do you think will be the next chapter in the history of commercial spacecraft?