Maybe Newt Gingrich’s 2020 moon colony wasn’t such a far-fetched idea after all.
Planetary Resources Inc., a recently reorganized company (formerly known as Arkyd Astronautics), announced its plans to mine asteroids within close proximity of Earth’s atmosphere.
The announcement, made during a press conference at the Seattle Museum of Flight, sparked lengthy discussion on the future of mineral extraction and whether or not this new endeavor would prove successful.
The extraction process itself is very simple, though still natal in its development. The frameworks are centered upon the mass production of 9’ inch space telescopes (Arkyd Series 100 Spacecraft). These telescopes allow for the identification of asteroids and a rough estimation of their size. Provided that the asteroids are smaller than 50 meters, robotic vehicles will be able to maneuver around and mine the material.
Although a variety of precious metals are present, the ingredients of key importance are water, gold, and platinum. Water can be used a pseudo-fuel in space (break it down to hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel), while gold and platinum can be brought back to Earth.
For those that may need an analogy, there is actually a heavy resemblance to James Cameron’s cosmo-integrated world in Avatar.
A close correlation has been drawn to deep-sea mining, which was first introduced through literature in the ‘60s. Because it only took five decades to establish a reliable system of ocean drilling for oil, investors are hopeful that their investments in space will likewise prove successful (at least four official billionaire investors have been documented).
Coincidentally, the Obama Admistration has designated 2025 as the year for NASA’s human-asteroid “rendezvous.” If everything goes according to the plan, asteroid-based minerals could be input into circulation within the next two decades.
However, many questions still remain. What are the potential dangers of a mishandled asteroid? Mining them involves possibly interfering with its orbit, and an asteroid could theoretically shift off course – and in the worst case scenario could fall on earth. In this aspect, the asteroids could be used as a weapon. Though not necessarily reminiscent of the Cold War, safety concerns will surely be an issue needed to be dealt with.
Also, these asteroids, once several trips have been made and the process has been facilitated, will need to be partitioned amongst nations. Unless America claims another Manifest Destiny that claims space as the new frontier, an economic solution will need to be proposed for this economic dilemma. Who can mine which asteroids? Will coordinate points be used? And so on.
Though there are glaring holes that still need to be addressed, this proposal is a remarkable breakthrough, and one that encapsulates the essence of entrepreneurs. This is an assured sign of the new era of creativity that the next generation will bring, and is a positive note for the future.