lanetary Resources, a company officially founded this year, plans to begin surveying and missions to mine asteroids. They will launch robotic equipment into space within the next two years, and by 2022 they hope to be able to prospect asteroids for metals and other materials.
While Earth is made of the same stuff as an asteroid, all the heavy metals sunk towards the core while the planet was still forming. So most of the expensive metals that we can actually get to on Earth are found in our crust, and were left there from asteroids hitting Earth. But these resources are diminishing. So where’s the next logical place to go? Asteroids, of course. That’s the ‘why.’
They hope to find metals like platinum and cobalt, and in their live press conference today said that an 80-meter asteroid would probably have a few hundred billion dollars in these metals. So getting a good payoff isn’t their concern. It’s the engineering behind it. And the engineering is the impact.
Planetary Resources, as well as companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, represent how space exploration is becoming privatized. That means that engineers working on space projects won’t necessarily work for NASA, and they won’t necessarily just be working on exploration.
What we’ll see in the future is a number of space companies doing things like hosting space cruises and possibly vacations, mining resources out of asteroids or even the moon, and maybe collecting solar energy from space to send back as electrical power to Earth. The only restriction is that, for private businesses to do it, it’s got to be profitable. But even still, there are limitless possibilities.