In the asteroid belt, there are many types of resources with an elevated economical price, between which we can find minerals, some of which are very rare to find on the Earth. The miner exploitation of the asteroid belt can be the future of the global economy.
Why do they buy so much?
Many of the asteroids that contain the asteroid belt are formed out of rocky minerals such as iron, cobalt, platinum, or nickel. All these minerals are scarce on the Earth, which makes them to have a very valued. As the asteroids contain these minerals in big quantities, the miner exploitation at the asteroid belt would be an enormous source of resources.
Almost all the asteroids contain these minerals, and some of them have them in big quantities. This makes these last to be valued into trillions or even quadrillions of dollars. Keeping in mind that the global economy was valued at 142 billion dollars in 2019, the asteroids contain enormous wealth that is trying to be exploited by many enterprises.
Thanks to the study of the asteroid belt, many celestial bodies that form it have been discovered. One of these, and possibly the most valuable asteroid discovered until nowadays, is 16 Psyche, an asteroid of 220 kilometers of diameter formed by minerals that are valued very well on the Earth, such as nickel, iron, or platinum.
Many scientists think that the asteroid 16 Psyche is the nucleus of a planet that had to occupy the zone of the asteroid belt at the moment from the formation of the solar system, but couldn’t arrive to form. Having in mind the metals that compose it and its big size, this asteroid is valued at 10 000 quadrillions of dollars.
Apart from this asteroid, there are many others of them that are also valued very good, as the asteroid Davida, which is valued at 24 trillion dollars. Keeping in mind that the asteroid belt is formed out of about 960 000 asteroids, in a possible future, if miner exploitation at a big scale took place, it would be a big source of money.
Who wants to exploit the asteroids?
Between the different enterprises that have been funded with the finality of exploiting the asteroid belt, we can see Planetary Resources, that it doesn’t only want to extract minerals and fuel from the asteroids, but it also wants to extract water from them. The company considers that water is the most important resource, as it is the base to construct a spatial exploration at a big scale. Up until now, this enterprise is the one that has, in the technological aspect, the most advanced plans.
About two years ago, in the United Kingdom, the enterprise for the miner exploitation of the asteroid belt Asteroid Mining Corporation was formed. This enterprise is in the process of finding investors. The American enterprises Aten Engineering and TransAstra Corporation are also in this state of finding investors for their projects.
The way of exploiting the asteroids
The mission diagram for the miner exploitation of the asteroid belt is very similar to all the companies. In the first stage, the most adequate asteroids would have to be found, either because their composition is rich in any determined material, or because their orbit is relatively near to the Earth. This would be done from the Earth’s surface, using telescopes devoted to this task, but spacial telescopes as the Hubble could also be used.
In the second place, it would be necessary to send a probe to study more carefully the asteroid in question. This probe would identify the zones where the resources that are searched (as water, iron, or platinum) are the most abundant, as well as a place where it can be possible to land.
With this map from the object completed, the most difficult part would arrive: the sending of a robotic module that could arrive at its surface and start to dig and extract materials. The small gravity from the asteroids and their constant movement provokes the task to be bumpier and the most difficult to resolve. There have been different spatial missions with this purpose, some of them with relatively successful results. The most known is the Rosetta mission, which deposited a small probe onto an asteroid, and it achieved to bring some samples to the Earth.