There’s been quite a bit of talk of asteroids lately, and not in the usual one’s-about-to-slam-into-Earth-thus-obliterating-all-life-dear-god-Bruce-Willis-can-you-save-us kind of way. Well, sort of that way. The news hasn’t necessarily been about landing people on fast-moving space rocks in order to destroy them, it’s been more about landing people on the fast-moving space rocks and mining them for all they’re worth. The immediate benefits are well and good, but according to this new infographic and short educational video, mining asteroids could just the boost we, as a species, need to start pushing further and further into the reaches of space.
No lie, this sounds a little bit like the beginning of a Red Dwarf type scenario, where I become the last human alive, living aboard a derelict mining ship with an uptight robot, an even more uptight hologram of my old bunk mate, and, of course, a humanoid creature that descended from a common house cat. So basically, my future has never looked so bright, and I can’t wait to start having all manner of wacky deep space adventures.
This picture derives from Planetary Resources, a company that believes using resources harvested from the nearly limitless number of asteroids in the galaxy could serves as a steady source of scarce minerals and capital for this little blue rock we call home. According to them, not only will such asteroid farming be beneficial to the terrestrial economy and way of life in a variety of ways, they also believe such excursions will “help establish and maintain human presence in space.” If we’re continually going up and down in an effort to harvest and deliver mineral resources, it certainly stands to reason that we’ll have more of a presence in space.
One of the key drawbacks to exploring space is actually getting to space in the first place. Generating enough thrust to catapult us beyond our atmosphere is hard, but Planetary Resources maintains that, once beyond our earthly bonds, many of the resources needed to push further are readily available via the thousands upon thousands of nearby asteroids, many of which are as near as our Moon.
They also claim that many of the issues facing Earth mining aren’t as problematic in space. There are no natural disasters or inclimate weather to cope with, no oxidization to battle, and plenty of solar energy to go around. Sure, working in the vacuum of space presents a number of new challenges that the more gravity bound don’t have to deal with, but that doesn’t stop PR from being optimistic. In fact, their first launch is scheduled to depart our world next year, and they hope to turn asteroid mining into the space craze of the 21st century.