Who wants to be a Trillionaire: The economics of Asteroid Mining

asteroid mining
16 Psyche the large metallic asteroid ideal for space mining. NASA imagery was used for this composite from https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/asteroids-comets-and-meteors/asteroids/16-psyche/in-depth/
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The most valuable commodities you can amass are floating right above your head. Hundreds of asteroids near planet Earth are full of gold, silver, platinum, nickel and countless metals that are worth fortunes. At the moment, we mine these commodities on our planet, causing destruction and harm to wildlife.

According to link.springer.com

“Across the world, mining contributes to erosion, sinkholes, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, significant use of water resources, dammed rivers and ponded waters, wastewater disposal issues, acid mine drainage and contamination of soil, ground and surface water, all of which can lead to health issues” 

These commodities are none other than minerals and they are exhaustible, which means that we will eventually run out of them. The idea of asteroid mining may be a solution to this problem, as outer space is huge, and there is an essentially endless supply of the minerals we need. 

Is asteroid mining the future? 

We obviously know that space travel is possible and there is no shortage of near-earth asteroids. Furthermore, thanks to billionaires like Elon Musk, we can build spaceships for less than one-fourth of NASA’s budget.

Thanks to our level of technology, space mining is no science fiction. Keep in mind that the Japanese have already accomplished this task on a miniature scale.

As we near commercial flights to space, this idea will also come into action, a few decades later.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson believes that: 

“The first trillionaire there will ever be is the person who exploits the natural resources on asteroids,”

The problem with asteroid mining: 

Before implementing an idea, we need to know if it is economically feasible. Although asteroid mining is scientifically sensible and achievable, it isn’t economically feasible. It still takes around $10,000 to send an object weighing 1 pound into outer space. And let me tell you, this is just the first step! After reaching the edge of space, the spaceship has to make its way to the nearest asteroid. 

Mining is the third step, and mining in space is nothing like mining on earth. Unlike traditional mining equipment, space miners have to use centrifuges and sealed containers to keep the minerals from floating away. The next process involves storing the minerals and transporting them back to space. If traveling to the edge of space by itself empties many wallets, think about executing all of these steps. 

Although enormous asteroids such as the 16 Psyche, contain quadrillions worth of minerals like gold, silver, nickel and platinum, the cost to mine asteroids like these is so high, that you will lose money selling them! 

Well, unfortunately, the problem doesn’t end here.

If we do somehow end up flooding earth with space resources (supposing the emerging entrepreneurs solve the cost issue), their value will come crashing down, as there will be tons and tons of these resources in circulation. Countless individuals will lose a chunk of their savings and the gold in the federal reserve will be worth no more than a few dollars. 

The advantages of asteroid mining: 

There is no doubt that the downsides of asteroid mining are unimaginably high. But as surprising as it sounds, there are a few advantages. 

As mentioned, resources like gold, nickel and platinum would no longer be as valuable if we inject tons of them directly into the economy. The upside to this would be increased supply which would make them available for industries to use. Just look at all of the electronics around you. Most of them are made up of nickel, iron and even small amounts of gold! This would certainly drive down prices of electronics and computer chips, without compromising on the profit margins. 

More resources also mean more infrastructure. Building large structures and launching national projects would be more common than ever. That might include giant space-based solar arrays that would generate electricity and beam the power down to earth as microwaves.  We would also have manufacturing in space too, to make asteroid mining self-sufficient. 

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The best way to make global progress is to explore uncharted territories and use the resources found in the process!

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