Can We Really Mine A $27 Quintillion Asteroid?

A $27 Quintillion Asteroid
A $27 Quintillion Asteroid

While there are numerous asteroids in space that contain valuable resources, the claim that a specific asteroid is worth $27 quintillion is likely an exaggeration. Such a high estimation is often associated with Asteroid 16 Psyche, which has been speculated to contain vast amounts of valuable metals such as iron, nickel, and platinum. However, accurately determining the precise value of an asteroid is challenging due to several factors.

Mining An Asteroid

Firstly, the estimated value of an asteroid is based on the current market prices of the resources it contains. These prices can fluctuate significantly over time, and the actual value of the asteroid will depend on the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of extracting and utilizing those resources.

Secondly, the technology required to mine asteroids on a large scale is still under development and faces numerous technical and logistical challenges. While some companies and organizations are actively researching and working on asteroid mining concepts, commercial asteroid mining is not yet a reality. It is difficult to predict when such operations will become feasible or economically viable.

Mining An Asteroid

Moreover, the process of mining asteroids and bringing the extracted resources back to Earth is complex and expensive. It requires advanced spacecraft, robotic systems, and infrastructure to perform mining operations in space, process the materials, and transport them back to Earth. The cost of these operations needs to be taken into account when assessing the profitability of asteroid mining ventures.

In summary, while asteroids hold valuable resources, the specific claim of a $27 quintillion asteroid should be viewed with skepticism. The actual value of an asteroid depends on several factors, and the feasibility and economic viability of asteroid mining are still being explored.

Mining An Asteroid

You might have seen headlines about how NASA is planning to visit an asteroid worth quintillions of dollars, and even some suggesting that mining this asteroid would make everyone on Earth indescribably rich.

Most of these articles are based on a study from last year about asteroid Psyche, a weird and wild metal asteroid that NASA is planning to visit with a mission launching next year.

Mining An Asteroid

The study found that Psyche, which is 140 miles across, is almost entirely composed of iron and nickel, which would be very valuable if it was here on Earth. That figure has been used to extrapolate a worth of quintillions of dollars or even more than the Earth’s entire economy.

And Psyche isn’t the only asteroid that has potential mining value. The website Asterank shows the ranking of potentially valuable asteroids, topped off in terms of worth by asteroid Davida.

So what’s the reality? Is asteroid mining going to make us all millionaires?

The Costs Of Mining An Asteroid

The first issue to think about is how much it would cost to access an asteroid’s resources. Even asteroids that pass relatively close to Earth are still further away than the moon, and we haven’t started mining the moon for resources yet. Asteroids are also generally moving extremely fast, at speeds measured in kilometers per second, so they’re not exactly easy to latch onto.

And then there’s the question of how you would actually go about mining an asteroid. Presumably, we’d have to use automated robotic mining equipment, as it would be even more difficult and dangerous to send humans there to do the job.

Mining An Asteroid

But as incredible as robots like NASA’s Mars explorers are, they still aren’t very good at dealing with unexpected circumstances – like the InSight lander on Mars, which was scuppered in its attempts to drill into the planet’s surface because the firmness of the soil was slightly different than expected.

To even begin to design mining equipment, we’d need to know a lot more about the asteroid we wanted to mine: what it’s composed of, what its surface is made of, and how easy or hard it is to maneuver around that surface.

Mining An Asteroid

Then, once you’ve mined and collected all the materials from the asteroid, you also need to get them back to Earth. This is tricky, because metals take up a lot of space, so you’d need a large rocket to carry them all and you’d need plenty of fuel.

All of this is expensive, and all of the money you’d spend on mining would eat into the profits of any mission. Oh, and depending on how far away the asteroid is, it might take years for this journey to be completed as well.

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