NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX have partnered to make history as the pair intends to launch a solar-powered spacecraft on a 2.5 billion miles journey to the Solar system’s main asteroid belt.
Once there, NASA intends to begin mining a high-value asteroid named 16 Psyche, consisting of iron, nickel, and reportedly gold.
Asteroid Mining Could Transform Humanity
The asteroid’s worth is estimated to be over $10,000 quadrillion because of the large amount of iron and nickel in it, but more importantly, it will allow scientists to study an iron core similar to the one located in the center of Earth.
While the mission is good for both economic and research purposes, it will also mark the first time humanity will start using off-planet resources, which could lead to many positive developments.
It will inspire further research into space-faring and mining technology and make mining on Earth obsolete. This would unlock unbelievable amounts of useful materials that are running low in the Earth’s crust. In doing so, the pollution from the mining efforts could also be eliminated.
The mission is set to start in October of this year, which is when the spacecraft, also known as Psyche, will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, starting at 10:38 am EDT on Thursday, October 5th.
Psyche’s project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Henry Stone, said that the team is counting down the days to launch.
The team is conducting numerous training activities to ensure that we are prepared and ready. It’s a very busy time, but everyone is very excited and looking forward to the launch.
Mining asteroids is hardly a new idea, and similar proposals were made many times in the past. The first of them was made over a decade ago, in 2012.
At the time, a Seattle-based aerospace company Planetary Resources, had an idea to start mining asteroids, followed by another company called Deep Space Industries.
However, the cost of such a mission eventually prevented both firms from going through with their plans. Eventually, both firms were acquired by other businesses.
High Cost, High Reward
NASA itself has planned out a mission called OSIRIS-REx, which intends to obtain samples from Bennu, a near-Earth asteroid.
The idea is to send a spacecraft that would bring back between 400 grams and 1 kilogram of material. Even so, the mission is expected to last for 7 years and cost over $1 billion. Still, many believe that developing asteroid-mining technology is worthwhile since asteroids can offer many extremely valuable resources.
NASA is currently tracking over 6,000 asteroids, and mining only the 10 most profitable ones would produce a profit of over $1.5 trillion.
Asteroid mining holds huge potential and could have a massive economic, technological, and environmental impact, and even that is only scratching the surface of what this could mean for humanity.
For now, it is still in its infancy, but one successful and profitable mission could lead to rapid development in this field and inspire the creation of technologies that would allow for further exploration of our Solar system, as well as the rest of the universe.
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