Asteroids are rocky bodies that orbit the Sun along with all of the planets. Many of them are relatively close to the Sun, but others are further away and sometimes they get pretty close to the Earth in the process of making their orbit.
This weekend, Sunday night to be exact, an asteroid valued at over $5.4 trillion because of the abundance of platinum thought to be present on it is set to pass incredibly close to our home planet Earth. The asteroid has been given the name UW-158.
There are not only large abundances of platinum on this asteroid, but also fuels that could be harvested and used. And you'd bet astronomers are drooling with potential.
"The comets and asteroids that are potentially the most hazardous because they can closely approach the Earth are also the objects that could be most easily exploited for their raw materials," NASA said in a statement. "It is not presently cost effective to mine these minerals and then bring them back to Earth; however, these raw materials could be used in developing the space structures and in generating the rocket fuel that will be required to explore and colonize our solar system in the twenty-first century."
"It has been estimated that the mineral wealth resident in the belt of asteroids between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter would be equivalent to about 100 billion dollars for every person on Earth today."
The asteroid will pass by at around six times the distance between the Earth and the Moon, so it won't be dangerously close, but it does leave us feeling like we're leaving a lot of untapped potential out there in space while we suck our own home planet dry.
It seems like we should have the technology by now to get up into space, land on the comet, mine the heck out of it, and then bring it back here to Earth where the resources could be used productively. Instead, we'll be watching the asteroid pass by Earth tonight (Sunday, July 19th) at 10 PM. After all, we have spacecraft examining Pluto, billions of miles away, and even rovers exploring other planets and special bodies.
In the near future, scientists are hoping to try and explore these asteroids and see what can be done to harvest their value.
Source: NASA, Business Insider