The idea of mining an asteroid probably sounds like something right out of a science fiction movie, but as it turns out, it’s something that we’ll need to become really good at as we aim to extend our footprint into the spans of deep space for space exploration.
Asteroids are very rich in rare elements, even those that are impossible to form here on Earth. On the other hand, getting mining equipment to asteroids, collecting valuable materials, and then shipping them back to Earth for the sake of commercial profit, is a challenge unlike anything ever seen before.
Asteroids could potentially serve as ‘pitstops’ between long-distance trips, providing important resources for space missions such as fuel, manufacturing materials, and much more. But with everyone saying that we’re just ‘right around the corner’ from being able to mine asteroids, how far into the future is it, really?
Well, probably more distant than you might think. While the idea of mining a ton of precious metals on asteroids for profit sounds nice, space agencies will be focusing primarily on learning how to extract water from asteroids, as this is a vital component of both rocket fuels and life support systems.
Developing the technologies to make this happen and then finding the proper asteroids to extract the materials we’ll need are just some of the challenges we face to make this possible. On the other hand, while space mining may not be as close in the future as we originally thought, it’ll certainly happen, eventually.