The idea of asteroid mining has in the past been the stuff of science fiction. However, in recent years experts and scientists alike have made strides toward turning the idea into a reality. From resource extraction to potential colonization, asteroid mining presents a wealth of possibilities – here are five facts about it that may surprise you.
- Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center have identified over 500,000 asteroids for potential mining initiatives. As of late 2019, there have been 21 Japanese asteroid missions alone that have been launched since 1990.
- Asteroid resources can be found in abundance on different types of celestial bodies such as comets or moons too, depending on their composition and the type of material needed for an application. Even Earth itself is considered an asteroid-mining site due to its abundance of elements such as gold, nickel, and iron – all found within various types of meteorites.
- One particular kind of ore typically mined from asteroids is called regolith – a loose soil surface layer comprised primarily of dust, claystone and rocks that contain traceable amounts of valuable minerals like platinum-group metals (PGMs). Regolith is highly sought after by companies that specialize in space exploration as they not only need it to construct satellites but also to power them up through rocket fuel production on Earth.
- The notion that ore extracted from asteroids can be used to extract water has recently become popular among engineers and scientists alike due to its potential applications for hydration purposes during deep space exploration missions – such as those involving humans living in space habitats or using lunar bases for long term stays in hostile environments with low oxygen levels.
- With many countries beginning to explore ways in which they can make use of asteroid resources economically – whether through 3D printing materials or processing regolith – private companies have started taking notice too by investing large sums or capital into developing technology specifically designed for off-world mining operations such as drilling rigs and remotely operated vacuum cleaners to collect samples from celestial bodies like near-Earth objects (NEOs).