Thoughts on Asteroid Mining
When Eric Anderson and Peter Diamandis announced their founding of Planetary Resources in 2012 – with the goal of conducting industrial scale asteroid mining – many people, myself included, dismissed it as a near-insane pipe dream. Even now, a year later and after the founding of a second asteroid mining company, Deep Space Industries, and a NASA proposal to capture an asteroid into lunar orbit the idea still sounds just as kooky as it did on first impression. Indeed, with the retirement of the space shuttle and the dates for a manned Mars mission slipping further and further back, the idea of something as ambitious as asteroid mining sounds increasingly implausible. But it has been a year, and those of us with curious minds and a genuine belief in humanity’s limitless potential owe the idea a fair examination.
There are three significant barriers to development of an industrial-scale asteroid mining capability: technical, economic, and political. Each barrier is equally significant in its own way, and each poses its own unique challenges. In order to achieve success, the budding asteroid mining is approaching each of them with a separate understanding of the distinct timelines, tools, and professionals required to solve them. To help limit the scope of this article though, the primary focus will be on the approach that Planetary Resources is taking (No offense to Deep Space Industries, there’s just more info out there from Planetary Resources to dig into).