It may not be the first place that springs to mind when you think of a potential area for mining metals, but many metals can be found in outer space and as the supply on our planet dwindles, the discussion of how we can mine these metals becomes ever more serious.
Although it seems more suited to a science fiction novel than reality, mining in space is something now being approached as a potentially viable option. For example, Deep Space Industries is a company developed to meet the potential need for asteroid mining and one which, according to their website, provides ‘the technical resources, capabilities and system integration required to prospect for, harvest, process, manufacture and market in-space resources.’ They acknowledge their missing as ‘a daring one’, and yet it cannot be denied that the ability to mine certain materials from space would be a huge benefit for us.
Meteorites that have fallen to earth in the past of yielded huge amounts of precious metals such as platinum, gold, palladium, iridium and rhodium. As these are only small chunks of larger asteroids, the amounts of metal that a full asteroid could contain are potentially huge. Bernstein, a Wall Street research firm, asserts that one particular asteroid known as ’16 Psyche’, could contain more than 17 million billion tons of nickel-iron. An amount like this would be enough to provide for our current needs for millions of years.
Despite this, travel into space in order to mine these materials is still a distant dream and in order to get there huge developments are still needed in the space travel industry. Who knows what the future holds?