Fascinating Past and Future Plans for Asteroid MiningMay 9th, 2013
In January of this year, a small California company called Deep Space Industries announced its plan to kick start a new gold rush in space by mining asteroids for “nuggets” of precious metals. The company intends to build a small fleet of spacecraft called Fireflies to mine asteroids for precious minerals, which could include gold, platinum and rare-Earth metals. In April of 2012, another company, Planetary Resources, announced similar plans.
The BBC writes that plans for mining asteroids is nothing new. In 1962, Vice President Lyndon Johnson floated the idea to a crowd at the Seattle World’s Fair. Author Dandridge Cole saw the asteroids as possible space habitats once they’d been mined of their precious resources. In his 1965 book Beyond Tomorrow: The Next 50 Years in Space, he explains that these “gold mines in the sky” would eventually be completely hollowed out and designed to fit up to a million people living in an “inside-out world.”
The article goes on to describe various schemes for mining asteroids; for example, by moving them closer to earth or transporting colonies of miners to live on an asteroid as it orbits the sun. In 1984, NASA proposed mining asteroids for oxygen from moon rocks to make rocket fuel and also mining of asteroids.
Pretty astounding science considering at least two companies are actively pursuing asteroid mining today.