It is worth trying the gold asteroid?

Private companies think of recovering precious metals or rare, with substantial gains. NASA has recently announced its intention to carry out a mission as to engage one probe, tow it out of a parking orbit and then analyze it with astronauts. But maybe things are not so simple.

It is worth trying the gold asteroid


Mining activities on an asteroid. This will be the future here speculated by NASA?

Space, the final frontier of the gold diggers. Over recent years, the race for the noble metal, but also other valuable chemical elements, such as platinum, palladium, iridium and others, is moving with increasing determination outside of the Earth, especially towards the asteroids that populate the solar system. A Klondike of the third millennium where embark on adventures that could potentially return to twelve -digit revenue (trillions of dollars or Euros, so to speak), but that is not enough to adopt a spirit of adaptation, shovels and strong arms to get them. Here it is necessary to design specific spacecraft, build, plan missions of reconnaissance, survey and transportation of precious cargo here on our planet and provide proper training of future astro-miners. All this cannot be improvised; it takes enormous economic investment and human resources, as well as a lot of foresight. NASA, for its part, has already shown a real interest in this area, or better for the scientific exploration of asteroids, and presented last spring the New Initiative Asteroid to choose a suitable asteroid to be captured, dragged on an intermediate orbit between Earth and Moon then explored by astronauts in the flesh. But individuals also are moving in practice. A couple of years ago founded the Planetary Resources, funded among others by James Cameron (director of Titanic and Avatar), by Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, already involved in another adventure, to make reality the suborbital space tourism trips with his company Virgin Galactic. The Planetary Resources, after some time, it was joined by the Deep Space Industries, founded with the aim of exploiting the same by means of robots and unmanned asteroids recovering their minerals.

In this new scientific, technological and financial challenge, one of the most critical is to know where to look first, or at least where there are higher chances of finding the rarest minerals and therefore more profitable. Industry studies already completed have sparked the interest of wealthy tycoons to our spatial stones and riches that are hidden in them. To dampen the enthusiasm, however, a new study of asteroids and their actual affordability will begin, signed by Martin Elvis of the Harvard- Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, U.S. In his article in the journal Planetary and Space Science, Elvis analyzes the factors that make an asteroid commercially attractive and how many there may be among those currently known. A survey according to the same author, but still surrounded by considerable uncertainty which essentially scales the number of potential targets for mining extraterrestrial missions than previously thought , according to three main arguments . The first is that most suitable celestial objects from the point of view of the type of minerals they contain, are the asteroids belonging to the class M (iron – nickel) in which we should find the highest concentrations of metals, including rare ones such as platinum on Earth, palladium and iridium. But these would be only one per cent of the population. Then there is the factor related to the ease of achieving them, determined by their distance and type of orbit, which virtually eliminates from the list as far away from Earth. The third argument which further lowers the range of potential mines in orbit is given by the size of asteroids in the 100 meters would be a cheap flop, because too small to recover the costs of the materials collected mission.



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