Only one third of 1 percent of all asteroids have known composition, mostly from ground-based telescopic observations. Of those 1,665 classified objects, fewer than 300 have metal-rich surfaces.
maybe a large explosion could blow up a hole big enough to help get closer to the metals. i wish i could b a space miner n I'm a biology student. if our jobs were cool maybe being a miner could be just that little bit more bearable....
Despite the high-profile backers, I still have serious doubts that this will ever work out for them. Let's first be clear, they're talking about going after the 8,900 near-earth asteroids, not all the rest of them.
A recent study at Caltech estimated that a 500 ton near-earth asteroid could be captured and dragged into moon orbit for about $2.6 billion, at which point mining might be technically feasible. Economically feasible is still quite the question, as 500 ton asteroid still isn't all that big. Many private yachts weigh more than 500 tons. A rock cube 17 feet on a side is about 500 tons. So you can see that it is a huge amount of cost for relatively small mass. And since all we have right now are surface readings... it's impossible to know what lies underneath. And even if they managed to bring a bunch of expensive metals to earth, the sudden supply would suppress prices. And unless they can prove a steady supply, additional demand will not materialize. It's like rare earths now... one or two producers come online and suddenly the price drops through the floor.
Another non-trivial problem: everything in space is "global commons" according to the Space Treaty. Who owns all that stuff up there? Do the owners of this company think that if they can reach it first it belongs to them? They have as much claim as anyone else. Maybe the person who first spotted each asteroid has even more claim. The lawsuits would be crazy. The governments of the world would certainly try to take possession of whatever they can, especially considering how much money they need right now.
Between technical challenges, economic feasibility, and legal issues, this venture is certainly a long shot.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.
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