Cosmic Profits: Asteroid Mining Companies Headed to Space

January 22nd, 2013

In the past, many politicos believed that space exploration could only be funded by the government. However, emerging initiatives by private companies have proven that profits can propel humanity into the cosmos. Recently, two companies have formed around a new idea that could unleash a “gold rush” in space. Mashable is reporting on the launch of two new companies, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, both of which will attempt to mine near-Earth asteroids for valuable raw materials in the near future.

How will property rights be determined with regards to cosmic mining sites? What types of raw materials might we find on these asteroids? The scientific, economic, and political implications are mind-blowing. Check out Planetary Resources’ promotional video below for some specifics. Once you’ve seen it, let’s talk more after the jump.

The Economics of Asteroid Mining

Asteroid mining puts a serious profit motive behind the creation of new spacecraft. Once a company successfully mines its first site, other companies will realize the existence of near-infinite amounts of commodities in space. This could unleash a “gold rush” mentality similar to the one which motivated the colonization of the west coast of the United States.

New mining discoveries are one of the few economic events that can put “inflationary” pressure on commodities, though the costs associated with space travel would limit this from becoming some type of economic crisis. Ultimately, finding more natural resources improves the economy for everyone. Could we find resources in space that are limited on Earth, thus making “renewable” energy sources out of resources that otherwise seem doomed to eventually crash? Those who are concerned about the pursuit of cleaner forms of energy should watch these mining companies very closely.

The Science of It All

Near-Earth asteroids are considered a threat to the planet by many scientists. The better we understand them, the more easily we could potentially address the issue if one began to plummet towards our world. Also, the introduction of new raw materials could lead to the development of new technology, medicines, and alternative forms of energy.

As more commercial industries begin to pursue space profits, the demand for spacecraft will increase. When the aerospace industry inevitably responds by creating new vehicles, prices will begin to drop. This could lead to the development of a reasonably-priced consumer space flight industry, particularly if more space stations and colonies are developed over time.

Is this the first step in a new age of prosperity for mankind? Will humanity outgrow its home planet during our lifetime? It’s hard to tell at such an early stage. By 2015, Deep Space Industries projects that it will have spacecraft in flight, and, within a decade, the company plans to tap its first mine. The first steps towards asteroid mining are not that far off.

Will generations currently alive eventually use raw materials extracted from near-Earth asteroids? Only time will tell.

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About the Author: Barry Donegan

Barry Donegan is a singer for the experimental mathcore band Look What I Did, a writer, a self-described "veteran lifer in the counterculture", a political activist/consultant, and a believer in the non-aggression principle.