NASA has begun looking into methods to drive further revenue into the pockets of space companies, as well as NASA itself – to fund future projects – by working through asteroid mining and awarding contracts for that work. It’s a challenging process, but NASA believes that the contracts signed with Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources will have the technology and ability to pursue asteroid mining. The overall goal of the two space tech giants is to plan, and gather resources to eventually make these full-blown projects a reality.
Scientists believe that the things they could mine on asteroids would have great cost-effective benefits – as many of the potentially harvested items cost between $5,000 and $25,000 per kilogram. Harvesting those things in space would be significantly cheaper way to get those minerals, metals and silicate minerals that are otherwise challenging to come up with.
However, that is the loftier and further-stretched goal. Right now, the goal is to ensure that companies can gather resources for space exploration – instead of looking for things that can be moved back to Earth and utilized in other ways on that front.
NASA has spent a lot of money and a lot of time researching the potential mining of asteroids. That’s important for skeptics of the project, and those who don’t believe that the project will be sustainable long-term. NASA has been studying robotic mining for many years and actually hosts a yearly competition where students actually work to show and present mining prototypes.
Both companies have different approaches for tackling the project that is asteroid mining, but both seem to have equally aggressive approaches to tackling the goals and setting themselves apart from the competition. That being said, these two, after being awarded the contracts – already have the faith of NASA and most of the space community as a result of the awarding. Both stand to significantly improve understanding of the solar system, but also improve significantly the function of our work. Space exploration would benefit greatly by employing methods to harvest the things on asteroids with their ability to further the industry itself, as well as their high economic value.