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Mining The Asteroids

Updated: Aug 3

Did you know that the earliest known mining work happened 20,000 to 40,000 years ago for coal in South Africa? And the most modern mining projects will be taking place in the future and in space.

However unbelievable this might sound, people are ready to take advantage of asteroids in space after draining out the Earth's minerals that are so important for humanity's lifestyles. Moreover, exploiting asteroids will not only help the Earth survive but will build space constructions.

Humans are moving to space - this has become one of the most luxurious and dream-worthy ideas that billionaires and geniuses have pitched to us. But unfortunately, the outside of the Earth's borders is now not as free as it once used to be. People with substantial financial resources are already trying to privatize parts of the space, or maybe a couple of asteroids. However, to learn more about space and understand the deep, complex secrets that it hides from us, it is crucial to learn about those benefits that the galaxy can provide.

The idea of asteroid mining has been around for years now.

The idea of asteroid mining has been around for years now. NASA, for example, has been exploring the potential benefits of asteroid mining for materials since at least the 1970s. While space flight is still exceedingly dangerous and costly, several benefits make asteroid mining a viable option.

There are a couple of crucial points why asteroid mining might sound like a savor idea. Firstly, the world is facing a global rare metal shortage. And asteroids are rich, crammed, and thriving with different metals. Investors primarily seek platinum-group metals, including platinum, iridium, osmium, palladium, rhodium, and ruthenium. After digging up the metals, they will be returned to Earth. Platinum is essential for many modern applications, including electronics, cancer treatment, wind turbine blade coatings, and high-end jewelry. Asteroid mining can potentially lower the cost of electronics, and all types of technology would be accessible to a far more significant number of people.

Asteroid mining will help uproot the problem of carrying heavy fuel from Earth to space.

Secondly, asteroid mining will help uproot the problem of carrying heavy fuel from Earth to space. Asteroid-derived materials can be used for more than just bringing rare metals to Earth. It is, in fact, costly to construct equipment on Earth and then carry it into space. Lifting a kilogram of material into orbit requires money, and individual space missions may cost USD 100 million. As a result, even ordinary asteroids' minerals, such as iron and nickel, get new worth because they are already in space, making building constructions in space more manageable and less costly. Moreover, water will be recovered and split into hydrogen and oxygen (the primary components of rocket fuel) to build little space gas stations.

The vision is clear; the goal sounds refreshing. However, humanity is still far from being able to reach the hearts of asteroids. The research that literary goes beyond the sky takes a long time and many resources. For example, one of the most extensive materials brought from space to the Earth was when the USSR's automated "Luna" spacecraft returned with around 300 g of material. After then, it took another 30 years before any substantial attempts to collect anything from space were made. Therefore, NASA is also conducting missions to collect samples from asteroids orbiting the Earth. The sample retrieval operation will be a precise maneuver. The probe needs to approach the asteroid Bennu on a trajectory that matches the asteroid's spin, makes a five-second contact with the surface with a sample collector, and uses a jet of nitrogen to flush loose dust and pebbles into traps in the collector.

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Today collecting enough samples from space is a very delicate process, and there is a considerable chance of our technology failing. Many people will be losing lots of money, time, and resources. However, the world is not giving up on the dream of finally owning the asteroids freely hanging out in the galaxy. Though scientists and astronomers have made great strides in innovation thanks to institutions like NASA, it will be at least 10-20 years before asteroid mining becomes a reality.

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