Any projects that deal with space are by nature complex and non-linear. It was because of this that space mining started out as an exciting adventure in 2007 and came to a seemingly disappointing close in 2017.
But what seemed to be the end of a forward-thinking idea was just a temporary pause.
In order to understand the world’s current status with asteroid mining and what commercial success would look like, we need to first understand the complexity of the asteroid mining market.
There are a series of challenges that the industry faces, from the composition of the asteroids, to the technology needed and legal ramifications. While other markets face similar difficulties, what separates asteroid mining is the fact that the only data available for companies to make business projections are based on assumptions.
Market Potential of Asteroid Mining
Why investigate the market possibilities of asteroid mining in the first place? From a materials point of view, what the future would look like with the addition of asteroid mining is an enticing one.
According to current models, asteroids are composed of leftover materials that formed the solar system. That means that they contain minerals, volatile elements (think ammonia and methane) as well as water.
All these materials could be harvested to supply earth with more necessary elements, providing clean water for drinking and irrigation, and allowing us to step into the future with no risk of stripping the earth of its elements essential to its economy.
Challenges of Asteroid Mining
The process of mining asteroids begins far before anyone reaches an asteroid and ends far after one is selected. Before the mining begins, asteroids need to be prospected. This includes identifying, cataloging and assessing the value of each asteroid for their levels of resources.
Then the mining begins. But to do so on earth would be incredibly expensive, which is why the most practical step would have them harvested on the moon. But that would require to have a base set-up which is also an expensive task.
And as of right now, it isn’t certain what should be done first; setting up the technology to mine the asteroid, or setting up the base to do it. Both require a lot of funding, making it a tricky situation to navigate.
Despite these challenges, navigations into space will continue as we inch closer and closer to this new reality.
Want more intel into the asteroid mining market? Download a free overview of our report, Asteroid Mining: The Next Frontier in Space.