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How Asteroids Can Save Mankind
How Asteroids can save mankind
Asteroid mining may seem like science fiction, but with resources running short on Earth, mining the sky could be humanity's only hope.
Earth's Metal Depletion
Sb Batteries 51 Antimony
Cn Brass 30 Instruments Zinc
Sn Cans 50 Tin
Sn Jewellery 50 Silver
Pb Bullets 82 Lead
In LCD 49 Screens Indium
Au Rings 79 Gold
Cu Electrical 29 wires Copper
Ca Magnets 27 Cobalt
Pt Circuit 78 Board Platinum
Antimony, zinc, tin, silver, lead, indium, gold, copper, cobalt and platinum are some of these elements.
Platinum is of prime importance
The annual supply is the equivalent of 6% of the western world's gold mining.
88% of it's production comes from just 3 mines in South Africa
30x rarer than gold
Essential for electronics and jewellery.
Platinum is expected to be depleted in 20-30 years
World Platinum Extraction
Extraction Rate (Metric Tonnes/year) 550 Present day 450 350 250 150 50 -50 1900 1920 1940 1960 1980 2000 2020 2040 2060 2080 2100
World Extraction Rate (Metric Tonnes)
The untapped potential of Asteroids
Near-Earth Asteroids are packed to the brim with precious metals and resources. Exploiting them could provide us with a near-infinite supply of precious resources.
Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) can be broken down into 3 main categories:
C-type Asteroids Carbonaceous-type asteroid, composed mostly of carbon. Resources Water Ammonia Methane (Natural Gas) Nitrogen
M-Type Asteroids Metal-type asteroids, made of pure nickel-iron (stainless steel) Resources Iron Nickel cobalt Platinum Group Metals
S-type Asteroids Stony-type asteroids, made mostly of iron and magnesium ores. Resources Iron Nickel Magnesium Titanium
Earth (not to scale)
1 2062 Aten 900 mi S-Type Discovered in 2004
2 433 Eros 34,000 mi S-Type 2nd-largest NEO
3 1221 Amor 1,500 mi C or S Type Crosses orbit of Mars
4 1862 1,700 mi Q-Type Has a tiny (80 mi) Moon
5 3200 Phaethon 5,100 mi B-Type Passed very close to the earth in 2007
Let's look at what a single Asteroid can do
The smallest M-type asteroid that's been subject to detailed chemical study is 3554 Amun.
3554 Amun is 2km in diameter and has a mass of around 30 billion tons (80,000 Empire State Buildings).
To launch that much mass into space using the rockets we have today would cost $300,000,000 Billion
Equivalent to the global gross domestic product of Earth for the next 30,000 years.
3554 Amun - Reserves
Fe & Ni Iron & Nickel $8, 000 Billion Co Cobalt $6,000 Billion Pt Platinum $6,000 Billion
Earths current output Fe & Ni $340 Billion Co $1.3 Billion Pt $12 Billion
This one small asteroid would provide the earth with enough metal for decades. It would also provide the potential for a space program then thousand times larger than currently exists.
Is it all just pie in the sky?
Planetary resources are currently developing the leo telescope, the world's first commercial space telescope, to scan near-Earth objects and asses their potential for future exploration.
"Apply Commercial, innovative techniques to explore space."
Their present strategy is to develop, sell and use cost-reducing telescopes to scan near-Earth objects such as asteroids, to understand their potential for futire asteroid-mining capabilities.
This may all seem like pie in the sky... until you catch a glimpse of Planetary Resources' key investors.
Larry Page Co-founder of Google
Eric Schmidt Previous CEO of Google
James Cameron Film Director
Charles Simonyi Developer of Microsoft's Office Suite
The future of mining is not under the earth, it's in the sky.