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Asteroids: ESA confirms plans to mine space rocks
The concept of asteroid mining has floated around, but agencies have yet to really explore the possibilities of mining these space rocks until today. The European Space Agency or ESA has confirmed its plans to mine asteroids and that studies and tests are being developed.
The agency’s Planetary Defence Team answered questions on Reddit as part of promoting the upcoming HERA mission or Human Exploration Research Analog mission that is set for 2024. The ESA will send a spacecraft towards the Didymos asteroid system where it will take a look at the results of NASA’s DART mission two years prior. When one Reddit user asked if they plan on mining asteroids for minerals, they said yes.
“Yes, this is a topic in the field known as space mining, part of what we call Space Resources. In fact, learning how we can process material we might find on asteroids or other planetary bodies is increasingly important, as it opens up the opportunities for sustainable exploration and commercialization,” said a team member, who added that this is a kind of technology that needs to be perfected and that asteroids provide perfect targets in testing how space mines can be made.
Asteroids are abundant in resources that are now dwindling on Earth, and scientists have found that these space rocks can fill in the gaps left by the declining resources. One example of a mineral that asteroids have plenty of is platinum, which is becoming increasingly rare and is highly valuable at $1 million per 1000 cubic centimeters. An asteroid that passed by Earth back in 2016 was actually found to contain around $4.5 trillion worth of platinum.
Aside from the concept of space mining, the team at ESA was also pressed about what could be done should a massive asteroid - three times bigger than the rock that killed the dinosaurs - collided with Earth. The team warned that there is nothing much that could be done should that ever happen as it is too large to stop or deflect, and they explained that it would take a lot of rocket power to be able to deflect an asteroid of that kind.
However, they did assure Reddit users that no asteroid as large as that would be heading Earthbound any time soon or in the near future.