Scientists have been talking for quite some time about Asteroid mining but a new report from Goldman Sachs claims that asteroid mining could be turned into trillion dollar business. While asteroid mining isn’t easy, with technological advancements and better share of private companies in space exploration, asteroid mining could be possible and financially viable in future. Some asteroids have good amount of precious metals and resources and companies aiming at space mining could be the next big thing in mining business.
Goldman Sachs report has been published in detail by Russian media company RT. Last year, Goldman Sachs published a 98-page report detailing the cost involved in asteroid mining and the windfall profits first movers could get. Noah Poponak, an aerospace and materials analyst at Goldman Sachs, “While the psychological barrier to mining asteroids is high, the actual financial and technological barriers are far lower.”
Goldman Sachs report further added, “Prospecting probes can likely be built for tens of millions of dollars each and Caltech has suggested an asteroid-grabbing spacecraft could cost $2.6 billion.”
The report on asteroid mining from Goldman Sachs carries lot of weight as this will raise awareness among business community and mining companies to consider asteroid mining seriously. Till date, only astronomers have talked about asteroid mining and details about cost of such projects haven’t been discussed.
Elon Musk has been in focus as his space exploration company SpaceX managed to reduce cost of space missions by successfully developing reusable rockets. But, Musk has remained silent about his company’s future plans in asteroid mining segment.
Space mining could be more realistic than perceived. Water and platinum group metals that are abundant on asteroids are highly disruptive from a technological and economic standpoint. Water is easily converted into rocket fuel, and can even be used unaltered as a propellant. Ultimately being able to stockpile the fuel in LEO [low earth orbit] would be a game changer for how we access space. And platinum is platinum. According to a 2012 Reuters interview with Planetary Resources, a single asteroid the size of a football field could contain $25bn- $50bn worth of platinum.
However, there are other factors to consider as well. With additional supply of rare metals and resources from asteroids, the prices for these rare metals could fall as well. This would change the calculations about project cost and return on investment.
Successful asteroid mining would likely crater the global price of platinum, with a single 500-meter-wide asteroid containing nearly 175X the global output, according to MIT’s Mission 2016.
With advances in space exploration sector, the cost of missions and cost of mining asteroids could be much lower in future. Goldman report further informed…
We expect that systems could be built for less than that given trends in the cost of manufacturing spacecraft and improvements in technology. Given the capex of mining operations on Earth, we think that financing a space mission is not outside the realm of possibility.