Mars has garnered a lot of attention from companies like SpaceX that wish to put people on the red planet in the hopes of colonizing it. Expeditions to Mars have been delayed, but many — such as former astronaut Buzz Aldrin — still believe we’ll settle on the planet within the next two decades.
In order to ensure we’re able to sustain life on Mars, however, we’ll need supplies. From water to precious metals like platinum, we’ll need these to prosper in whatever task we take on. Asteroid mining companies have begun to realize that. According to Motherboard, these companies are currently engaged in a race to see who can accomplish the task of mining asteroids first — with Deep Space Industries (DSI) and Planetary Resources leading the charge.
Both companies are targeting Near-Earth Asteroids for their respective mining missions. DSI is focusing on water acquisition with its Prospector-1, while Planetary Resources is focusing on harvesting metals as well as water.
“During the next decade, we will begin the harvest of space resources from asteroids,” said Deep Space CEO Daniel Faber. “We are changing the paradigm of business operations in space, from one where our customers carry everything with them, to one in which the supplies they need are waiting for them when they get there.”
Mining nearby asteroids isn’t just beneficial to those living in space, but those of us here on Earth as well. Mining for metals has severely impacted the amount of them left at our disposal, and shifting to deep sea diving isn’t great for the environment. Asteroids could be exactly what’s needed to offset the damage done to the ocean floor and our remaining resources.
Of course, these mining missions won’t take place in the immediate future, as funding is still impeding the process. It was only relatively recently that laws were put into place to support the cause: President Obama signed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act back in 2015, which received praise from Planetary Resources. Elsewhere, the government of Luxembourg just signed a similar law in July.
We’ll have to wait and see if asteroid mining ever happens, but its undeniable that companies are invested in trying to realize it. Settling on other planets has been a goal of ours for quite some time, and in order to make it possible, we’ll need resources. Asteroids, it seems, are just waiting to hand them over.