Asteroid Worth $195B; Iron, Nickel And Ice Invaluable To Deep Space Exploration Says Mining Exec

By iScienceTimes Staff on February 13, 2013 9:09 AM EST

Asteroid Worth $195b
An asteroid passing by Earth next Friday could be worth billions in iron, nickel and frozen water. (Photo: NASA)

The near-miss asteroid zipping past Earth on Friday might one day have to pay a toll for coming so close. A toll that amounts to billions in revenue for the fledgling space mining companies itching to explore the untapped potential of the millions of asteroids in our solar system. The asteroid worth $195B is made of a composite of metals and ice, resources that could be harvested to help construct permanent settlements on the moon, Mars and beyond.

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"While this week's visitor isn't going the right way for us to harvest it, there will be others that are, and we want to be ready when they arrive," Deep Space Industries chairman Rick Tumlinson told Space.com. "Getting these supplies to serve communications satellites and coming crewed missions to Mars from in-space sources like asteroids is key if we are going to explore and settle space."

According to DSI's estimates, the asteroid worth $195B breaks down to about $65 billion in recoverable water and about $130 billion in metals like iron and nickel. For DSI, the asteroid's worth of $195b is based in part on a system where the harvested materials are used for deep space construction and exploration. The philosophy behind DSI is to provide manufacturing materials taken from resources already in space rather than launching them from earth at a cost of about $10 million per ton.

"By moving the resource base needed for frontier exploration off the Earth and out into space itself, we will make it possible for exploration and opportunities to flourish on the frontier at unimaginable levels," DSI said on its website.

In 2015, DSI is planning to send a series of small spacecraft to asteroids like the asteroid worth $195b to begin examining their composition, their structure (solid or rubble piles, for example) and spin rate (rapidly spinning asteroids will be harder to capture). The missions, called Firefly missions, would provide data that would be used for larger projects, known as Dragonfly missions, that will bring back the first payloads of asteroid materials for study, early processing experiments and sale.

The asteroid worth $195b will pass within 18,000 miles of Earth on Friday, putting it closer to the surface than most orbiting satellites. An object this large only passes this close to the Earth about once every 40 years, and likely only hits the planet once every 1,200 years.

The last time an asteroid this size hit the Earth was in 1908. An object exploded in the sky in Siberia, creating an incident known as the Tunguska event. The impact was so intense (the equivalent of 185 atomic bombs) it leveled eight hundred square miles of forest, uprooting more than 80 million trees.

NASA officials also announced that they will be streaming the asteroid flyby live the night of Feb. 15. A telescope at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will broadcast its view of the event from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., ET (2200 to 200 Feb. 16 GMT).

Who knows? Maybe the rise of DSI will turn interspace mining into a real life occupation, which would undoubtedly lead to:

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