A company called Planetary Resources wants to mine asteroids that are close to Earth for water and precious metals.
While Planetary Resources is looking at near-Earth asteroids, NASA has its eye on a bigger prize. The space agency is planning on sending a probe in 2023 to a massive asteroid circling Jupiter that is made almost entirely of iron and nickel. The calculated worth of the asteroid is 10 quintillion dollars! That’s a one followed by 19 zeros and doesn’t include the gold, copper, and platinum to be found there as well.
To put that into perspective, it is worth 130,000 times the world economy, which is estimated to be only 74 trillion dollars. This asteroid could pay off the world’s global debt and leave enough for every man, woman, and child on Earth to receive over a billion dollars each. Or it could destroy the world economy.
If the amount of mineral wealth on this asteroid were ever to be exploited, the price of precious metals would crash. Inflation would probably rocket up by thousands of millions of times. International currencies might become worthless, and the economy would grind to a halt.
Even though NASA is sending a probe to this asteroid, it’s a far cry from returning the asteroid back to Earth. The technology required to bring something that big back doesn’t exist yet. So far the best solution is to break pieces of it off and send them towards Earth. Or if the asteroid has water, it might be a good place for a deep space refueling station.
But mining is not on NASA’s mind. Their goal is to learn more about how planets are created. According to NASA’s employee, this asteroid is unique. NASA has visited worlds made of rock, worlds made of ice, and worlds made of gas. This would be the first time they would visit one made of metal. “This is what Discovery Program missions are all about,” he said. “Boldly going to places we’ve never been to enable groundbreaking science.”