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Earth-skimming DA14 asteroid contains $195 billion of minerals, if we can catch it

Posted by on Feb. 14, 2013 at 5:25 PM
  • 5 Replies

Earth-skimming DA14 asteroid contains $195 billion of minerals, if we can catch it

An asteroid hurtling towards Earth

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On Friday, asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass within 17,200 (27,700km) of Earth. DA14 is about 50 meters wide, and will be the closest ever fly-by of a celestial body that astronomers have known about in advance — at a distance of 17,200 miles, DA14 will actually travel inside the orbit of Earth’s geosynchronous satellites. If that wasn’t thrilling enough, though, celestial mining company Deep Space Industries is saying that the asteroid, if we were to harvest its resources, may contain nearly $200 billion of minerals and water.

Deep Space Industries (DSI) is a new company that recently announced that it plans to launch asteroid-prospecting FireFly spacecraft in 2015, and then larger, asteroid-mining DragonFly craft in 2016. DA14 doesn’t have the right orbit for DSI to chase down and harvest, but that isn’t really the point. With a diameter of 50 meters and a mass of 190,000 metric tons, DA14 is nothing more than an average-sized asteroid — and yet, if harvested, it would yield somewhere in the region of $65 billion of water, and $130 billion in minerals. The global metals and mining industry currently has a value of around $3 trillion — or 15 DA14-sized asteroids.

As for the actual composition of DA14, all we know is that it’s an L-type asteroid. Depending on their spectral shape, color, and albedo (i.e. what the asteroid looks like through a telescope), asteroids are allocated a class. The most common class is C-type, which are carbonaceous asteroids, meaning they are mostly composed of carbon-rich compounds, such as hydrocarbons. L-type asteroids are a sub-section of S-type (stony) asteroids, which are usually rich in metal silicates.

There are two basic concepts when it comes to actually harvesting these resources. The first, which is the route that DSI is taking, is simply landing a spacecraft on an asteroid with an agreeable orbit, mining your resources, and then returning to Earth. The second, which is much more exciting and more pertinent to DA14, is snaring a nearby asteroid and dragging it into an Earth or Moon orbit. A recent study [PDF] carried out by KISS/NASA showed that it’s actually somewhat feasible to grab a 7-meter-wide asteroid in a bag, and then drag it back to a Moon orbit. Once there, it’s much easier to mine the asteroid’s resources.

2012 DA14 asteroid's flyby of Earth

As for why we’re so interested in harvesting minerals from asteroids, there are two simple reasons: a) Earth’s resources are finite, and b) It is incredibly expensive to launch resources from Earth into space. Water and minerals harvested from asteroids are already in space — they don’t need to be lifted on the backs of incredibly expensive rockets. If we ever want to colonize the Solar System or beyond, establishing a foundry on the Moon (or Mars) and harvesting asteroids for resources would be a very sensible first step.

Incidentally, we’re almost certain that DA14 won’t collide with Earth — but if it does, a 50-meter asteroid impact literally isn’t the end of the world. Unless it lands on someone, anyway — in which case, you’ll be smooshed to smithereens.

Now read: Finally confirmed: An asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs

http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/148329-earth-skimming-da14-asteroid-contains-195-billion-of-minerals-if-we-can-catch-it


by on Feb. 14, 2013 at 5:25 PM
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Replies (1-5):
Mrs.Kubalabuku
by Bronze Member on Feb. 14, 2013 at 5:28 PM

I've always had an odd fear of some random space rock hitting me in the head.  lol

It'll be exciting when this stuff actually happens.

Friday
by HRH of MJ on Feb. 14, 2013 at 5:32 PM
1 mom liked this

Very cool. Thanks for sharing.

I like that the craft they will be using is called 'FireFly' = )

 


Thank God......it's Friday!!!

stringtheory
by Gold Member on Feb. 14, 2013 at 5:36 PM

Lol. Ever since watching Joe Dirt, I would be convinced any space rock is actually a "giant piece of poopy" from an airplane ;)

Quoting Mrs.Kubalabuku:

I've always had an odd fear of some random space rock hitting me in the head.  lol

It'll be exciting when this stuff actually happens.


LindaClement
by Linda on Feb. 14, 2013 at 6:17 PM

We've got hundreds of years to plan how to do it cheaply when it's closer next time...

Mrs.Kubalabuku
by Bronze Member on Feb. 14, 2013 at 6:23 PM


They never should have cancelled that show!

Quoting Friday:

Very cool. Thanks for sharing.

I like that the craft they will be using is called 'FireFly' = )



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