NASA Encourages Asteroid Mining, Contracts Two Private Companies

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has contracted with two private companies to explore the possibility of asteroid mining after the successful landing of the Rosetta spacecraft on a comet. Asteroid mining could provide spaceship fuel and life-sustaining water. Other materials from including such as titanium, iron, and nickel could aid in the creation of parts.

Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources Inc. are the two companies working with NASA, Tech Times reports. They currently conduct asteroid tracking and other space research.

Deep Space Industries is working on FireFlies, one-way satellites that the company will send to collect data on asteroids including size, shape, density, and composition. The Dragonfly is another spacecraft that will be used to bring back resources to Earth. Meanwhile, Planetary Resources will work on satellites for tracking and analysis. Their focus will be on near Earth objects as well as the development of telescopes specifically to track asteroids.

Some researchers believe that asteroid mining will increase materials available on Earth, and perhaps even boost global Gross Domestic Product. According to Planetary Resources, the research will allow “humanity to become a flourishing multi-planetary species.”

Deep Space Industries certainly seems excited about its prospects of asteroid exploration, and shared a picture of a potential probe.

Dante Lauretta, NASA’s principal investigator for the OSIRIS-REx mission to return asteroid samples to Earth, says that asteroid mining could reduce the cost of sending water to spaceships.

“The other thing you can do with water is break it apart into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen, and that becomes rocket fuel, so you could have fuel depots out there where you’re mining these asteroids. The other thing C-type asteroids have is organic material – they have a lot of organic carbon, phosphorous and other key elements for fertilizer to grow your food.”

Bringing resources to Earth can cost anywhere between $5,000 to $25,000, according to Design & Trend. NASA is conducting studies on the possibilities of asteroid mining, including OSIRIS-REx. Asteroid mining would profit companies and astronauts alike if platinum metals and water can be found. NASA will study the Bennu asteroid with OSIRIS-REx, which will attempt a landing to gather information in September 2016. Bennu orbits closely to Earth.

As reported by the Inquisitr, excitement about space exploration has increased with the successful landing of the Rosetta probe on Comet 67P. Organic compounds in the comet’s atmosphere could indicate that life on Earth originated somewhere other than the planet itself. Similar studies could answer many questions about humanity’s beginnings.

NASA published the following video about OSIRIS-Rex’s mission to explore the Bennu asteroid.

[Photo Source: NASA]