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Mining Gold from Asteroids

We discussed in a previous post how the origin of precious metals is likely rooted in the dark depths of outer space. However, we didn’t ask two important questions: 1) is there more out there, and 2) if so, can we get it back to earth? One high-tech company says “yes” on both accounts.

Planetary Resources Inc. claims that about 1,500 asteroids pass by earth every year – 10% of which could be mined for valuable rocket fuel and precious metals, such as gold and platinum. To retrieve it, the company plans to first launch several small telescopes into orbit, which will be used to scout potential asteroids for mining. Then, special shuttles would breakdown the asteroid and harvest the contents. Water in the asteroids would be converted into fuel for the shuttle, while precious metals would be stored and later returned to earth.

It all sounds well and good. But, even with gold prices hovering around $1,600 per ounce, many scientists doubt such a project would be cost effective. The chance of the company being successful may depend heavily on its initial investors. Even some executives at Google have invested in the idea. We don’t know what the future holds, but hopefully we’ll be mining gold where no gold has been mined before.

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