Article by John Parks | Digital Art by Joshua Eller | Owl Staff
What would you do if you were so rich that you could literally buy or do anything you desired? If you’re James Cameron, Ross Perot, Jr., or Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, then the answer is simple: start an asteroid mining company.
In April, Wired magazine reported that Planetary Resources, Inc., funded by said individuals, hopes to extract valuable minerals from asteroids. Tom Jones, a former NASA astronaut and adviser to the company, noted that the project would overlay two critical sectors: space exploration and natural resources–to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP. This innovative start-up will create a new industry and a new definition of natural resources.
Why start an asteroid mining company though? Well, the investments made into asteroid mining could easily pay out well over ten thousand times their initial costs, which could lead to a second ‘gold rush’ in outer space. The idea isn’t as farfetched as you might think; there are other countries that are seriously looking into asteroid mining. The real question is if four men can beat the world’s leading countries to the punch.
Currently, China has 97% of all useful rare earth minerals on the planet. This makes for a very unhealthy and uncompetitive mineral market. If private American industries can penetrate the rare earth market by bringing in resources from space, it would make China’s domination of the market irrelevant. This venture would bring thousands of engineering, production, and marketing jobs back to the US where they are needed. Why should we continue to fight China over the cost of rare minerals when we can simply cut them out?
In 1969, NASA getting a man to the moon and back was a monumental achievement, but with today’s technologies we could easily see this company reach its goal of mining an asteroid within the near future. We would not only benefit from the actual minerals we mine, but also from the technologies invented during the process. From NASA, we gained GPS technology, scratch-resistant lenses, memory foam, cordless tools, and even water filters. With the coming of the next space race, the sky is the limit, quite literally this time.
Maybe less government and more private investors in space is what the U.S. really needs. If our government is no longer willing or able to invest in the sciences or technological advancements in space, then it’s up to the few people who can afford it. Companies like Google will pave the way for the future of human exploration in space.
While it pains me to see NASA age like some washed up celebrity, I have hope that private industries in the United States will prevail in advancing mankind into the final frontier.