This article supported by curiosity stream, we’re living in the age of mega corporations with companies like Google, Apple and Amazon, taking over every facet of our lives. In fact, there’s, a whole list of words that I can’t say right now, because if I do then hundreds of people’s, computers and devices might just accidentally purchase something just a sec.
I said this series – and I thought it said: hey Siri – that’s at the beginning of this year, Apple overtook Amazon to become the most valuable company in the world. Now there’s, a lot of different ways to measure a company’s value, but the market capitalisation of Apple at the end of last year anyway was at 1.
3 trillion dollars. Now it’s. Tempting to think this is a modern phenomenon and rail against this hyper accumulation of wealth by certain companies and there’s plenty to talk about in that regard. But if you think Apple is the most valuable company of all time.
I got four words for you. The Dutch East India Company, officially known by this name, which I’m, not even gon na attempt to pronounce the Dutch East India Company, was created in 1602 to try to challenge the Portuguese dominance of trade in Asia and they went on to create A trade monopoly that basically ran the world for like two hundred years.
They were the first multinational corporation and they controlled the flow of goods like silk, spices, tea and silver through the use of thousands of merchant ships, forts and dozens of port cities around the world.
And that their height they had a standing army of 260,000. Yes, this company had a standing army of 260,000 people. They were worth more and controlled more than any other country or Kingdom that was around in their day, adjusted for inflation.
They’re worth today would be like seven point: eight trillion dollars and there’s, a lot that could be said about the way the Dutch East, India Company, ran their business and the effect that they had on the world.
But the fact of the matter is they completely transformed the way businesses work? The way corporations work financial institutions that we still feel to this day. It’s hard to imagine a company having more wealth than the Dutch East India Company, but there are some people believe that there’s, an opportunity right around the corner, that’s, going to create companies that would make Them look like a lemonade stand and that’s, asteroid mining.
How do we define what’s, valuable? What makes one stone a precious gem and another stone just gravel? What makes one autograph worth thousands of dollars and another one completely worthless? Generally, the value of something goes up, the more rare it is so diamonds which you can’t just pick up, laying around on the ground are worth a lot more than gravel, which totally does in fact, one of the things that made the Dutch East India, Company so rich was the spices they moved around the world because at the time you could only find these spices in certain places in the world and those places generally were on the other side of the world and because it wasn’t.
Really much of an infrastructure at the time to move those things around. They became really valuable. How valuable the Dutch actually traded the island of Manhattan for nutmeg yeah. You know how old New York was once a New Amsterdam.
Well, that’s, because the Dutch settled there first and then the English came in later and kind of took control. That became contested area for a while, but eventually the Dutch gave it up in exchange for access to some British islands that grew nutmeg there and to them at that time.
Nutmeg was more valuable than the island of Manhattan. Today, nutmeg is just one of a pile of spices that I have in my cupboard. They just fall onto the floor whenever I opened the doors to it, that’s, because we now plant these all over the world with advanced agricultural practices.
In a vast infrastructure to move it around cheaply, of course, then there’s. The other side of that equation, which is demand not only was spice hard to get your hands on, but a lot of people wanted it today.
A lot of people want phones and computers and devices to stay relevant, keep in touch with friends and family and sometimes just show off, and all these devices require metals and minerals like aluminium, zinc, iron, nickel, copper and about 17 other rare earth metals.
And all of these have a finite supply. You know there’s only so much of it here on earth and on earth. There’s only so much of it that we have access to so once again high demand, limited supply, but emmanuel we could do with an almost unlimited source of dirt cheap minerals, because we basically had that in our cosmic backyard.
You know the asteroid belt. You remember that from school, the area between Mars and Jupiter that has up to 1.9 million asteroids in it. What you may not know is that some of those asteroids have minerals that may than worth not billions, not trillions, quadrillions of dollars.
Quadrillions because those asteroids formed the same way, the earth did 4.6 billion years ago. At the start of our solar system. They weren’t created in some separate process, so they contain all the same minerals that we have here on earth, with one little difference when the earth formed gravity caused the heavier metals to sink toward the center, which is why we have a solid Iron core at the center of the earth.
This makes the minerals difficult to get to because they want to sink down closer to the center, but asteroids are way smaller and have tiny amounts of gravity, which means that all those minerals are just kind of sitting there.
On the surface, in fact, most of the elements that we find near the surface or thought to have actually been put there by ancient asteroid impacts. Of course, some of the asteroids have more of the good stuff and others there’s.
A lot of different types of asteroids, but they generally fall into three main categories: sea type, asteroids or chondrite asteroids – are the most common. They mostly consist of clay and silicate rocks, and they’re, dark and appearance.
The S types or stony asteroids are made up of silicate materials and nickel irons and the M types are metallic, usually made of nickel iron and platinum. Now all of those asteroids can be found the asteroid belt, but that’s, not the only place.
You can find asteroids in a solar system. Jupiter has a couple of groups of what they called Trojan asteroids that follow and lead the planet in its orbit around the Sun. These are also known as Lagrangian trapped asteroids because they’re trapped to Jupiter’s, Lagrange points.
These are areas around every planet, with the planets gravity and the Sun’s, gravity counterbalance each other Mars and Neptune. Both have Trojans even Earth has a charged and asteroid that they found in 2011, but Jupiter, always the show-off has far more Trojans and everybody else.
In fact it’s thought that there might be as many Trojans trailing Jupiter as there are in the asteroid belt itself. So clearly there’s, just money just floating around in space. So so why don’t? We go.
Get it well, it’s, possibly because it’s. You know 330 million miles away, so there’s. That and Jupiter’s. Another 50 million miles away at its closest point, but have no fear aspiring quadrillion airs because there’s.
Also any azor near-earth asteroids that pass really close to Earth and could possibly hit us so maybe have some fear. Actually, most any AIDS are not on a collision course with earth. So much is just passed within our orbit, but either way there they’re much closer to us than the asteroid belt.
There’s about 15,000 of them out there. Of course, you don’t need to mind 15,000 asteroids. All you need to do is find one with a lot of good stuff in it and just go to town. Luckily, there’s, a lot of good ones out there.
Let start with a few standouts like 511 divita, 344 Chicago and 702 alotta. These and many more asteroids are all valued over a hundred trillion dollars each the problem is they’re, very big and very far away.
Some closer to home options include ant eros, which is about 1.4 3a use away. It’s, a Type C asteroid with an estimated profit of 1.25 trillion dollars. Then there’s, Ryu goo, which is about 1.19 au away.
It’s, another type C asteroid valued at around 82 billion dollars. We’ve, actually already visited by you goo with Jax’s, Hayabusa 2 mission. It actually collected some samples and is on its way back to earth.
Right now, but the mother of all asteroid adventures would be a trip to 16 psyche. 16 psyche is out there in the asteroid belt. It’s. A little potato shaped at 173 miles at its widest and it’s, made up of mostly iron, nickel and gold, with a little platinum thrown in for good measure.
It’s basically made out of little Jones teeth. Its total value has been estimated at around 700 quintillion dollars, quintillion. That is a seven with 20 zeros, of course, that’s, a Gold’s, current prices.
If you were to just introduce all that to the world, it would completely crater the market. So if anybody were to mine 16 Saiki, they would have to introduce that gold just a little bit at a time and NASA actually has plans to visit 16 Saiki in 2022 with a mission appropriately named psyche.
They actually just announced on February 28th. The bill would go up on a Falcon Heavy in June 2020 to make a flyby of Mars in 2023 and then our orbit around the asteroid in 2024, but no plans to bring anything back and that’s, because NASA is not interested in minerals.
It wants to study 16 psyche because it might be the leftover core of a proto planet. Remember how I said that most of the heavy metals on earth like sink down closer to the core because of gravity. Well, it’s, not the 16 psyche.
It has so much metal in it because it’s. The leftover core of a small planet that got smashed up in the early solar system – and this is thought to be true of many of the metallic asteroids that are out there, which is why there’s.
So few of them so trip to 16 psyche would not only verify that it is the core of a proto planet, but would also give us a good look at the core of a planet. For the first time I mean yeah. We think we know a lot about the Earth’s core, but we’ve, never been anywhere near it.
You know there’s, still a lot of mystery surrounding it that some of them might be answered by a trip to 16 psychic and really who can put a price on knowledge. 700 quintillion. Of course there is a commodity.
You can find on asteroids that may be worth even more than gold. Water, water in the form of ice is thought to be all over the solar system, locked away in asteroids, dwarf, planets and moons, most notably Ceres, which is thought to be made up of 30 % to 50 % water underneath the surface water, of course, is necessary For humans to survive, but you can also make all kinds of other things with it as well.
You can make oxygen and hydrogen for fuel oxygen for breathing. Obviously, you can combine hydrogen with carbon to make hydrocarbon propellants like methane, so a mining station on Ceres would not only give you resources to travel throughout the rest of the solar system, but it could also power other mining operations in the asteroid belt.
Only somebody would put that into a book or a TV show now NASA starting work on this kinds of technology much closer to home. This is actually part of the Artemis program. They’re planning on making a moon base near the South Pole to take advantage of water ice that can be found in the permanently shadowed.
You know craters down there. Ultimately, the vision is to create a way station at the moon, where deep-space missions can refuel and then start off in their journey from a much smaller gravity. Well, of course, you may be asking: how exactly is this gon na work? How are we gon na mine? These big old rock potatoes in the sky now the first option is just surface mining, just scraping up regolith and debris from the surface of the asteroids, because these are basically just a bunch of rocks that are held together very lightly by gravity and there’s shaft mining, where they actually drill down into the rock and pull the ore up from inside the asteroid to the surface where they can be processed and used in that way.
Now again, because even the biggest asteroids are just tiny compared to earth, the gravity is going to work totally different there. So any kind of mechanism would have to actually be able to latch on to the rock to give it leverage.
Now another idea is called magnetic raking, which is kind of similar to the surface mining I was just talking about, but they basically use a giant magnet to just go over the surface so that all the ferrous metals would just come up and attract to it.
Then there’s just heating. Basically, if you heat up the rock, then all the water that’s, trapped in ice would come off as water vapor and then you could just collect it and use it that way. Honeybee is a robotics company that’s working on something like this.
They actually created the drill on the Curiosity rover. They basically want to put a bag, a giant bag around the asteroid and then heat it up and then just collect all the water vapor. That comes off of it, like that.
Pretty smart and last but not least, is something called the mod process which basically involves putting the asteroid in an enclosure and then heating it up with carbon monoxide 260 degrees Celsius. This is pretty cool.
This is actually a way to collect the nickel and the iron, because what happens? Is that that carbon monoxide bonds with the nickel to create nickel tetracarbonyl and it bonds with the iron to make iron tetra carbonyl? These are liquids that can then be collected, taken somewhere else and then chemically processed back into their original form.
So, through all these methods, we can collect water and use that, for drinking and for fuel, we can collect precious metals for electronics components. We can collect more common metals for building and infrastructure projects.
Now there’s, some people to think that this is just way too much work, so they advocate just finding an asteroid and then you know just smashing it into earth. You know why send legions of probes and robots when you can just direct an asteroid toward a relatively uninhabited area, smash it into the ground, then just pick it up off the ground.
I mean what could go wrong. Of course, this would only be for the sole purpose of getting rich. This wouldn’t, you know, expand our civilization out into the solar system or anything. Of course, if all you’re interested in is getting rich, then why bother collecting all the the minerals off the ground just threatened to point the asteroid towards a major city? Unless the world pays a hefty ransom, just go full James Bond villain and get it over with I’m.
Looking at you, Jeff Bezos, you already got to look down, but here’s, a good question. Is it even legal to take minerals from outer space like who owns them? Well, according to the 1967 Space Treaty, there are no territorial lines in space space belongs to, which is why, when we landed on the moon, we put the United States flag up.
Like first thing, that treaty, however, only applies to countries. Could a private citizen with enough money go up there and take whatever they want? Actually, yes, according to the Space Act of 2015, it establishes a framework where private companies and citizens could collect whatever they want up.
There it’s, basically Finders Keepers, and this is the act that open the door to the cosmic Gold Rush. But how close are we to this actually happening? Well, it depends on what you actually consider mining, as I mentioned before, the Hayabusa mission right Yahoo is already bringing some samples back to earth some of the samples work from the surface and somewhere subsurface samples that were collected by firing a bullet at the asteroid and Creating a spray Japan beat the US shooting an asteroid.
This sample is expected to return to Earth later this year, but its predecessor Hayabusa one already returned a very small sample, just a few grains from the asteroid Itokawa in 2010. It was only some grains of dust, but it did show that the asteroid has plentiful ice water on its surface.
So if you consider a few grains of dust to be mining, then we’ve already started. Hayabusa 2. We’ll. Have a much more significant payload, but we don’t really know exactly how much just yet, then there’s.
The osiris-rex mission to the asteroid, Bennu Osiris, has actually been orbiting around Benny for a couple of years. Now and later this year it’s. Gon na collect some samples from it in December. They pick the site they want to investigate a crater.
They named nightingale, which is apparently positioned in a way that avoids the worst of the temperature, swings that the asteroid experiences. Thinking that you know it would preserve any organic molecules that might be down there.
It’s expected to bring home between 60 grams and 2 kilograms of material, which sounds like a fast range to me. But I guess we’ll, see another couple of missions worth mentioning. Are the fobos-grunt mission from Rose cosmos which is expected to launch in 2024, and it’s? Gon na do a sample return mission from Phobos one of the moons around Mars, which is basically a captured asteroids and the Viper Rover, which is part of the Artemis program.
Its job is to find water resources near the lunar South Pole. It was expected to launch in 2020 it’s now been pushed back to 2023, which is only one year before humans are supposed to land there in 2024.
So yeah, all this sounds really promising and all sounds really exciting. So let’s, throw some cold water on that. Shall we asteroid mining has already hit a bit of a bubble with a couple of companies that got out of the gate really early on.
They generated a lot of money, got a lot of interest in it and then found out. This is actually pretty hard. The most famous of these companies is Planetary Resources, which was founded in 2012 by Peter Diamandis and Chris Lewicki.
They raise like 50 million dollars right off the bat from people like James Cameron and the founder of Google Eric Schmidt. I know the company was called deep space industries or dsi. They raised a lot less money, but they still got a lot of attention today.
Both of these companies have folded. Planetary Resources was recently bought out by a blockchain company called Co census, for reasons that nobody seems to understand and DSi was bought out by a company called Bradford space.
They actually create attitude and propulsion systems for satellites. Now it should be said that while both of these ventures failed, they did manage to lobby enough to get the Space Act of 2015 passed, which kind of laid the legal framework for asteroid mining in the future.
So, for better or for worse, they did get that done. The problem seems to be that investors actually want to make money back on their investments, which I know sounds insane, but asteroid mining is one of those ventures that’s going to take decades.
Maybe even generations to become profitable now granted those profits are astronomical, but still it’s a long time. For me, I just said astronomical didn’t I, but seriously we keep hearing all the time, and especially on this channel, that we’re.
In this whole new space race were private companies. For the first time, we’re able to get up in a space for cheaper and cheaper than ever before. I mean this plus the fact that we’re, exploring asteroids like never before, with you know, Hayabusa and osiris-rex, with all that you know, rich is out there just waiting to be plundered.
How is it that asteroid mining has taken such a tumble? Lately? It seems like it should be hotter than ever right. So, paradoxically, it’s, this new space race that might actually kind of be the hold up like let’s, say you’re, an investor with discussing amounts of money, burning, a hole in your pocket, and you want a Profit from this new space race are you going to invest in a small stat company that could be doing communications and gathering data that you can sell in a matter of the year or two? Are you gon na invest in asteroid mining which might become profitable by the time your grandkids inter-college, not that long ago, that first option didn’t exist, so yeah asteroid mining was kind of cool, but now got to make that cash son.
The fact of the matter is the infrastructure necessary to make asteroid mining profitable. Just doesn’t exist yet like, for example, take osiris-rex. We were just talking about it’s, bringing two kilograms of regolith back from binnu now.
Obviously, this regolith isn’t being brought back in the effort to make money. It’s, gon na be study, but let’s just say it was what if it was bringing back two kilograms of pure gold right now. The price of gold is give or take around fifty thousand dollars per kilogram, so about a hundred thousand dollars is what you can make from doing that.
The cost of osiris-rex is a hundred and eighty three point: five million dollars. You would be making back point zero. Five percent of what you put into it, it would be like giving somebody a hundred dollars and getting back a nickel.
It’s, not a good investment. Now I know a lot of you are bludgeoning your fingers against the keyboard saying that osiris-rex was not a mining mission that it was a science mission. It was gon na cost more money, because the science equipment that it wasn’t designed to create you know value, and I’ll yeah yeah.
I get it. You’re right about all that. I know I get it. You’re right, you can stop, but it does illustrate just what a gap there is between the profits and the costs of asteroid mining. This is the problem that planetary resources and DSi ran into and couldn’t ever quite overcome, not without some kind of infrastructure in place, so it’s kind of a chicken and egg situation.
Right now, you know: will asteroid mining spur the creation of a space infrastructure that would make that possible, or is that the building of the space infrastructure that will make asteroid mining possible? Now, if you used the American Gold Rush of the 1800s as a blueprint, it’s a little bit of both.
You know. Once somebody became profitable finding that gold, then suddenly there were railroads small towns, general stores, tools, equipment, clothing. All of that came up afterwards, a lot more money was made on the rush than was made on the gold.
This is why I honestly think that asteroid mining is going to be a lot less about. You know finding precious metals and bringing them back to earth and a lot more about that in situ resource utilization.
That’s, going to open up pathways to the rest of the solar system and while NASA is focused on perfecting, is, are you on the moon? Spacex’s? All-In on Mars and Blue Origin wants to build giant construction projects in space somewhere in.
There is the opportunity for some enterprising company to become the Dutch East India Company of the solar system. What do you think? Do you think there’s? Some clever ways to get that sweet asteroid resources that I’m.
Not talking about here are there some cool companies that are working on some cool stuff that are worth talking about, discuss down in the comments now. Asteroids are, of course, just part of this crazy solar system that we live in, and there have been dozens of missions and probes that have gone out to asteroids and moons and planets that have expanded our knowledge of the solar system.
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