How Much Could That Asteroid That’s Supposed to Fly By Earth Be Worth in Materials if It Could Be Mined?

This image provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech shows a simulation of asteroid 2012 DA14 approaching from the south as it passes through the Earth-moon system on Feb. 15, 2013. The 150-foot object will pass within 17,000 miles of the Earth. NASA scientists insist there is absolutely no chance of a collision as it passes. (Image: AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Remember the asteroid that CNN’s Deb Feyerick asked Bill Nye (the science guy) if it was caused by global warming Saturday? Of course you do — it’s the nearest known flyby of an object at this size and there are still two days before it passes by Earth.

But what if it didn’t just pass by? What if we had the capability to harness it in a way? According to some number crunchers the materials on the asteroid could be worth up to $195 billion if they were possible to harvest.

While NASA is working on projects that could potentially lasso a near-Earth asteroid and put it into orbit around the moon — thus saving humanity from a potentially fatal impact — one company called Deep Space Industries want to mine these asteroids for all they’re worth.

Deep Space Industries (DSI) announced its idea last month to “move” asteroids to a safe place away from Earth and establish mining operations on them for water and minerals. DSI’s experts estimated the 150-foot-wide asteroid (2012 DA14) set to pass closer than even high-flying communication and weather satellites on Feb. 15 could could contain 5 percent recoverable water, which could be used in space as rocket fuel worth $65 billion, Network World reported. Although its mass is unknown, it is thought to weigh between 16,000 to 1 million tons –and could contain enough iron, nickel and other metal to add up to $130 billion in materials.

Tim Worstall for Forbes though questions these estimates.

“The value of any lump of rock is not the value of the metals trapped within it,” Worstall wrote. “It is the value of those trapped metals minus the cost of untrapping them.”

At present date no one can mine asteroids and the cost of doing so can not truly be estimated. Therefore Worstall said the cost of mining is infinite at this point. In addition, much of Deep Space Industries plans are for the materials to be used in space, not necessarily to brought back down to Earth. Without a market for the use of these materials in space then, there is no one to buy them so the product would be worth nothing even if it were mined. Network World pointed out that the company has said that if future technology would allow for cheap transport, they would export materials back to Earth as well.

But still, theoretically, how would such a mining operation work? DSI explains in this video:

The asteroid that will pass 17,100 miles from Earth might be visible to some in Asia, Australia and eastern Europe Friday. NASA has said it is not worried about the asteroid impacting Earth or even hitting orbiting satellite equipment.


(H/T: SlashGear)