Asteroid miners prepare to harvest outer space

Image credit: thespacereview.com
Image credit: thespacereview.com

Don’t get too attached to your real estate — human civilization may be headed toward space.

It currently costs $10,000 a pound to transport material from Earth into space. If humans want to live in space someday, those transport costs alone pose a major roadblock. Asteroid mining companies offer an alternative idea: support life in space with resources from space. That may sound like science fiction, but these companies are already scrambling to extract goods from space rocks — an average asteroid holds about $100 billion in water and minerals. In producer Audrey Quinn’s PRX STEM Story Project piece, we’ll visit a spacecraft facility and take a look into the business, the science, and the legality of the asteroid mining industry.

In September 2013, Quinn reported for Marketplace on NASA’s interest in asteroids. As part of that story, she interviewed Deep Space Industries’s Rick Tumlinson and was struck by how committed he and his company were to asteroid mining, a prospect that sounded like pure science fiction. Quinn reflects, “I thought it would be a great chance to dive deeper into this idea that seemed so fantastical to me.”

These space entrepreneurs are thinking beyond science fiction and are are banking on the idea that humans will live in space someday, that the future of human civilization is, in fact, in space. They are also preparing to have the technology ready to make that a reality within the next couple of decades.

Quinn hopes listeners will learn that a lot of the materials we rely on here on Earth are also out there in some form in asteroids: “That could make life in space might be more viable and imminent than you realized before.”

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