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Asteroid mining could become a very real thing in the future

Updated Jan 28th, 2023 8:53PM EST
This Hubble Space Telescope image reveals the gradual self-destruction of an asteroid.
Image: NASA, ESA, K. Meech and J. Kleyna (University of Hawaii), and O. Hainaut (European Southern Observatory)

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When you think of science fiction, your mind probably wanders to aliens, spaceships that carry you to unknown worlds that we can breathe on, and more. But now, a California-based startup is looking to take yet another piece of sci-fi and turn it into reality. Enter AstroForge, a company dedicated to becoming the first deep space asteroid mining company, and that journey officially starts this year.

If you’ve ever watched science fiction or played any science fiction games, then it’s likely you’ve heard of asteroid mining. Or, perhaps you’ve just heard it mentioned in the prospect of being able to give humanity access to minerals and materials that are more limited on Earth. No matter the source, the idea of sending spacecraft out to mine material from asteroids seems a little farfetched.

After all, there’s a lot to take into account here, right? First, you have to build a spacecraft capable of mining and hauling this material back. You also have to think about whether or not those spacecraft could require any kind of maintenance, and even what asteroids you might want to target for mining. This last bit is exactly where AstroForge plans to start.

The startup is currently working towards launching an ambitious commercial mission that will allow it to observe an asteroid more than 22 million miles from Earth. But what exactly is AstroForge hoping to find while asteroid mining? The group says that it is targeting platinum-group metals, also known as PGMs.

These metals are used across a variety of industries and including precious rare-Earth metals like Palladium. And to be honest, the idea of asteroid mining seems a lot less far-fetched than building space stations inside asteroids, both ideas that people have suggested in the past.

By using asteroid mining, companies like AstroForge hope to be able to tap into the vast resources just waiting in space. It, of course, raises a ton of other questions about whether or not we should just burn through those resources like we have been doing here on Earth, but there are far smarter people out there making those arguments than I, and laws are already making way for mining to start.

The main point here is that asteroid mining isn’t as science fiction as we might have previously believed, and with companies like AstroForge taking huge strides forward, it’s only a matter of time until we’re using electronics or other items made with metal from outer space.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.

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