The idea of asteroid mining seems not so ridiculous as it may sound. In fact, we know a great deal about their characteristics because a few of them reach the Earth. They contain nickel, iron, cobalt, carbon and also contain large amounts of rare earth and precious metals such as rhodium, palladium, osmium, and others. These ingredients are naturally present on Earth, but they are uncommon and very costly.
In 2012, a group of investors sets up a business named Planetary Resources for collecting valuable minerals from asteroids and get them back to our planet. This optimistic and potentially expensive plan was backed by some of the best players in Silicon Valley.
Asteroids are like floating gold mines in outer space. Planetary Resources forecasts that the value of platinum in an asteroid of just thirty meters could be between $25 to $50 billion. If anyone of these were to be safely brought back to our planet, it would hold a rich source of resources that would pay its investors many times over.
Asteroids are so significant that NASA has proposed their investigation as the first step towards a Mars mission.
THE RED PLANET
Living on Mars may seem exciting in science fiction, but the truth is pretty scary. One of the strategies to thrive on the red planet is to take advantage of what is accessible like ice. Since Mars is covered with ice, we have to dig a few feet until we hit the permafrost. We can then dig up the ice, melt it, and purify it for drinking, or collect oxygen for breathing and hydrogen for heating and rocket fuel. To protect against radiation and dust storms, settlers could dig into the rocks to create an underground shelter. Since Mars’ atmosphere is so thin and its magnetic field is so weak, radiation from space is not consumed or repelled as it is on our planet, so it is a real concern.
A day on Mars is almost the same length as a day on our planet. The tilt of the red planet is almost the same as that of Earth with regard to the sun. But settlers need to be accustomed to the gravity of Mars, which is only 40 percent of Earth’s gravity. They will also have to deal with the intensely cooler temperatures and will be in a constant battle to prevent death from freezing. The temperature on Mars rarely reaches water’s freezing point, and after the sun goes down it can drop to -127 degrees Celsius.
The very first goal is to create a base for about twenty to fifty astronauts on the surface of the red planet. Some will live for a few months and others will make the base their permanent home. Over time, the people on Mars will begin to see them more as settlers and less as astronauts.
Initially, most resources they need, will go from Earth.
In the second step, the population will increase to several thousand people and they will be able to use the raw materials of the planet. The red color of the sands on Mars is related to the existence of iron oxide or rust, so settlers will be able to produce iron and steel for infrastructure. Carbon dioxide in the air can be used to grow plants. The red planet settlers will eventually become self-sufficient and sustainable.
In the end, the settlers will have to come up with a way to gradually warm the atmosphere so that liquid water can flow on Mars. This will make agriculture and ultimately towns possible. At this moment, we will enter the final stage and a new civilization will develop on the red planet.