And it may eventually be possible to extract valuable minerals from asteroids cheaply enough for it to be worth bringing them back to Earth.

Rival Planetary Resources has a slightly different plan, in which telescopes would be used to analyse asteroids before craft were sent to mine them. Its backers include Google co-founder Larry Page and billionaire businessman Ross Perot, and it thinks it could be operating in space by How would asteroid mining work? A visual guide Read more One of the difficulties facing these would-be space miners is cost, which is fittingly astronomical.

The other obvious barrier is the technological progress that is still required if commercial asteroid mining is to become practically possible and economically viable. However, considerable as these hurdles are, experts believe the legal component is the most pressing. The problem is that putting this into practice violates the OST. We will only know how this would play out if it is tested in court.

A moment in space and time

If you have conflicts of law, things start getting dicey and that could lead to legal and political conflict. American ‘space pioneers’ deserve asteroid rights, Congress says Read more Such complex legal wrangles could indeed prove harder to overcome than other difficulties, such as the huge costs involved. But some experts believe that investing large amounts early on could create a space economy in which costs are forced down by collaboration.

The foundation’s goal was to design and build a privately financed asteroid-finding space telescopeSentinelhoping in to launch it in — Given the satellite’s telescopic accuracy, Sentinel’s data may prove valuable for other possible future missions, such as asteroid mining.

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Process it on-site to bring back only processed materials, and perhaps produce propellant for the return trip. Due to the weak gravitational fields of asteroids, any drilling will cause large disturbances and form dust clouds.

Mining operations require special equipment to handle the extraction and processing of ore in outer space. However, no techniques for refining ore in zero gravity currently exist. Docking with an asteroid might be performed using a harpoon-like process, where a projectile would penetrate the surface to serve as an anchor; then an attached cable would be used to winch the vehicle to the surface, if the asteroid is both penetrable and rigid enough for a harpoon to be effective.

Thus any mining equipment will either need to be highly automated, or a human presence will be needed nearby. On the other hand, multi-minute communications delays have not prevented the success of robotic exploration of Marsand automated systems would be much less expensive to build and deploy.

Arkyd Series the Leo Space telescope is a less expensive instrument that will be used to find, analyze, and see what resources are available on nearby asteroids.

FireFlies are triplets of nearly identical spacecraft in CubeSat form launched to different asteroids to rendezvous and examine them. The C-type asteroids’s high abundance of water could be used to produce fuel by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.