# Treasure From Asteroids

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Does anyone think we could discover an asteroid that has a very large quantity of precious metals?  Maybe we could find an asteroid that has more gold than the earth has?  If we found an asteroid that is so valuable, maybe it could be towed into Earth orbit and the metals could be extracted in nearly zero g and then send to Earth by parachute.  What about "rare earth" metals?

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Certainly asteriod can contain rich metals. Gold, platinum, silver etc. Most of the rich metals we have on Earth originated from asteroids. Think of it this way the Earth was formed of the same materials.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Airbrush said:

Maybe we could find an asteroid that has more gold than the earth has?

...you rather meant "more than human extracted from the ground in the entire human history".. which is per mile of per mile of the all available (human reached just couple km below the ground so far from ~ 6370 km radius)..

So, the question is what is cheaper: bringing asteroid from deep space to the Earth, or digging the Earth to really serious depths.

Edited by Sensei

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Sure, large absolute quantities are expected in Asteroids but these precious metals are well mixed at low concentrations in with nickel and iron. The hypothesised processes involved in asteroid formation don't leave much opportunity for primordial concentrations (if they were ever present) to remain unmixed or for processes that separate and concentrate them, like has occurred on Earth to happen. Not one metallic meteorite with high precious metal content has ever been found - although that depends on how you define 'high'; above 100ppm for Platinum Group Metals have been found - which as placer deposits on Earth (grains and nuggets mixed in silts and gravels) would be considered a fabulous find - but as ores for PGM's (a mix of several elements including Platinum), Nickel-iron leaves much to be desired. It would be a difficult ore to extract them from. Yes, the possibility remains that we find things that are unexpected but it is not looking like we have any easy and cost effective asteroid based sources of precious metals.

My own view is that the raw, unprocessed nickel-iron is probably the best resource Asteroids can be counted on to have in abundance - and trade in that needs to be economically viable for Asteroid mining to be successful. I would expect it to be worth (at best) a few thousand US$per ton for high nickel content nickel-iron (taenite), so mining and moving and delivering it to Earth needs to be cheaper than that. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites Posted (edited) 9 minutes ago, Ken Fabian said: I would expect it to be worth (at best) a few thousand US$ per ton for high nickel content nickel-iron (taenite), so mining and moving and delivering it to Earth needs to be cheaper than that. ﻿﻿﻿﻿﻿﻿﻿

1 ton of cargo on orbit is worth 2.2 million dollars..

"As of March 2013, Falcon Heavy launch prices were below $2,200/kg ($1,000/lb) to low-Earth orbit when the launch vehicle is transporting its maximum delivered cargo weight.[85] "

Better/cheaper to move factory to orbit or deeper-space, and have final product made there, than bring it to the Earth.

Edited by Sensei

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8 hours ago, Airbrush said:

Does anyone think we could discover an asteroid that has a very large quantity of precious metals?  Maybe we could find an asteroid that has more gold than the earth has?  If we found an asteroid that is so valuable, maybe it could be towed into Earth orbit and the metals could be extracted in nearly zero g and then send to Earth by parachute.  What about "rare earth" metals?

One would need to analyze the energy investment necessary to do this. And it's not as simple as dropping it by parachute since you have to slow it down to get it to go out of orbit. And it's really expensive to get any payload (such as fuel) into even low-earth orbit, as Sensei points out.

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This website gives estimates of the economic worth of many near earth asteroids. There are several companies looking into it. Luxembourg give huge tax incentives to prospective space mining companies, though i think Russia want to move in on it too. I can imagine the first few companies that make a success of it becoming out-of-this-world rich.

Might only become economically viable if there is an off-Earth economy; orbital platforms for instance.That way they can reduce costs and dependence on Earth for resources and don't need to worry about getting the resources on terra firma.

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15 hours ago, Sensei said:

1 ton of cargo on orbit is worth 2.2 million dollars..

"As of March 2013, Falcon Heavy launch prices were below $2,200/kg ($1,000/lb) to low-Earth orbit when the launch vehicle is transporting its maximum delivered cargo weight.[85] "

Better/cheaper to move factory to orbit or deeper-space, and have final product made there, than bring it to the Earth.

I think trade in raw nickel-iron would require some space facilities - to repackage and de-accelerate it for delivery - but minimum rather than maximum processing in space is my response to high launch costs, ie the reverse of what you are suggesting. Surely the potential advantages of asteroid materials like Ni-Fe is abundance and potential for moving large quantities of them around at low cost - and the less facilities and processing in space, that require launches from Earth, the better. Moving mass in space is relatively easy but construction and manufacturing is hard - I see greater potential for Ni-Fe, with minimum processing, than any refined and manufactured products, for that reason. In orbit... how much can be done using crude nickel-iron, sliced and diced or forged, cast etc with minimum processing?

I do think that if we can't make Ni-Fe mining viable - the easiest and simplest resource to deal with - then asteroid mining for anything else is going to be even more unviable.

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2 minutes ago, Ken Fabian said:

I think trade in raw nickel-iron would require some space facilities - to repackage and de-accelerate it for delivery - but minimum rather than maximum processing in space is my response to high launch costs, ie the reverse of what you are suggesting. Surely the potential advantages of asteroid materials like Ni-Fe is abundance and potential for moving large quantities of them around at low cost - and the less facilities and processing in space, that require launches from Earth, the better. Moving mass in space is relatively easy but construction and manufacturing is hard - I see greater potential for Ni-Fe, with minimum processing, than any refined and manufactured products, for that reason. In orbit... how much can be done using crude nickel-iron, sliced and diced or forged, cast etc with minimum processing?

I do think that if we can't make Ni-Fe mining viable - the easiest and simplest resource to deal with - then asteroid mining for anything else is going to be even more unviable.

Small point: in science, 'accelerate' means a change in velocity , not just speeding up, so  de-accelerate is not used.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, StringJunky said:

Small point: in science, 'accelerate' means a change in velocity , not just speeding up, so  de-accelerate is not used.

De-orbit? I did hesitate when using "de-accelerate"  but figured my terminology may not be accurate but my meaning should be clear in spite of it. As was pointed out, it is not enough to drop a chunk of metal into the atmosphere at orbital speeds - it has to have lowered relative velocity.

Mining Ni-Fe - would it be brittle enough at space-cold temperatures that hammer/explosive fracturing would be a way to break it into manageable pieces? Unless the asteroid is close enough to the sun for solar power then sawing or grinding or gas/plasma cutting can require some kind of onboard (probably nuclear) power source  - and much worse energy requirements again to do any refining in situ. I figure aiming for the least possible energy use and least possible equipment requirements to get the least possible production costs. After it is on Earth some refineries may be able to find ways to extract the precious metals economically - I still think more likely to be economical as a sideline to extracting high grade nickel than specifically for the precious metals. (And the higher nickel content meteorites (taenite) are consistently higher in Platinum Group Metals than low nickel content ones (kamacite)).

Edited by Ken Fabian

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5 hours ago, Ken Fabian said:

I think trade in raw nickel-iron would require some space facilities - to repackage and de-accelerate it for delivery - but minimum rather than maximum processing in space is my response to high launch costs, ie the reverse of what you are suggesting. Surely the potential advantages of asteroid materials like Ni-Fe is abundance and potential for moving large quantities of them around at low cost - and the less facilities and processing in space, that require launches from Earth, the better. Moving mass in space is relatively easy but construction and manufacturing is hard - I see greater potential for Ni-Fe, with minimum processing, than any refined and manufactured products, for that reason. In orbit... how much can be done using crude nickel-iron, sliced and diced or forged, cast etc with minimum processing? ﻿

I do think that if we can't make Ni-Fe mining viable - the easiest and simplest resource to deal with - then asteroid mining for anything else is going to be even more unviable.

The easiest to make is cosmic space is Solar furnace. Space-equivalent of this solar-furnace:

"Temperatures above 3,500 °C (6,330 °F) can be obtained in a few seconds." (on the Earth!).

Everybody should be using such solar-furnaces on the Earth to limit coal burning..

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, Sensei said:

"Temperatures above 3,500 °C (6,330 °F) can be obtained in a few seconds." (on the Earth!).

Everybody should be using such solar-furnaces on the Earth to limit coal burning..

I seldom want, and never need, to heat anything to 3,500 °C; why should I be using such a furnace?

(Also, my garden isn't big enough)

Edited by John Cuthber

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Heating things up in space is typically less of a problem than cooling things down. Though cooling tends to be easier for very hot items

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Posted (edited)

Psyche 16

Some members might be interested in researching the asteroid named "Psyche 16"

"The golden asteroid that could make everyone on Earth a billionaire"

"     Who Will Get There First?

China has vowed to dominate this race, and that’s an easier game for a country that controls all the major natural resource companies and maintains a tight leash on tech developers.

That’s not to say that the U.S. doesn’t have ambitions here. The difference, though, is stark. While NASA is focused on space exploration and scientific missions, China is focused on a space-based economy that is zeroing in on long-term wealth generation.

Even Europe, where EuroSun is developing a major goldmine in Romania, has its hand in the game. In January, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced a deal with ArianeGroup, the parent company of Arianespace, to study a prep mission to the moon in 2025. It’s got natural resources on its mind.

Even tiny Luxembourg has 10 space-mining companies registered since 2016, with some targeting space ventures to the Moon, and others eyeing near-Earth asteroids for mining.

Tokyo-based iSpace, for instance, is a private space exploration company that plans to complete a lunar orbit in 2020, and a soft landing in 2021.

For Moore, the prospect is daunting, even if it is the clear future reality, because mining in EuroSun’s Rovina Valley project in west-central Romania has been a cakewalk, both in terms of geology and infrastructure. Everything lines up for a large, low-cost project (the biggest in-development gold mine in Europe.) That won’t be the case in space, but it’s a big bill that governments will want to help foot or risk losing their place in space.

Whoever gets there first will become the new god of gold, and the competition is heating up." : https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/The-Golden-Asteroid-Worth-700-Quintillion.html#

A couple of similar Links -

"NASA headed towards giant golden asteroid that could make everyone on Earth a billionaire" : https://www.foxnews.com/science/nasa-headed-towards-giant-golden-asteroid-that-could-make-everyone-on-earth-a-billionaire

"Space miners race to an asteroid worth quintillions" : https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/space-miners-race-to-an-asteroid-worth-quintillions

Edited by et pet

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I think the recognition that there are asteroids containing valuable resources is the least controversial aspect of this discussion. As in, nobody is questioning that they exist.

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3 hours ago, et pet said:

"The golden asteroid that could make everyone on Earth a billionaire"

Super cool! Bread will be a \$1M/loaf, but still....

Anyone else think we should all be a LOT more unified as a species before we allow private actors and foreign countries to play around with asteroids in Earth orbit? It's not that I don't trust some extremists when it comes to profit over ethical behavior, but... oh wait, it is that. I don't trust them when it comes to all those resources.

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Posted (edited)

Get too much supply the price would drop. Don't want to collect too much at once lol.

Edited by Mordred

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Once the recovery of resources becomes viable, there’s going to be a lot of wrangling over rights and claims. AFAIK right now, nobody can own anything in space, according to a treaty, but no countries likely to be active in this activity has signed it. Also that international law would apply - it’s all international waters.

So there could be an “old west” vibe to this. Making claims and having others not recognize their validity. Unsafe/unethical mining techniques.

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8 hours ago, et pet said:

Whoever gets there first will become the new god of gold, and the competition is heating up

This kind of overhyped rhetoric irritates me; reading the oilprice.com article you would think it is simple - just get there first! But nothing about it is simple; most people reading it probably imagine there will be gold nuggets, like old time prospectors found on Earth only much bigger and more common. Psyche 16 is mostly nickel-iron and the gold is well mixed at low concentrations within it - but there was not a mention of that little complication, or any of the other serious impediments - costly impediments - that need to be overcome.

18 hours ago, Sensei said:

Everybody should be using such solar-furnaces on the Earth to limit coal burning..

Keeping it simple is certainly my thinking. So if you got a delivery to Earth orbit of raw Ni-Fe (though not sure it would be good to do this anywhere near Earth) you could do some basic kinds of manufacturing, like (centrifugal) casting and hot forging - with suitable equipment sent up from Earth. As soon as you start on refining and extracting those precious metals it stops being simple process and you need other materials in those processes that each have to be refined and manufactured - and waste streams managed; the notion that you can just jettison anything you don't want looks dubious to me.

And I still think that you can't operate a separate space economy - if there's nothing being sold back to Earth you have no way to pay for the Earth based inputs, which will be pretty much everything except what you can make simply from Ni-Fe.

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Posted (edited)

Suppose we discovered an asteroid that has as much gold as humans have ever extracted from the Earth?  Suppose it was not too expensive to extract the gold and send it back to earth.  After deducting the cost of mining and transport back to the surface of the earth, could this theoretically reduce the value of gold by about half, if as much gold extracted throughout history was dumped on the market within a period of a few decades?

Edited by Airbrush

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If gold became readily available in a cost effective manner it would certainly drop market price. Good ole supply and demand

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2 hours ago, Airbrush said:

Suppose it was not too expensive to extract the gold and send it back to earth.

Aye, there's the rub, though. How much is "not too expensive" when compared to terrestrial mining? If it costs more to extract and bring it back, your profits on it aren't as good.

If you found an asteroid of gold, it would be far smarter to make it available for offplanet endeavors. That's when the cost of your space gold will be far better than the cost of terrestrial gold.

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The influx of gold into Spain from the New World provides some idea of what might happen.

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Would we really mine Asteroid gold in order to transfer it into vaults on Earth? The terrestrial gold market is more other worldly than the Asteroids are!

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To bring heavy equipment to an asteroid, including in the main belt:
https://www.scienceforums.net/topic/76627-solar-thermal-rocket/?do=findComment&comment=1014780

To explore the main belt and check if anything is worthy there:
https://www.scienceforums.net/topic/76627-solar-thermal-rocket/?do=findComment&comment=1016237

Braking in Earth's atmosphere is for free. From low-Earth-orbit, deorbiting costs less than 100m/s. From the asteroid belt it's much more.

What we might find there, I have no idea. The general hope is that precious metals have not sunken there as they did on Earth and would be more accessible. This would need to separate them from worthless Ni and Fe on the asteroid, and I have no idea how to do that. It needs very heavy equipment to extract very little precious metal.

Human activity could absorb much more gold than we produce, but not at the present price. Best material for electric contacts, for corrosion protection, for cleanliness, and so on and so forth. It could replace copper if abundant enough.

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