Asteroid Mining Might Be Closer Than You Think

It's an industry with plenty of ambition

The stuff of science fiction is quickly becoming science fact.
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Watch enough science fiction set in the near future, and eventually, you’ll probably come across a reference to asteroid mining. It’s played a part in works as dissimilar as The Expanse and Don’t Look Up, and it’s not hard to see the appeal of a source of valuable minerals without the risk of widespread pollution. The stuff of science fiction isn’t too far removed from becoming a reality, though — and we could see the first example of this before the decade is out.

That’s one of the biggest takeaways from a new Sarah Scholes article at ArsTechnica. Scholes offers a good overview of the companies currently exploring ways to mine in space, including Karman+, who have plans to mine an asteroid in 2026.

Other forays into the same field haven’t gone quite as well. Scholes points to the work being done by AstroForge, who launched a test mission last year. In a blog post from December 2023 in which they revisited it, the company stated bluntly that “no project as ambitious as asteroid mining is without its challenges and lessons learned.” The company also shared that its second test mission will be launched as part of the Intuitive Machines IM-2 mission later this year.

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The logistics of simply getting a mining vehicle into space is just one challenge; in a New York Times article on the industry, executives also addressed the possiblity of competition for certain mineral-rich asteroids.

“Announcing which asteroid we are targeting opens up risk that another entity could seize that asteroid,” AstroForge CEO Matt Gialich told the Times. It’s one more piece of evidence that asteroid mining has the potential to be a lucrative industry — but it could also be thoroughly chaotic.

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