Asteroid Mining Corporation
|Founded||March 1, 2016|
The Asteroid Mining Corporation is a start-up company based in Scotland that was founded by Mitch Hunter-Scullion in March of 2016. It is an aerospace company with a goal of conducting asteroid mining missions. Asteroid mining is the extraction of various raw materials from asteroids, mainly including the asteroids nearest to Earth as they are currently the most accessible and cost-effective for any asteroid mining missions in the near future.
As of 2020, no asteroid mining missions have ever been conducted, however several asteroid sample return missions have been conducted. Currently, the Asteroid Mining Corporation plans to conduct its first asteroid mining mission by 2035, during which it will send a probe to a Near Earth Object (NEO) to recover twenty tonnes of Platinum.
History of Asteroid Mining
The first notable events in the history of asteroid mining occurred from 1969 to 1972. That time is significant to asteroid mining for main two reasons, the Apollo program|Apollo missions and the Luna programme|Luna program. Between the years 1969 and 1972, the NASA|National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), lead by the United States, sent seven manned mission to the Moon, these missions were the Apollo 11 through 17 missions. During six of these seven missions, a total of 2,200 samples from six different sites were recovered and sent back to Earth, and ever since they arrived on Earth, these samples have been studied extensively. As for the Luna program, between 1959 and 1974, the Soviet Union launched a series of unmanned probes and landers to study the Moon; the most notable of these in regards to asteroid mining was the Luna 16. Luna 16 was an unmanned sample return mission, the first of its kind, and September 12 of 1970, it reached the Moon. While on the Moon, it collected samples similar to those found on the Apollo 12 mission an later brought them back to Earth.
The next notable events in the history of asteroid mining have been ongoing ever since the year 2005, starting with the asteroid sample-return mission Hayabusa sent by the JAXA|Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). In the year 2005, Hayabusa landed on an NEO named 25143 Itokawa, and became the first spacecraft to ever successfully land on an asteroid. While on Itokawa, Hayabusa collected a sample of over one thousand dust grains from Itokawa's surface; and although this sample was microscopic, it was a major step towards feasible asteroid mining. Following the Hayabusa mission, two more asteroid sample-return missions were launched, these missions were Hayabusa2 by JAXA and OSIRIS-REx by NASA. Hayabusa2 was sent to the NEO 162173 Ryugu, where it surveyed and took samples for around a year and a half after reaching the NEO on July 27 of 2018, it is expected to return to Earth with the samples on December 6 of 2020. OSIRIS-REx was sent to the NEO 101955 Bennu, and reached the NEO on September 22 of 2017, after a few months surveying the NEO for a suitable sampling location, it collected a sixty gram sample, and is expected to return with it on September 24 of 2023.
As for the concept of asteroid mining itself, that has been around for quite some time. It originated in 1960s during the height of the space race during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union; in fact, during his Vice President of the United States|Vice Presidency, Lyndon B. Johnson mentioned the idea at the Seattle World's Fair in the year 1962. As time went on, the idea of asteroid became less theoretical and it began to be considered more of a real possibility; in the year 1986, NASA suggested the idea of a moon base where oxygen would be extracted and used for rocket fuel and the mining of asteroids. More recently, within the last decade or so, asteroid mining and its merits have become more well known. In recent years, numerous affluent individuals have expressed interest in asteroid mining. Both Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, the founders of the private aerospace companies SpaceX and Blue Origin, have discussed the possibility of using their companies to mine for resources on asteroids, the Moon, and Mars. In addition, many economists and well known individuals have stated their belief that asteroid mining will lead to the first modern trillionaire, one of the most notable people who said this was Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
Types of Asteroids
Of the known asteroids within our Solar System, there are three main composition categories, these are C-types, S-types, and M-types. C-type asteroids are the most common type asteroids that we know of, they mainly consist of clay and silicate material, they are also some of the oldest objects in the Solar System, meaning that they could show a lot about the very beginnings of this Solar System. Another type of asteroid is the S-type asteroid, these asteroids are made up of mostly a mixture of silicate and nickel-iron materials. The last type of asteroid is the M-type asteroid. M-type asteroids are metallic asteroids, their composition depends upon their distance from our Sun, however most of the known one's are primarily composed of nickel-iron material in additions to a variety of other metals. After their initial formation, many of these metallic asteroids endured high temperatures, resulting in them partially melting temporarily, this resulted in much of the iron among other metals sinking into the metallic asteroids and basaltic lava being forced to the surface and hardening shortly after. Due to their metallic composition, M-type asteroids are considered to be quite promising for asteroid mining. One prime example of an M-type asteroid is 16 Psyche. 16 Psyche is an asteroid between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, and is one of the most metallic known asteroids, as a result of this, a solar powered probe named Psyche will be launched in 2022 and reach the metallic asteroid 16 Psyche in 2026 to study the asteroid. In addition to the different composition categories of asteroids in this Solar System, there are also different categories of asteroids based upon their location and orbital patterns in this Solar System. To begin with, majority of known asteroids within this Solar System lie within the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. The Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter is believed to have millions of asteroids, many of which are over one kilometre in diameter; it also contains the dwarf planet Ceres (dwarf planet)|Ceres, and icy object that is believed to potentially have a subsurface liquid water ocean. Another category of asteroids within this Solar System are the Trojans. Trojans are asteroids that share an orbit with a nearby planet, however they do not collide with that planet because they always remain in the L4 and L5 Lagrangian points of that planet's orbit. The vast majority of known Trojan asteroid in this Solar System are the Jupiter trojan|Jupiter Trojans, however there also a decent amount of Mars trojan|Mars Trojans and Neptune trojan|Neptune Trojans; in addition to this, there are two known Uranus Trojans, one known Earth Trojan, and one known temporary Venus Trojan. The last category of asteroids and almost certainly the best for asteroid mining are the Near Earth Objects (NEO). NEOs are asteroids that have orbits similar to that of Earth, and often pass between Earth and the Moon, as a result of their close paths to Earth, they are considered the most potentially hazardous to Earth. There are currently over ten thousands known NEOs, over eight hundred of which have a diameter of over one kilometre.
Asteroids Most Suitable For Mining
Of the different types and categories of asteroids mentioned above, the most suitable asteroids for mining are M-type NEOs. The reasons for this have to do with their distance from Earth and abundance of valuable metals. In regards to their distance, NEOs are by far the closest to Earth since they share similar orbits to that of Earth, meaning that they will be much more easily accessible than the Asteroid Belt or any Trojans. As for M-type asteroids, they are by far the most metallic type of asteroids, meaning that they have a greater abundance valuable metals than the S or C type asteroids. This all means that M-type NEOs will be the best for asteroid mining. As a result of this, many M-type NEOs are currently being considered as potentially locations for any future asteroid mining.
In regards to the actual feasibility of asteroid mining, asteroid mining is a lot more feasible and realistic with current technology than many people realize, in fact, many NEOs would be much easier to mine than Mars or even the Moon, this is true for a number of reasons. One major reason why asteroid mining is feasible and realistic with current technology is gravity, unlike Mars and the Moon to a lesser degree, the low gravity on asteroids will make transporting people, equipment, and the mined resources fairly easy, granted difficulties will still come as space mining will of course encounter difficulties, however the low gravity will making mining asteroid much easier. Another reason why is feasible and realistic is because of distance. Currently, humanity has sent people as far as the Moon, and a probe to around 150 AU, and although doing both of these things was fairly difficult, they are were both feasible when done then, and are even more feasible now. This means that distance will likely not be a major problem for asteroid mining, this is because the vast majority of asteroid mining, at least initially, will take place on NEOs. As previously mentioned, NEOs orbit fairly closely to Earth, and some even between Earth and the Moon, this means that the distance between Earth and the asteroids that will be targeted for mining is going to be a fairly short distance. Another reason why asteroid mining is both feasible and realistic today is because of the size of asteroids. It is widely known that most objects contain the majority of their metals in their cores due to the fact that metals weigh more than most other materials, unfortunately, Earth's core is currently not accessible due to the extreme temperatures and pressures, however, the same is not true for asteroids. Due to the small size of asteroids, there is not enough pressure in their cores to prevent their cores from being with relative ease, and as for the heat, most asteroids loose activity shortly after their formation, and because this Solar System is 4.6 billion years old, all of the asteroids we know of within this Solar System are inactive, meaning that there will be major increase in temperature within their cores. One more reason why asteroid mining is currently feasible and realistic today is because of the amount of resources within asteroids. Especially with the more metallic asteroids, asteroids have a lot resources that are quickly dwindling here on Earth, and as these supplies of rare Earth metals continue to dwindle, humanity will need to look for a new source of rare Earth metals, and thankfully, many of the metals that are becoming increasingly more rare here on Earth are quite abundant on metallic asteroids, this means that logically humanity will soon begin mining asteroids, and that people who participate in the asteroid mining business will be able to become quite wealthy.
Asteroid Prospecting Satellite One (APS-1)
The first mission that will be conducted by the Asteroid Mining Corporation will be the APS-1, APS-1 has also been given the name Project El Dorado. APS-1 will be used to direct a spectral survey of five thousands NEOs to search for the best asteroids for mining. After APS-1 receives data regarding the asteroids that could potentially be used for mining, this data will be commercialized by way of the Space Resources Database. When the satellite is ready for launch, it will be launched from India due to it being the most cost effective location for launch. The Asteroid Mining Corporation plans on raising £7.2 million, ($9.25 million), for the construction of the satellite. The Asteroid Mining Corporation plans on launching APS-1 in Q1 of 2023. After APS-1 has identified the asteroids that are best for mining and most abundant in platinum, the Asteroid Mining Corporation will send a probe to survey these valuable asteroids up close.
Asteroid Exploration Probe One (AEP-1)
After APS-1 has identified the best valuable asteroids for mining and most abundant in platinum, AEP-1 will be sent to survey these asteroid up close, when it surveys these asteroids it will direct a spectral survey of the mineralogical, metallurgical and molecular components of these asteroids, AEP-1 has also been given the name Project Drexciya. AEP-1 will be designed to be aerodynamically-flexible, this means that it will be more able to easily visit multiple asteroids, which will make it more cost effective. In addition to surveying these valuable asteroids through flybys, AEP-1 will also have a small lander, this lander will be used to test mining and attachment mechanisms preceding the first actual mining mission. As a result of this landing, the Asteroid Mining Corporation will use the landing as a basis for a legal claims to the mineral rights of the asteroid landed upon, and also use this collateral for the funding of its first asteroid mining missions. The Asteroid Mining Corporation currently plans on launching AEP-1 in 2027. This probe will likely visit the asteroid 1986DA. It has been estimated that this probe will cost between £159 million and £303 million to develop, ($205 million - $391 million). 
Asteroid Mining Probe One (AMP-1)
After APS-1 and AEP-1 are completed, the Asteroid Mining Corporation will launch its first asteroid mining mission, AMP-1, also known by the name Project Mu. AMP-1 will be an unmanned probe that will be designed to recover twenty tonnes of platinum, which is equal to 10% of annual supply. If this mission is successful, it will likely be the first ever asteroid mining mission. Following the completion of the AMP-1 mission, the Asteroid Mining Corporation will offer AMP class missions to customers across the globe. In addition to what was previously mentioned, AMP-1 will test technologies that could form the building blocks of an extraterrestrial economy. The Asteroid Mining Corporation plans to launch AMP-1 by 2035
The overall goal of the Asteroid Mining Corporation is to conduct asteroid mining missions to extract the resources of asteroids as a method stimulating an extraterrestrial economy; because of the vast amounts of valuable resources available on many nearby asteroids, a substantial amount of money could be made from the extraction of resources on asteroids, and as a result of this, the mining of asteroid could potentially a very effective method of stimulating an extraterrestrial economy. In addition to this, the Asteroid Mining Corporation also desires to conduct asteroid mining missions for ecological reasons; because Earth is such a delicate, it is an inevitability that if humanity never leaves Earth, it will not be able to sustain itself, and if an extraterrestrial economy is stimulated, humanity could become a multi-planetary species not solely dependent upon Earth. The Asteroid Mining Corporation that as a result of large amounts of money and resources that will come from asteroid mining, manned space exploration will become a lot more common and feasible, which will result in the colonization of much of this Solar System, and the eventual colonization of other solar systems.
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