Luxembourg has planned to go into space to mine minerals from asteroids, and Google founder Larry Page has got their back. As per the reports by Luxemburger Wort, “Etienne Schneider, Luxembourg’s deputy prime minister and minister of the economy, said the government would work with one of the world’s largest satellite operators — SES, which he helped set up a decade ago — and two US companies to help make it happen.” Last November, U.S. President Barack Obama signed legislation that commercial extraction of minerals and other materials, including water, from asteroids and the moon is now approved.
Luxembourg will need big money
Two U.S. private companies will be helping in this project. The first company is Planetary Resources, which was founded by Page of Google, and the other one is Deep Space Industries, which is working on sending tourists into space. To have these two companies on board took two years as Luxembourg’s Schneider started working on the project secretly after visiting NASA’s research center. The U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 says that if any American individual or company finds an asteroid, then it belongs to them and they can do with it what they please.
The aim behind the Space Act is that space should be shared by all for scientific research and exploration. It also provides investors profits from their efforts under U.S. law.
“I am convinced there is great scientific and economic potential in Luxembourg’s vision. We know how to get to asteroids, how to drill into them, and how to get samples back to Earth,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, the ex-director-general of the European Space Agency. The project is a highly ambitious one and requires Luxembourg to seek out rich, private investors. According to Dordain, the cost of the project would be extensive, but at the end, there would be a market that is worth trillions. Asteroids do not look precious from the outside, but they hold a powerhouse of rare and precious materials within.
Asteroids a powerhouse of minerals
Inside these asteroids lie storehouses of minerals, including treasure troves of platinum. Platinum is one of the most lucrative metals on Earth, and 1,000 cubic centimeters of platinum is worth close to $1 million. Platinum-loaded asteroids fly by Earth frequently. For instance, an asteroid called 2011 UW-158, is thought to harbor $300 billion to $5.4 trillion worth of platinum and other precious metals and materials.
Astronomers estimate this after deep study. They analyze the object’s size, its general composition, and other things. The analysis is done by special instruments called spectrometers that measure the intensity of light from any object. The projects of asteroid mining are crucial for agencies like NASA, as they treat it as an extremely profitable business. They hope to capture an asteroid and bring it in orbit around the moon soon enough for future astronauts to visit it and collect samples by as early as 2025. “The material in asteroids could be used in developing the space structures and in generating the rocket fuel that will be required to explore and colonize our solar system in the twenty-first century,” says NASA.