Asteroid mining has long been proposed as a way to source and extract precious metals and rare minerals that are rapidly running out here on Earth. Although the concept seems like science fiction, past proposals have received support from Google and James Cameron – and now NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver is seeking public and congressional support to green light the idea.
Lori Garver’s Asteroid Redirect Mission would target asteroids close to Earth’s orbit – ones that would potentially be a threat to mankind. Astronauts would then land on the asteroid and carve off a piece of it to extract valuable resources and materials.
Speaking at the Space Frontier Foundation’s NewSpace conference in San Jose, Calif., Garver cited growing public, congressional and private sector interest in identifying asteroids that would fit the bill.
“If we are saying this mission is going to help us protect the planet, maybe we should consider going to a larger asteroid so we can drive specifically the observations for larger asteroids that are actually threats to us,” Garver said. “By taking a piece of that asteroid and moving it, we might be able to get answers to some of the questions of folks who believe this [mission] is not as meaningful as we believe it is.”
The first step of the project would see NASA capture an asteroid approximately 7 to 10 meters in diameter and move it to lunar space to provide a destination for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Exploration Vehicle. This new starship is expected to carry astro-mining crews to their destinations by 2021.