Planetoids may be the remains of ancient planets. They are full of valuable raw materials

Resources on Earth are limited. However, this does not mean that we are threatened by the apocalypse. The cosmic neighbourhood is full of mineral deposits, which are waiting to be extracted. For example, on the asteroid 1986 DA.

Planetoids may be the remains of ancient planets. They are full of valuable raw materials

Juan Sanchez and team analyzed the spectrum of asteroid 1986 DA, which belongs to a rare class of metal-rich near-Earth objects (NEOs). The researchers found that the surface of this particular rock is 85 percent metallic, likely containing iron, nickel, cobalt, copper, gold and platinum group metals useful in industrial applications ranging from automobiles to electronics.

With the exception of gold and copper, the mass of these metals from the 1986 DA would exceed their global reserves on Earth – in some cases by as much as an order of magnitude. Scientists have also estimated the economic value of the asteroid.

If the precious metals of the 1986 DA were mined and sold over 50 years, they would yield a profit of about $233 billion per year, which would total $11.65 trillion. It probably wouldn’t make sense to bring metals like iron, nickel and cobalt, which are common here, to Earth, but they could be used to build infrastructure in orbit and on the Moon and Mars.

Extracting raw materials from one nearby asteroid could yield billions of dollars, and there are more such objects in the asteroid belt. That’s why many experts predict that the next few decades will belong to space mining.

The era of space mining

What makes 1986 DA particularly interesting is its proximity to Earth. Most metal-rich asteroids are far out in the asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter (including 16 Psyche, discovered in 1852). The asteroid belt was once thought to be the remains of a planet, but its origin is now less certain.

Many scientists believe that Psyche may be the exposed core of a shattered planet in the process of formation. The same may be true of other, smaller, metal-rich planetoids that are debris from a protoplanetary nucleus.

If this is true, planets developing in the asteroid belt grew enough to differentiate rocky mantles and metallic cores. These in turn later underwent a series of collisions, leaving shattered remains.

We will probably never be able to observe the Earth’s core, so Psyche may be our best chance to analyze something similar. So far, however, we’ve only been able to create a rudimentary portrait of Psyche, because the asteroid is too far away to study in detail. This is why 1986 DA observations are so important. The object was likely pushed out of the asteroid belt into a near-Earth orbit in the past.

Like this post? Please share to your friends:
Mobile Pedia