Asteroid Worth $195 Billion in Recoverable Materials

A recent conversation has been developing regarding the possibility of extracting minerals from asteroids as estimates reveal captured space bodies could yield billions of dollars.

Astronomers are anxiously anticipating the passing of an asteroid known as 2012 DA14 as its orbit prepares to take the space body closer than any previously passing object since near-earth objects started being tracked over a decade ago.

While the asteroid will not break any size records given that it is roughly 150 feet in diameter, the projected orbit has the space rock coming within 17,000 miles of Earth. That is closer than the orbit of geostationary satellites that travel 24,000 miles above the surface of the Earth

Such a close pass has researchers working with Deep Space Industries, a company dedicated to trying to extract minerals from passing asteroids, to determine if accomplishing such a feat is even possible.

Preliminary estimates peg the total value of the asteroid around $200 billion in minerals and recoverable water, but getting those items from space to Earth's surface is another matter.

"According to DSI experts, if 2012 DA14 contains 5 percent recoverable water, that alone – in space as rocket fuel – might be worth as much as $65 billion. If 10 percent of its mass is easily recovered iron, nickel and other metals, that could be worth – in space as building material – an additional $130 billion," the company said in a statement.

While the figures are no more than numbers on a page, the possibilities and actions produced from such a thought are enough to entertain the idea of capturing asteroids.

"The asteroid making an extremely close pass of Earth this week could be worth up to $195 billion in metals and propellant, if it were in a different orbit," the statement added. "Unfortunately, the path of asteroid 2012 DA14 is tilted relative to Earth, requiring too much energy to chase it down for mining."