Astronomical Prospecting: A Necessary Precursor to Asteorid Mining

Dr. Martin Elvis

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, USA, melvis@cfa.harvard.edu

 

Ore-bearing, i.e. potentially profitable, asteroids are rare, roughly 1 in 660, or 1 in 66 if low delta-v asteroids are preselected. Prospecting for ore-bearing asteroids will be a multi-step process, as for mineral resources on Earth. Even at 1 in 66, roughly 100 asteroids must be sampled to find at least one ore-bearing one, if a 5% chance of finding none is accepted. Even at moderate “NewSpace” prices, the total cost of 100 interplanetary in situ asteroid prospecting probes likely becomes prohibitive. Fortunately, remote prospecting using astronomical techniques to sieve the near-Earth asteroid population can change the odds to about 1 in 4. This reduces the number of probes required by an order of magnitude. Hence professional quality astronomical prospecting is a business necessity for any asteroid mining venture. Some of the details of how to go about astronomical prospecting are discussed.

IAC-15,D4,3,10,x29349