Launch of Atlas V

Asteroid Mining Mission Overview

One of the first questions raised when discussion Asteroid Mining is:

“Is Asteroid Mining even possible? And if it is, when will all this happen?”

To answer that question we collated all completed and planned asteroid missions. The figure below shows the past and future missions relevant for Asteroid Mining. These mission all have a component of surveying an asteroid, landing (or crashing, i.e. AIDA) on it and most are planned to perform retrieval of an asteroid sample (exceptions: Near Shoemaker, Rosetta and AIDA). The plot clearly highlights the increasing focus on asteroid (mining) missions.

Government Funded Missions
Overview of Government Funded Missions to Asteroids

Traveling to and landing on an asteroid is proven technology. Furthermore, both NASA and JAXA proved retrieval of samples back to Earth was possible in their NEAR Shoemaker and Hayabusa 1 missions. These samples were small (up to 2kg) so upscaling and extraction techniques need to be looked at.

The time planned for travel to the asteroid, surveying near the asteroid (or Comet: i.e. Rosetta), touch-down time and return flight times are indicated with colored bars. In general, over time, missions become shorter and more frequent. They also become more focused  on retrieval. Lastly, overall spending on mission budgets is increasing.

The year 2018 is key year for both Hayabusa 2 and OSIRIS-Rex for asteroid surveying. Following this, the extraction technique will be tested in 2020. In 2025, if the ARM (Asteroid Redirect Mission) launches, it will be known if we can extract and transport a 20 ton boulder. This will come close to proving the technology. This ARM mission is estimated to cost 1.4 billion USD.

Please note that in this figure only the missions performed by governmental agencies are listed. Other key events, showing that the interest in asteroid Mining is growing, are listed below: 

  • September 2016: South Africa and Tanzania Mining experts announce fear for competition from asteroid platinum to local mining economies.
  • August 11th 2016: Deep Space Industries announces Mining roadmap and launch of Prospector-X in 2017.
  • June 6th 2016: Luxembourg’s government announced it will create a 200 million euro fund to attract companies seeking to mine asteroids for valuable minerals.
  • November 25th 2015: US Government announces revision of the Space Act, forming important legislation to open the door for commercial space mining activity.
  • April 17th 2015: Arkyd 3 asteroid telescope launched by Planetary Resources, backed by public funding through kick starter campaign.
  •  January 22nd 2013: Deep Space Industries commercial space mining start-up announced.
  • July 2012: Planetary Resources commercial space mining start-up announced.
  • April 15th 2010: President Barack Obama unveiled a sweeping new space vision for NASA and the United States, one that aims to send astronauts to a nearby asteroid.

On this blog is planning to highlight aspects of these missions and key events to give you a thorough overview of the feasibility of Asteroid Mining. Furthermore news and key events will be covered here.