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Asteroid Worth $195B to Swing By Earth on February 15

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[ Science]

On February 15 an asteroid named 2012 DA14 will pass very close to the Earth. It will swing within just 17,200 miles of the planet’s surface, which is well within the orbit of the man-made geosynchronous satellites that orbit the Earth. By coming within just one-thirteenth the distance from the Earth to the moon, the asteroid will set a record for close approach by an object of its size.

This week Deep Space Industries (DSI), a company that wants to develop the technology to mine asteroids, made the somewhat melancholic estimate that DA14 could contain metals and propellant worth as much as $195 billion. Since the asteroid will fly by the Earth traveling at 17,400 miles per hour, however, it isn’t practical to mine.

“While this week’s visitor isn’t going the right way for us to harvest it, there will be others that are, and we want to be ready when they arrive,” said Rick Tumlinson, Chairman of DSI. “Even with conservative estimates of the potential value of any given asteroid, if we begin to utilize them in space they are all the equivalent of a space oasis for refueling and resupply.”

NASA has estimated that DA14 is only about 150 feet across, but DSI believes that is still big enough to be worth billions. DSI “experts” estimate that if 10% of the asteroid were made of minable metals, they could be worth $130 billion. If another 5% of the asteroid could be mined for water, it could be used as $65 billion worth of rocket fuel in space.

DSI is hoping to begin space mining around the year 2020. In the meantime, the company will be sending “FireFly” probes to examine asteroids, and later “DragonFly” probes that will take samples of the asteroid.

NASA will also be sending probes to investigate asteroids before 2020. In 2016, the agency will launch the OSIRIS-REx probe, which will visit the Earth-threatening asteroid 1999 RQ36.

Asteroid Worth $195B to Swing By Earth on February 15
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  • thomas

    And this still wouldn’t cover President Obama’s budget deficit this year!

  • DON LARSON

    WHY DONT THEY PUT A CAMERA AND A TRACKING DEVICE ON IT WHEN IT COMES BY. THEY WOULD NOT HAVE TO PAY FOR ROCKET FUEL TO SEND THE CAMERA INTO THE DEEP SPACE.

    • thomas lee

      If some people I know ,had it their way, they’d let it or part of it come crashing down on us ,just so they can get the $195 Billion of Platinum and other strategic metals.

      • David

        It would take the same amount of energy to just catch this rock as it would to put a camera in the exact same parallel orbit. Yes I know it is much harder but all you bright kids, please study engineering. Yes I know math is hard. Lets compare. With a liberal arts degree you might feel GREAT about woman’s studies and have grand thoughts but with an engineering degree you can actually do something useful. Don’t forget to study children. We need you!

        • RottenApple

          Studying Math, Science, and Engineering is great, but there are more chicks in the liberal arts classes. Just sayin’ …

        • weaselspleen

          Yeah, I guess math is kind of hard.

          Ek= mv^2/2
          This is a newtonian equation, that’s ok since the velocity in this case is a tiny fraction of c.

          Velocity from this article is 17,400mph, or or about 7800 meters/second. The estimated mass per NASA is 190,000 metric tons, or 190,000,000 kg. So the kinetic energy of this asteroid would be 11,559,600,000,000,000.

          That’s 11 QUADRILLION JOULES.

          You could launch a hundred Saturn V rockets without coming close to this amount of energy, so I’m pretty sure you could put a camera in orbit for a whole lot less than that.

    • JG

      Why don’t you try and catch a bullet. It’s the same thing.

  • JT

    Get a Rope!

  • Marivel

    so is it going to hit us or not..i havent gotten my income tax money lol

  • david

    I wonder how much money NASA is wasting even thinking about mining, perhaps they could all get real jobs and save 1 billion ayear in tax money

    • James

      If you would actually READ the article, NASA is not looking into mining the asteroids, a seperate company called DSI is.

  • David J*^*^

    If NASA stopped wasting money trying to Terraform Mars
    and used the money and available scientists to terraform
    Planet Earth here to prepare for 10-11B living off of resources
    here and also global warming, then stretching a net in space
    to sling and swing an asteroid into near space orbit to
    harvest asteroid’s mineable contents could make sense. Mining it
    while in transit to wherever makes no economical sense, nor
    does partial mining of it. What trash can do we have. Earth’s
    proximity needs to be unencumbered otherwise we could become just
    another ricochet ball on the space billiard ‘dodge’em’ table.

  • Matty P

    My great grandfather who had the largest (non government) owned meteor collection in the world would have loved to probably be apart of this hunt for it. I wish I had his skills and money to be able to search and find them.

  • Musing

    I have to wonder how this will impact the Earth’s orbit. As we start to mine asteroids and bring their minerals back, this will (albeit minimally) increase the global mass, and may – over time – cause us to move closer to or further away from the sun.

    No, I am not an astrophysicist. No, I have not done the math on this. Yes, I do understand centripetal and centrifugal forces, and how a change in mass will impact the both directly, and indirectly as a result of increased mass causing decreased velocity. No, I am not trying to scare-monger or start a massive argument. Yes, I am throwing out a hypothetical scenario and welcome logical discourse.

    • Johnny B

      The weight of as many asteroids that you can imagine would not affect the weight of plant earth in any way whatsoever. I understand your point but space material is landing on the planet everyday – the moon has been hit by an uncountable number of asteroids with no discernable efffect.

  • Brilli-the-Ant

    We should extract useful minerals & news virus or new DNA/RNA if any available on the asteroid, and make use of them for benefit of mankind – this is Yes, unanimously.
    We would love to give the asteroid something so that it can carry those out of earth, like dump a big garbage bag containing soda cans and plastics and some weapons grade radioactive mass – so that we get rid of some junks.