How Much Might Asteroid 2012 DA14 Be Worth?

One mining company speculates it's in the low nine figures; astronomers think that's a stretch. There's no way to be sure, of course, but its Friday fly-by has both groups thinking about future close encounters.

What's the Latest Development?

Asteroid mining company Deep Space Industries said yesterday in a statement that 2012 DA14, scheduled to pass within less than 18,000 miles of Earth on Friday, could be worth as much as $195 million in water and minerals. However, they stressed that the amount was based on the estimated size of the rock -- 150 feet wide -- and that its true composition was not known for sure. Astronomer Michael Busch says that an infrared spectrum reading of the asteroid revealed "a stony composition, made of iron-magnesium-silicates, and minimal water and accessible metal content." He says the miners are "far too optimistic" about 2012 DA14's value.

What's the Big Idea?

Deep Space is one of two firms that have revealed their mission to mine asteroids for resources that can be used for off-Earth fueling and construction, reducing the cost and effort involved in transporting them from the planet. The company plans to start launching small robotic probes to nearby asteroids in 2015, with actual mining hopefully beginning around 2020. This week, 2012 DA14 will fly on by, but Deep Space chairman Rick Tumlinson says that when other asteroids come near, "we want to be ready when they arrive."

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