The value locked away inside asteroids is enough to raise the world economic ceiling to unbelievable heights. A bill recently passed by Congress — the Asteroid Act — borrows from Adam Smith's famous dictum on how ownership is acquired: The apple becomes mine when I invest my labor in picking it.

Similarly, any company to successfully mine an asteroid can claim its resources as private property, and that has the potential to make a small number of individuals extremely wealthy. A mid-sized asteroid's worth of platinum, for example, would eclipse the entire GDP of the UK by nearly a third.

Such a scenario is not unimaginable as there are more than 10,000 near-Earth asteroids that private space companies like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries are working to assess — for both their resources and their ability to be successfully mined. 

X Prize founder and Big Think expert Peter Diamandis believes space excavation will create the first trillionaire (which my spellcheck doesn't currently recognize as a word). But it's not just the search for wealth that propels us toward asteroids:

Read more at Science.Mic.