Asteroid mining will happen sooner than you think

The next gold rush won't be in the hills of California. It'll be in space. There's gold in them thar skies!

Michio Kaku: When I was researching my book The Future of Humanity I came across a comment made by Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson made the biggest gamble of his life buying the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon. Napoleon was fighting the British he needed hard cash immediately. He had Louisiana and that whole middle portion of the United States and so Napoleon sold it to Thomas Jefferson for a song. But Thomas Jefferson thought how long would it take to investigate what he had just purchased? He had doubled the size of the USA. Think about that. And he probably violated the Constitution in the process. Everyone forgets that. Everyone glosses over that fact, but hey when Louis and Clark went into the territories that comprised the Louisiana Purchase they found tremendous prospects for wealth and prosperity, but Thomas Jefferson wrote that it may take a thousand years, a thousand years before they could then begin to settle the west.

Well, how long did it take? A few decades. Because what happened? Gold. Gold was discovered in California sparking the gold rush and within just a few years millions of prospectors, settlers, fortune hunters converged on California. It didn’t take a thousand years to develop that. Then the question now is, is there going to be a new gold rush in outer space? Some people think so. Some Google billionaires have created an organization, a company, Planetary Resources, that are looking into prospecting in the asteroid belt. Now, asteroids come in all shapes and sizes and we’re cataloging them now and we have already found some perspective asteroids that could be mined. One asteroid perhaps maybe 30/50 feet across brought back down either to the moon or to the planet earth could, in fact, yield billions of dollars in rewards because of the rare earths and the platinum type medals that you find inside. You see, the electronics industry is dependent upon rare earths. Where are these rare earth elements found it? Mainly in China. They’re everywhere, of course, but China has the most developed market and the Chinese in turn supply on the order of 90 percent of the rare earths.

Well, a few years ago they decided to capitalize that and raise the price. All of a sudden shockwaves, shockwaves spread around the earth because people realized that oh my God China has a stranglehold, a stranglehold on high technology. How can you build the next iPhone if you don’t have the rare earths to make the transistors and to make the delicate components of these high tech devices? So I think what’s happening here is that some people see an area for profit and that is asteroid mining. Now of course, the infrastructure for that doesn’t exist, but NASA has looked at its budget and does have a program that has been shelved temporarily to redirect an asteroid. The Asteroid Redirect Program is to send the SL ass booster rocket into outer space with the Orion capsule. It will then intercept an asteroid and bring it back to orbit around the moon. Then it can be mined as it orbits around the moon or as it’s brought back to planet Earth. And so this is now beyond the phase of science fiction. We’re no longer talking about dreaming about an asteroid redirect, we’re talking about an actual plan with the economics, with the details laid out. However, at the present time, we have to wait for NASA’s SLS rocket to mature to the point where we can intercept an asteroid.

Good news! We're on the precipice of the next great gold rush... but it won't be in the hills of California. Or anywhere on this planet. It'll be in outer space, as there are untapped rare materials in asteroids that could be used for future technologies. That's right: there's gold in them thar skies! Theoretical physicist and one of our favorite Big Thinkers, Dr. Michio Kaku, explains to us that while China might have a stranglehold on the rare minerals and metals on our planet, there's no stopping interplanetary mining. We've even got an actual plan with actual economics already in place... we just have to wait until NASA's SLS rocket technology fully develops. Michio Kaku's latest book is the awesome The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond Earth .

Greta Thunberg, climate change activist, wins Time Person of the Year

Going from a solitary teenage protester in front of the Swedish parliament to a global icon in little more than a year certainly merits the distinction.

MICHAEL CAMPANELLA/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist, has been named Time's Person of the Year.
  • The award is given to "the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse."
  • Considering the magnitude of directly inspired protest movements and real-world impacts she has had, the award seems to be merited, although not everybody is pleased about this.
Keep reading Show less

The Sooner You Expose A Baby To A Second Language, The Smarter They’ll Be

Just hearing two languages helps babies develop cognitive skills before they even speak. Here's how - and how you can help them develop those skills.

Personal Growth

A new study shows that babies raised in bilingual environments develop core cognitive skills like decision-making and problem-solving -- before they even speak.

Keep reading Show less

Mars 2020 will hunt for 'microfossils', signs of ancient alien life

The Jerezo crater — where Mars 2020 is set to land — could be a good place to find signs of past life on Mars.

NASA
Surprising Science
  • The Jerezo crater is likely home to hydrated silica, a material which on Earth is especially good at preserving signs of life.
  • Mars 2020 is set to land on the planet crater in February 2021. NASA's Curiosity rover is currently the only rover operating on Mars.
  • The discovery of past life on Mars would be revolutionary, at least in science and philosophy.
Keep reading Show less