NASA is "taking the first steps" on the path to space mining as asteroids are "an extraordinary source of minerals." For example, Titan, Saturn's largest moon, has the largest source of hydrocarbons in the solar system, according to the director of the space agency's Science Program, Adriana Ocampo.
The planetary geologist affirmed that exploring "is something innate of the human being", and that this need to always go further has led the species, today, to "be able to leave our cradle, planet Earth, to truly be a interplanetary species that can go beyond the Moon ”.
“We can go to the red planet, Mars, and we have within the program that I manage –which is called New Frontiers– New Horizons, the mission that went to Pluto; Juno, who went to Jupiter; and Osiris Rex (launched in September 2016), which is very interesting ”, the researcher listed.
"And the asteroid mining sector watches very closely, because (Osiris Rex) is going to Bennu (about 500 meters in diameter) to collect a sample and return to Earth in 2023," he continued.
"So, we are taking the first steps and the human being is always looking for a way to make it viable, and eventually commercialize what is potentially in the future: that it will be possible to do space mining, asteroids", predicted the scientist.
Ocampo argued that “asteroids are extraordinary, they are an incredible source of minerals. And not only asteroids: Saturn's largest moon, Titan, has the largest source in the entire solar system that we have discovered so far of hydrocarbons, "he continued, exclaiming:" It's incredible, isn't it? Petroleum. We do not know if it is of biological origin, but we want to continue investigating, although not so far, and there are ways to create it without it being biological, "said Ocampo.
Along these lines, the scientist stated, for example, that "Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, has 100 times more water than our planet, and it is an element that is going to be increasingly important."
As he assured, all these efforts have the support of the private sector, a point that NASA wants to deepen even more.
"We want there to be more cooperation from the private sector in space exploration, even many of them are being supported not only technically, in every aspect," he said, and gave the examples of the companies SpaceX and Blue Origin.
The latter was founded in 2000 by Jeff Bezos, also founder of Amazon and owner of the American newspaper The Washington Post, for aerospace transport with suborbital and orbital flights, and reusable rockets with controlled descent.
Meanwhile, SpaceX was created by entrepreneur Elon Musk, also the founder of the electric car factory Tesla Motors.
"SpaceX has accelerated the date to ship (the reusable spacecraft)‘ Dragon ’, and we are advising them technically and financially a lot so that they are successful," Ocampo said.
The interest of the space agency for these private companies arose after reaching the conclusion that the shuttle fleet had fulfilled its function, and needed to develop "a more powerful system to be able to travel to interplanetary systems," explained the scientist.
"In the same effort, NASA always wants to be making cutting edge technologies and not having to do such repetitive mechanisms, that the private sector can learn very well how to do them and thus amplify opportunities," he added.