The encounter of asteroid 2012 DA14 with Earth, along with the meteor strike in the Urals region of Russia, has highlightedNASA’s plans for missions to asteroids,according to a Feb. 15. 2013 story in NASASpaceFlight.com. In the meantime, two private companies that propose to mine asteroids have weighed in on the two separate events.
NASA is planning an asteroid sample return mission, named OSIRIS-REX, to launch in 2016, visit a carbonaceous asteroid named 1999 RQ36, and then return with a sample in 2023. At the same time, NASA is still officially committed to President Obama’s mandate to send a crewed expedition to an Earth approaching asteroid in 2025. How that will happen is still not clear. Right now the space agency is looking at a deep space station to be located at the Earth/moon Lagrange 2 point which would be a jumping off point, not only for asteroid missions, but also expeditions to the lunar surface.
In the meantime, an asteroid mining company, Planetary Resources, points out that its developing technology of capturing an asteroid and taking it to an orbit where it could be mined could also be used to divert an asteroid should it be headed to Earth to wreck destruction.
The other asteroid mining company. Deep Space Industries, claims that 2012 DA14 has $195 billion in resources, should it be mined. This evaluation is disputed by Forbes Magazine, which points out that the value of any mineral resource is the value of the minerals minus the cost of getting at them, which in the case of any asteroid would be considerable.
Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker and Other Stories. Mark has written for the Washington Post, the LA Times, USA Today, the Houston Chronicle, and other venues.