On July 19th, Earth has watched $5 trillion fly by in the form of a quite sizeable asteroid float not far away from our home planet. While half of the world was sleeping, scientists and, very likely, all astrophysics remained awake to watch live images of 2011 UW-158.
The asteroid discovered in October 2011, is said to hold a quantity of 90 million tone core platinum, virtually adding up to a worth of five trillion unreachable dollars. Scaled at a diameter of 600 with 1000 feet in the shape of an odd walnut, the asteroid displayed a full rotation every 37 minutes, invisible to the naked eye.
While seemingly nothing but a huge chunk of rock, it is much more valuable than the surface will trick you into thinking. Spectrometers, used to identify an element by light intensity, has discovered the insurmountable amount of precious metal within, through light reflection before it even neared Earth.
Slooh, an online observatory, has live streamed UW-158’s passing, providing images through high-end telescopes of the valuable asteroid as it flew by our planet.
However, all the precious platinum remains teasingly unobtainable as of yet, passing 30 times closer than any other planet in our solar system, which is almost within arm’s reach in astronomy terms. There are no technologies able to mine asteroids of potentially valuable metals just yet, but certain industry titans are stepping forward to the task.
Planetary Resources has officially launched their first spacecraft from the International Space Station (ISS) last week. Arkyd 3 Reflight (A3R), will test the possibilities of space mining by checking control systems, software and avionics needed for the job.
The spacecraft will undergo a 90 days long mission to see how soon it will be possible and how much will it cost for us to create an off-planet economy that may prove undeniably crucial to Earth’s exhausting resources.
Other companies, such as Deep Space Industries, have also shown interest in asteroid mining, which could be the most lucrative business existent in the future. NASA will be taking the reins on their own project in 2025, intending to bring an asteroid close enough to the Moon’s orbit in order for future astronauts to collect samples.
“Five trillion dollar baby” UW-158 will not be seen from Earth again until 2108 and it’s not claimed to pose any destructive threat to our planet. It’s only a harmless mass of precious, valuable platinum that could inspire future economic development. So, quite significant to our future.
Image source: zeenews.india.com