China Joins Asteroid Mining Race; to Build Civilian and Military Bases on Asteroids
China plans "to do a Luxembourg" with its decision to follow the Grand Duchy into the multi-trillion dollar business of mining near Earth asteroids.
China's belated entry into this very lucrative future industry expected to be the world's richest in the 22nd century was affirmed with its decision to build a base on an asteroid "in the near future."
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China's military-led space program plans to land a robot spacecraft on an asteroid and mine the rock for precious metals like palladium and platinum, among others, said Ye Peijian, Chief Commander and Chief Designer of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program.
"In the near future, we will study ways to send robots or astronauts to mine suitable asteroids and transport the resources back to Earth," said Peijian.
He said China might conduct one exploration mission between 2020 and 2025. Asteroids selected by China will also serve as bases for interstellar exploration missions. These asteroids will also house military bases.
In 2013, NASA said it intends to mine asteroids but the most serious investor in this enterprise so far has been Luxembourg.
In June 2016, Luxembourg, a tiny country in the heart of Europe less than 1,000 square miles in size, invested $225 million to back research and development projects that will eventually see it dominate the multi-quadrillion dollar asteroid mining business.
Experts calculate a single asteroid can possess some $95.8 trillion in mineral wealth -- an amount larger than the GDP of all the countries in the world.
This massive wealth is expected to exist in a 100 mile wide asteroid named 241 Germania that's currently too far away to reach because it's in the asteroid belt but should be in the coming century.
One study estimated the mineral wealth in the top five most potentially profitable asteroids will yield a profit of some $10.4 trillion.
Goldman Sachs recently released a report analyzing the viability of using "asteroid-grabbing spacecraft" to extract platinum from asteroids in near Earth orbit. Proponents of space mining have estimated an asteroid the size of a football field could be worth up to $50 billion.