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Tue Aug 23 23:04:03 SAST 2016

World's first trillionaire will be spaceman

Reuters | 01 March, 2016 00:27
Asteroid mining sounds like science fiction, but much of the groundwork has already been laid, with a number of companies in various countries making plans to mine within the next 20 years. File photo
Image by: HANDOUT / REUTERS

The first trillionaire in the world is going to be the person who first mines asteroids.

That is according to world astrophysicists, some of whom are lining up to be that person. And he or she might come from Luxembourg, surprisingly.

Extraction from near-earth asteroids "isn't science fiction".

With these words, Jean-Jacques Dordain, former director-general of the European Space Agency, announced Luxembourg's entry into the space-mining race.

Dordain yesterday unveiled the country's bid to be a pioneer in a new resources sector with infinite potential. The small European duchy has a realistic chance of succeeding, too, with a good track record in building satellites.

Asteroid mining sounds like science fiction, but much of the groundwork has already been laid, with a number of companies in various countries making plans to mine within the next 20 years.

With plummeting commodities prices, one might think we don't need more minerals. But resources extracted from asteroids will be used in space itself to manufacture more space platforms, spacecraft and satellites.

Iron, cobalt and nickel are abundant in asteroids and critical components for space vehicles. Frozen ice on asteroids can generate hydrogen and oxygen for fuel.

But the greatest challenge to space mining, more so than technology, might be the absence of a legal framework.

In other words, whose asteroid is it anyway?

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