The European country Luxembourg became a world leader in satellite communication technologies in the 1980s. Now, it has set its sights on becoming the ‘silicon valley’ of asteroid mining by building a space mining empire capitalising on an industry worth trillions of pounds.
Luxembourg’s recent Space Resources Act opened a floodgate for investment, with the ministry of the economy now saying the space industry accounts for some 1.8% of the nation’s GDP, the highest ratio of any EU country. Bill Miller, CEO of US-based Deep Space Industries, which uses Luxembourg as its European headquarters told the BBC, “Along with the United States, Luxembourg has proven to be a forward-thinking country, and their success will enable private companies to conduct deep space missions.” Paul Zenners, a representative of Luxembourg’s ministry of economy, which runs the government’s SpaceResources.lu initiative said, “Since February 2016, we interacted with almost 200 companies that have contacted us.”
So what is asteroid mining?
Asteroid mining is the exploitation of raw materials from asteroids and other minor planets, including near-Earth objects. Hard rock minerals could be mined from an asteroid or a spent comet. Precious metals such as gold, silver, and platinum group metals could be transported back to Earth, whilst iron group metals and other common ones could be used for construction in space.
Minerals and other materials mined in space could either be used in space as rocket propellant or as construction materials. Additionally, these materials may also be sent back to Earth for use and sale. Currently, however, the cost of asteroid mining and material transportation are prohibiting this practice. Techniques are still being developed and potential mining sites are still being researched. The demand for asteroid mining continues to grow as the natural resources on Earth become more and more scarce.