Valuable Rocks II

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Valuable Rocks II

You might think that asteroids are a dime a dozen. After all, astronomers have discovered more than one-and-a-quarter million of them. Most are in the asteroid belt — a wide band between Mars and Jupiter. But more than 30,000 pass close to Earth.

Yet that dime-a-dozen valuation is way off. Many asteroids contain vast amounts of metals. That makes them potential gold mines — not to mention mines of iron, nickel, cobalt, silver, platinum, and other elements.

The Near-Earth asteroids might someday be mined for those metals. They could provide resources for solar-system exploration at a lower cost than bringing them up from Earth.

A study a couple of years ago, for example, estimated the value of the asteroid 1986DA. It’s about a mile and a half wide, and 85 percent of it could be metals. It comes close to Earth, making it fairly easy to reach. And the bounty might be worth the effort. The study estimated its value at almost 12 trillion dollars — about half the annual American economy.

Bigger asteroids farther from Earth could be worth even more. NASA is scheduled to launch a mission to the metal-rich asteroid 16 Psyche later this year. The asteroid is near the outer edge of the asteroid belt, and is about 140 miles in diameter. That places its value at perhaps 10 billion trillion dollars — a one followed by 19 zeroes — a fortune awaiting future miners in the asteroid belt.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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