Gold, silver, platinum and tungsten, but also metal, nickel, aluminum, titanium, hydrogen and water. Asteroids could be the closest solution to the exhaustion of these raw materials on earth: a piece of asteroid the size of a laptop can provide the same amount of platinum that is extracted daily from one of the most productive mines in the world. And in 2017 the idea of mineral exploitation of asteroids and comets does not seem so far fetched.
In November 2015 the US Government, under President Obama, approved the so-called SPACE Act, a law to regulate the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE), namely an official authorization for American citizens, including private individuals, to engage in the commercial exploration and exploitation of 'space resources'.
That said, the approval of the SPACE Act took place a few years after the 2009 founding of Planetary Resources, the first startup for the recovery of raw materials in space. Planetary Resources have been sending their probes for the study and identification of asteroids for years. Their CEO, Chris Lewicky, former Surface Mission Manager at NASA, says that many asteroids are more easily accessible than the moon. The startup has much bigger goals: several asteroids, in addition to metals, also carry water, oxygen and hydrogen in their orbit. If you consider that bringing water to the International Space Station costs approximately $50,000,000, the thought of being able to find it much closer and more accessible may be worth the investment by Planetary Resources. Not to mention the amount of propellant that is required for the return of the probes to earth, that is currently carried by the probes themselves in their outward journey, greatly increasing the weight of the probe and, therefore, the amount of propellant needed to send it in orbit. Lewicky dreams of future fueling stations in space.
The greatest explorers remembered in human history, such as Colombo, Marco Polo and Amerigo Vespucci, have opened up new lands and civilizations. And everyone has always brought back home new raw materials to be introduced into the market, opening the paths for intercontinental trade. The era of space exploration began years ago ... It is indeed time to open the interplanetary trade route.