Luxembourg Just Announced a Plan to Mine Asteroids — And It Could Be Worth Trillions

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

"The first trillionaire in the world is going to be the person who exploits the mineral content of metallic asteroids," astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson told Mic back in April 2015. If that holds true, the small European country of Luxembourg just announced it's about to get filthy rich.

On Wednesday, Luxembourg Deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider said his country plans, in tandem with Larry Page's Planetary Resources and asteroid-mining company Deep Space Industries, to pursue the mining of asteroids — the value of which have been valued at around $195 billion, depending on size and metallic content. Those metals can be anything from iron, nickel and cobalt to gold and platinum.

"Our aim is to open access to a wealth of previously unexplored mineral resources on lifeless rocks hurling through space, without damaging natural habitats," Schneider said in the statement. "We will support the long-term economic development of new, innovative activities in the space and satellite industries as a key high-tech sector for Luxembourg."

Source: Getty Images

Schneider has allegedly been devising a mining program in secret since he visited NASA's research center in 2013. But going after asteroids is nothing newOsiris-Rex, NASA's asteroid sample return mission, has been in the works for a 2016 launch for a while, creating a potential inroad to eventual interstellar mining trips. That trip, by the way, is budgeted at around $1 billion to bring back 60 grams of what it finds.

It's not exactly a cheap endeavor. One trip to mine asteroids can cost somewhere around $2.6 billion, but it's likely to pay off. Reports show one medium-sized asteroid's worth of platinum is more than the entire gross domestic product of the U.K. That's probably why President Barack Obama signed a law last year saying any space rocks a U.S. citizen brings back from space belong to that citizen to "possess, own, transport, use and sell," and why Deep Space Industries says it's pulling $2 billion annually in private investment.

Each piece of the whole is already remarkable. The president of the United States is signing interplanetary finders-keepers laws, for crying out loud. The real point here is clear: The industrial world is at a turning point.

"There are moments when the world changes," said Deep Space Industries chairman Rick Tumlinson, according to a DSI statement. "By joining the U.S. and private citizens and companies who are moving outwards into space, Luxembourg is making this time in history one of those moments. The citizens of Luxembourg should be proud."

The push to mine asteroids has been a long time coming and could have huge implications for the countries involved. It means mean not blowing up and burning down parts of our already fragile planet. It also could lead to incredible amounts of wealth that have never been accessed in the history of humanity. Good on you, Luxembourg.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Max Plenke

Max Plenke is a staff writer at Mic, where he covers breaking news, climate science, health and the future. His work has appeared in Esquire, GQ and Wallpaper. Send story tips to max@mic.com.

MORE FROM

Will Justice Anthony Kennedy retire at end of Supreme Court term? Here's what we know.

Rumors that the 80-year-old swing justice may leave the bench are fueling fear of a second Trump pick on the nation's high court.

3 states and D.C. allow same flammable building materials behind Grenfell Tower fire

The causes of London's Grenfell Tower are similar to the justifications used to waive fire regulations in the U.S.

New Jersey bill would require kids to be taught how to interact with police

Students from kindergarten through 12th grade would receive the education.

UK Parliament hit with cyberattack

Members of Parliament had difficulty accessing their emails Saturday in the wake of the attack.

Istanbul LGBT pride march banned by government for safety concerns

A right-wing nationalist group has vowed to stop the protest.

Compounds seized by US in December reportedly contained material useful in Russia probe

The Trump administration has reportedly been considering returning the New York and Maryland compounds to Russia.

Will Justice Anthony Kennedy retire at end of Supreme Court term? Here's what we know.

Rumors that the 80-year-old swing justice may leave the bench are fueling fear of a second Trump pick on the nation's high court.

3 states and D.C. allow same flammable building materials behind Grenfell Tower fire

The causes of London's Grenfell Tower are similar to the justifications used to waive fire regulations in the U.S.

New Jersey bill would require kids to be taught how to interact with police

Students from kindergarten through 12th grade would receive the education.

UK Parliament hit with cyberattack

Members of Parliament had difficulty accessing their emails Saturday in the wake of the attack.

Istanbul LGBT pride march banned by government for safety concerns

A right-wing nationalist group has vowed to stop the protest.

Compounds seized by US in December reportedly contained material useful in Russia probe

The Trump administration has reportedly been considering returning the New York and Maryland compounds to Russia.