The prospect of mining asteroids is not a new one. Asteroids are known to contain large quantities of minerals that are commonly used on Earth, some of which we are running out of. A new idea, however, is that asteroid mining could be used to reach Mars.
The voyage to Mars is a 140 million miles long and could take several months each way. A trip that long, especially with a ship large enough to support humans would require significant amounts of fuel and water. Both of these are very heavy to carry through space, so this is where asteroid mining would come into play.
If the fuel needed to keep a spaceship running could be extracted from asteroids, then much less fuel could be taken at the start of the mission making the spacecraft lighter.
This would make the mission to Mars much easier. Water is also known to exist in asteroids and could be extracted.
Extracting resources from an asteroid is no easy task though, as the average asteroid travels over 72,000 kilometres per hour. Chris Lewicki, owner of the company Planetary Resources says his team will be able to start an asteroid mining company in five to 10 years though. NASA could also use the technology used by the company in the mission to Mars.
However, there is another problem in asteroid mining. In 1966, a treaty signed by the U.S. and several other countries makes it illegal to own property in space. While mining an asteroid isn’t technically owning property, it is still unclear whether asteroid mining is legal.
Asteroids are very abundant in space and the Orion spacecraft, which is intended to take the first humans to Mars, could hop from asteroid to asteroid gathering resources on the trip to Mars.