According to interstellar prospectors at Deep Space Industries (DSi) the 2012 DA14 asteroid set to pass by the Earth this Friday is holding $65 billion of recoverable water and $135 billion in metals.
The company has no plans to go after the asteroid but has indicated it wants to send initial "Firefly" probes out to Near Earth Objects (NEOs) as early as 2015.
The 2012 DA14 asteroid is measured at roughly 50 meters in diameter and is predicted to pass within 17,200 miles of Earth at 7:24pm GMT on Friday. Unfortunately, its trajectory is tilted the wrong way for enterprising space miners to get at the galactic treasure trove. That, and the lack of any actual space mining equipment.
"While this week's visitor isn't going the right way for us to harvest it, there will be others that are, and we want to be ready when they arrive," said DSi chairman Rick Tumlinson.
"If 2012 DA14 contains 5 per cent recoverable water, that alone – in space as rocket fuel – might be worth as much as $65 billion. If 10 per cent of its mass is easily recovered iron, nickel and other metals, that could be worth – in space as building material – an additional $130 billion," DSi says.
2012 DA14 will travel closer to Earth than any previously recorded asteroid and pass within the orbit of several satellites, although it won't be visible to the naked eye.
Still, the idea of going space fishing for minerals on a 50,000-tonne orbiting rock has its appeal, as launching material from Earth currently costs $10 million per tonne.
DSi says it plans to launch larger "Dragonfly" probes in 2016, followed by actual on-asteroid mining by 2020 - providing such mineral-rich asteroids happen to be forthcoming. Until then, it's back to StarCraft and Armageddon re-runs.