Let’s Talk Impact & Space Mining

Flat World Partners
5 min readFeb 1, 2024

About | Mission | Blog

As an impact investing analyst, I appreciate decision makers who consider impact during all phases of investment and economic activity. For example, does the program have strategic intent / an impact framework from the start? Is there monitoring of impact considerations during the life of the activity? What is the impact after exit? Questions like these are helpful to understand and it is from this perspective that I analyze a new field: space mining.

Space exploration has two consistent sentiments behind it. First, thoughts like Martin Luther King’s in 1967 — “If our nation can spend $20bn to put a man on the moon it can spend $1bn to put God’s children on their two feet right here on Earth.” Opposing this, but not directly disagreeing, are feelings like Buzz Aldrin’s — “Exploration is wired into our brains. If we can see the horizon, we want to know what’s beyond.” Both ideas are obviously compelling, logical, and seconded by many. However, space exploration is vastly different than space mining because space mining, the idea of extracting materials from asteroids and planets, is less about pushing boundaries of science and exploration and more, I fear, about greed.

The most interesting of cases is the asteroid 16 Psyche. 16 Psyche is an m-type asteroid, which means it appears to contain higher concentrations of metal than others, and is therefore very attractive for space mining. The asteroid orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter, has a diameter of approximately the length between San Diego to Los Angeles, and is thought of to have an embarrassment of riches. Estimates range, but it seems that most scientists estimate that the asteroid likely contains approximately $10,000-$100,000 quadrillion worth of valuable materials such as gold, nickel, and iron. For comparison, that is worth much more than all the money currently in the world and about 40,000,000 times more than Elon Musk’s fortune.

Let’s say that this value estimate was true. Theoretically, that would be enough money to make everyone in the world a billionaire many times over. However, what entities even have enough capital and resources to mine this asteroid? Only a few rich governments and a few ultra-high-net worth people would be able to foot the bill of such a project. What would happen to the world economy if these resources were brought back to Earth? I would imagine the influx of this much gold would tank the lustrous metal’s value, which would likely have worldwide ramifications. Lastly, what are the emissions here on Earth that would be associated with this endeavor to send materials and mechanisms to space to mine? Likely, quite a lot.

It is my wish for new ideas like space mining to flesh out these impact-type questions prior to even starting, and for people question companies answers to them. Otherwise, it might be too late.

Isaac Eskind, Impact Analyst

NASA has a project called “Psyche” that is focused on researching and studying this asteroid. The mission launched a rocket on October 13th 2023 and the spacecraft is set to reach the asteroid in six years time. The hope is that studying Psyche can unlock secrets of how planets form and evolve, with a focus on planet “cores.” Once the spacecraft reaches 16 Psyche, it will orbit the asteroid for around two years to gather data and photos.

Is this a nascent industry? Yes. But are there companies already thinking about space mining? Yes. Here are a few to review:

Interested in asteroids and how rich you can get from mining them? Take a look at Asterank, a website that is a scientific and economic database of over 600,000 asteroids. You can sort by name, value, estimated profit, and more.

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