Asteroid mining might provide a lot of jobs and new sources of gold, titanium, platinum and other metals, as well as hydrogen and ammonia in the future. But it could also spell disaster for telecom satellites orbiting the Earth if it’s not managed properly. You see, some companies planning to mine the celestial objects are looking for ways to ferry them closer to home. Remember how NASA aims to take a chunk from an asteroid and drag it to the moon’s orbit using a spacecraft? Something like that, but likely on a much bigger scale. Unfortunately, asteroids have weak gravity and could yield huge amounts of debris, which might end up polluting the geosynchronous orbit. That’s where most telecom and defense satellites are stationed.
According to Casey Handmer of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and Javier Roa of the Technical University of Madrid in Spain, around five percent of debris from transplanted asteroids will end up crossing satellites’ paths. The first few asteroids will likely not cause issues, but their numbers can only grow if the industry flourishes. Big chunks of rock will be especially disastrous, as they can damage satellites severely, especially during high-speed collisions. Thankfully, at least one aspiring space miner is already thinking of solutions. Speaking to New Scientist, Meagan Crawford of Deep Space Industries said her company is planning to “bag” an asteroid before mining it, shrouding it in some kind of material that will prevent debris from escaping.