Mining the Apollo and Amor Asteroids

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Science  22 Jul 1977:
Vol. 197, Issue 4301, pp. 363-366
DOI: 10.1126/science.197.4301.363-a


Earth-approaching asteroids could provide raw materials for space manufacturing. For certain asteroids the total energy per unit mass for the transfer of asteroidal resources to a manufacturing site in high Earth orbit is comparable to that for lunar materials. For logistical reasons the cost may be many times less. Optical studies suggest that these asteroids have compositions corresponding to those of carbonaceous and ordinary chondrites, with some containing large quantities of iron and nickel; others are thought to contain carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen, elements that appear to be lacking on the moon. The prospect that several new candidate asteroids will be discovered over the next few years increases the likelihood that a variety of asteroidal resource materials can be retrieved on low-energy missions.