Governments should collaborate on space mining for humanity's benefit: Expert

Space mining is a reality, so the public and private sector need to collaborate, not compete, to advance humanity, a senior scientist told CNBC.

Alongside tourism, mining is a major hot-button area of research in the multi-billion dollar space industry.

Asteroids are rich with minerals that are rare on Earth. One platinum-rich 500 meter-wide asteroid could contain about 174 times the world's yearly output of the metal, and 1.5 times the known global reserves of platinum-group metals, according to U.S. firm Planetary Resources, one of the major asteroid mining players.

The hope is that asteroids near Earth can become developed into mining centers that can send refined materials, rare metals and even clean energy to Earth, Jose Cordeiro, a founding faculty and energy advisor at the Singularity University, told CNBC.

So much energy lies beyond Earth that it can help resolve Earthly issues, such as climate change, water and food security, he added.

The Arkyd 100 (A100) small satellite used by Planetary Resources to gather compositional data of asteroids during prospecting missions.
Planetary Resources

But with any new frontier lies the thorny issue of regulation.

"We shouldn't think about countries when talking about the universe, we should be talking about planets. Thinking just about the U.S.A, Russia or China is not the way to go, we have to think about humanity and its continuation outside Earth," Cordeiro explained.

Interplanetary travel is important for the future of humanity, just as artificial intelligence is for the human condition, he insisted.

"Going to the Moon was fundamental for humanity and a trip to Mars will do the same....We simply need more collaboration."

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This story has been updated to reflect that Jose Cordeiro is not a NASA energy advisor, but a founding faculty and energy advisor at the Singularity University at the NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley.