Trillion dollar asteroid zooms by Earth

Discovery of platinum-packed rock could lead to space mining

Trillion-Dollar Worth Asteroid Flies by Earth
An asteroid that flew by Earth earlier this month was said to contain $5 trillion (£3.2 trillion) worth of valuable metals.

When the asteroid - that was packed with platinum - zoomed past Earth, scientists were able to capture it on radar as it sailed safely by our planet.

The asteroid 2011 UW158 missed Earth by about 1.5 million miles (2.4m km) - a little more than six times the distance between the planet and the moon - during its flyby on July 19.

There was never a chance of a collision researchers said, but it was close enough for NASA scientists to create a video of the asteroid from radar observations.

Mining possibilities

The near-Earth asteroid is an intriguing candidate for mining, said representatives of the company Planetary Resources, which is hoping to begin these activities in the coming decades, reports

Previous studies by Planetary Resources estimated that 2011 UW158 contains about $5.4 trillion worth of platinum, an element that is rare on Earth.

The company aims to mine asteroid metal eventually, but the group's initial focus is on space rocks that are laden with water.

Mining these types of asteroids, which are known as carbonaceous chondrites, could open up the solar system to exploration by providing a relatively cheap and easily accessible source of spacecraft propellant, advocates say. (Water can be split into hydrogen and oxygen, the chief components of rocket fuel.)

2011 UW158 is about 2,000 feet long and 1,000 feet wide, according to observations. It won't fly by Earth again until 2108 and is not considered a potential threat to the planet, researchers said.