For Many, Mystery Over Space Missions of Big Money is at Stake
A secretive era in private space missions is dawning, ushering in a time of unknown destinations and shifting priorities. In the coming year, AstroForge, a US-based asteroid mining company, plans on launching a spaceship on a mission to a rocky object near Earth’s orbit. Although AstroForge aims to commercialize space exploration, it will not disclose its target asteroid.
This shift to covert space missions has a number of scientists and experts concerned. There is growing unease with the lack of oversight in spaceflight operations and a question of whether space exploration will continue to benefit all of humanity.
The decision to keep the destination undisclosed is a calculated move by AstroForge to protect its valuable resources. By announcing the target asteroid, AstroForge runs the risk of a competitor seizing the valuable metals for themselves. This secretive approach has become more common as commercial space exploration sees a new wave of activity, largely driven by companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
One world-famous case of this increased secrecy is the 2019 Israeli Beresheet mission’s crash landing attempt on the Moon. The crash led to an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration after it was revealed that microscopic animals were onboard, a detail that was kept secret until after the failed landing.
Complex questions around the future of commercial space missions begin to emerge as companies like AstroForge lead the charge in this potentially lucrative race for space resources. The lack of regulatory penalties in the US for deep space missions further complicates the matter.
AstroForge’s upcoming mission, “Odin,” intends to piggyback a robotic mission to the moon in 2024 and venture into deep space beyond lunar orbit. The mystery asteroid is suspected to be an M-type asteroid, believed to be rich in valuable platinum-group metals with an estimated worth in the thousands of dollars per ounce.
AstroForge’s decision on secrecy has further fueled the debate on whether asteroid miners should divulge more about their objectives. While AstroForge plans to keep its destination undisclosed, it will share images from the mission with the public. With space exploration being driven by both scientific and commercial ambitions, the balance between secrets and sharing is sure to be a topic of continued debate.