When an asteroid packed with about $5 trillion worth of platinum zoomed past Earth this month scientists were ready, capturing the space rock on radar as it sailed safely by our planet.
The asteroid 2011 UW158 missed Earth by about 1.5 million miles (2.4 million kilometers) — 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 during the flyby, researchers said. But it was close enough for NASA scientists to create a video of the asteroid from radar observations.
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. (On July 16, Planetary Resources’ Arkyd 3 Reflight spacecraft was deployed from the International Space Station to test software, control systems and avionics that could be used for asteroid hunting.)
Previous studies by Planetary Resources estimated that 2011 UW158 contains about $5.4 trillion worth of platinum, an element that is rare on Earth.