I think the biggest opportunity of space is that it contains lots of plentiful and valuable resources.
To understand why space provides a key source of resources you need to understand how the earth formed. When the earth was still a ball of mostly molten magma much of the heavier valuable elements like gold sank to the center of the planet – lost forever.
Asteroids and small moons that didn’t go through this molten stage of creation have all these heavier elements much easier to access near their surface. Indeed, it’s estimated that some moderate sized asteroids contain trillions of dollars worth of resources each and there are currently 10,000 near earth asteroids, and millions more further away that have been mapped and tracked. At current market prices it might be fair to estimate the value of near earth asteroids in 10’s or 100’s of trillions and the value between Mars and Jupiter to be in the billions of trillions.
If there’s one financially unquestionable argument for having a space program it is gaining access to these asteroid resources. Solving the engineering problems to mine and bring these resource back to earth could turn a billion dollar investment into a trillion dollar return.
It’s not a wishy washy type of return either like “We invented Tang” type that NASA can brag about.
We have not studied many asteroids for minerals but one that we have studied is called 2062-Aten. This 900m diameter asteroid contains $8 trillion in nickel and iron, $6 trillion in cobalt, and $6 trillion in platinum.
Canada’s investment in space leaves a lot to be desired. I believe that Canada’s role as a leader in resource extraction and mining can only be maintained if we extend it to outer space. Otherwise, the company that captures and mines the first big asteroid laced with gold and platinum could crash the commodity prices and create a lot of pressure for Canadian mining companies.
It’s unfortunate that Canada just doesn’t have the capability to work on this. It’s also unfortunate that even if I wanted to I couldn’t start a company to tackle this problem myself.