China is sending an asteroid-mining robot into space later this year as it sets its sights on one day mining a space rock for valuable resources.
Origin Space will launch Long March rocket in November so that it can test technologies and sequences needed to land on an asteroid and mine one.
It is hoped this will pave the way for mining asteroids of valuable resources including minerals, gold, silver and cobalt.
The rocket will be operated by China National Space Administration.
Co-founder of Origin Space, Yu Tianhong, told IEEE Spectrum: “The goal is to verify and demonstrate multiple functions such as spacecraft orbital manoeuvre, simulated small celestial body capture, intelligent spacecraft identification and control.”
Many believe space mining will prove lucrative for superpowers around the world, and even become a trillion dollar industry.
Although some scientists fear other planets and asteroids will be exploited in the way Earth has.
There has already been interest from private companies.
A study from astrophysicist Martin Elvis and philosopher Tony Milligan said that the iron extracted could last for centuries.
The paper reads: “One eighth of the iron in the asteroid belt is more than a million times greater than all of the Earth’s currently estimated iron ore reserves, and it may well suffice for centuries,” the study stated.
“Population growth and climate change are instances of unchecked exponential growth.
"The rationale for adopting the one-eighth principle so far in advance is that it may be far easier to implement in-principle restrictions at an early stage, rather than later.”