Sci-Fi Meets Reality: Could Asteroid Mining & Quantum Computing Facilitate BTC’s Next Big Boom?

KEY TAKEAWAYS 

  • The Winklevoss twins claim Elon Musk is trying to find gold in asteroids, which will impact the scarcity of gold and make BTC a better investment as the only fixed asset in the galaxy
  • Asteroid mining has tremendous profit potential, but it is still in its infancy — while NASA’s 16 Psyche mission in 2022 could be a key catalyst, it may take at least two decades before the industry prospers
  • Quantum computing may crack the encryption of BTC, but quantum-resistant algorithms could patch this vulnerability
  • Neither asteroid mining nor quantum computing is coming anytime soon, but debates over their impacts will keep the spotlight on BTC and the future of crypto

Barstool Sports founder and Internet celebrity David Portnoy recently invited Gemini exchange founders, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, to teach him about BTC.

In a video posted by Portnoy, the Winklevoss twins claimed that Elon Musk has a plan to mine gold in outer space, where precious metals such as gold and platinum may be abundant. They suggested that once Musk starts mining the billions of dollars of gold floating in asteroids around the planet, gold prices will drop, making BTC a more valuable investment. That sounds like science fiction. How realistic is it? 

Over the last decade, there has beens no shortage of endeavors to make asteroid mining a part of Earth’s economy. The total value of resources in the asteroid belt is estimated to be about $700 quintillion, enough to give the 7.6 billion people on Earth about $92 billion each, based on the current commodity price. NASA plans to launch a spacecraft in 2022 to visit 16 Psyche, a unique metal asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. Made up of nickel and metallic iron with a gold core, 16 Psyche is estimated to be worth $10,000 quadrillion, more than 70,000 times larger than the total global GDP.


Image: SPACE.com

But the gold mining method, dubbed the capture and return strategy, will be costly. According to statistics, the cost of an asteroid-mining mission is expected to be about $2.6 billion, excluding the investment in infrastructure to process the materials in the asteroid. That said, SpaceX may help bolster the hopes of asteroid miners. What used to cost the government $54,500 per kilogram of payload lifted to orbit now costs SpaceX only $2,720, a saving of almost 95%. The recent launch of the Dragon 2 capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket cost approximately $55 million, and Musk claims that his reusable rockets may fly for as little as $2 million per mission in the future.

Despite increased economic viability and potential returns of the undertaking, asteroid miners still face a host of challenges. The first asteroid mining venture, Planetary Resources, failed to find a sustainable business model and was acquired by ConsenSys in 2018. A year later, the Ethereum-focused studio shifted from asteroid mining to blockchain. Surviving players in the industry are not left unscathed. They have to chase after government contracts, develop efficient solar electric propulsion systems, and focus on satellite applications to identify mine-worthy asteroids. Given this complexity, people project that asteroid mining is at least two decades away. It remains to be seen whether the 16 Psyche mission will be as successful as it’s tipped to be, and inject more enthusiasm into the industry to accelerate the pace.

Another key advancement underway that may impact BTC is quantum computing, whose unprecedented power could jeopardize BTC’s underlying infrastructure. Currently, even the most formidable classical supercomputers have a hard time cracking certain problems. The calculations can only be achieved by brute force — one guess at a time until an answer is found. With so many possible solutions, it would take thousands of years for all the world’s supercomputers combined to find the correct answer to such highly complex calculations. The superposition property exhibited by qubits can allow supercomputers to make multiple guesses at the same time, cutting down the guessing time precipitously. Once quantum computing reaches a certain scale, the mathematical difficulty underlying most of currently used cryptography could be broken in a matter of seconds, including the BTC blockchain.

This challenge is real but not yet imminent. Industry experts project that quantum computing will not be commercially available for another 15 to 20 years. Google’s claim to quantum supremacy last year is only the first step into the blue territory of the following chart, only one creative algorithm away from valuable near-term applications, but still far away from cracking down the RSA encryption algorithm. As quantum risks approach, quantum-resistant algorithms will be developed in parallel to protect the global financial system, and the BTC community should upgrade the cryptographic algorithms accordingly.


Source: Google

The magnitude of impact that ambitious initiatives, such as quantum computing and asteroid mining, will have on BTC remains to be seen. However, one thing is certain: New technology must go through the ebb and flow of skepticism and embrace before achieving universal adoption. Until then, continued debates will unequivocally keep the spotlight on BTC and the future of crypto.