The asteroid that is due to whizz past the Earth this week could be worth up to 195 billion dollars in metals and propellant, if it were in a different orbit, according to Deep Space Industries (DSI).
Unfortunately, the path of asteroid 2012 DA14 is tilted relative to Earth, requiring too much energy to chase it down for mining.
Sending fuel, water, and building materials into high Earth orbit costs at least 10 million dollars per ton, even using new lower-cost launch vehicles just now coming into service.
"Getting these supplies to serve communications satellites and coming crewed missions to Mars from in-space sources like asteroids is key -- if we are going to explore and settle space," said Rick Tumlinson, Chairman of DSI.
"While this week's visitor isn't going the right way for us to harvest it, there will be others that are, and we want to be ready when they arrive," he added.
Explaining about how valuable might such an asteroid be, if it were harvestable, DSI experts said, if 2012 DA14 contains 5 percent recoverable water, that alone -- in space as rocket fuel -- might be worth as much as 65 billion dollars.
If 10 dollars of its mass is easily recovered iron, nickel and other metals that could be worth -- in space as building material -- an additional 130 billion dollars, they said.
Deep Space believes there are thousands of near Earth asteroids that will be easier to chase down than this one.
It plans to send small probes called FireFlies to examine asteroids and allow comparisons with readings taken by Earth and space based telescopes.
They are to be followed by DragonFly sample return missions, to lay the groundwork for potential space mining operations in the 2020 time frame.