Giant mile-wide Asteroids orbiting our sun are increasingly being explored as possible space treasure troves, estimated to be worth trillions.
The idea is that asteroids will be nudged to a convenient place closer to Earth where they can be plundered for resources in high-tech asteroid mining operations.
For instance, the asteroid 3554 Amun is practically a flying goldmine with more than 30 times the amount of mental ever mined on our planet.
But imagine if this technology could be horribly exploited by a rogue nation to move asteroids to a really, really inconvenient place which would kill millions of people — like on top of Washington DC.
This is exactly what science power couple Kelly and Zach Weinersmith propose in their brand new book “Soonish - Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve And/Or Ruin Everything”.
“If asteroid mining technology were widely available, it could put a dangerous weapon in the hands of undesirable people,” they write.
“We suspect this would be a relatively low risk, given that even history’s craziest tyrants seem to care about their own lives."
The impact of such an explosion could cause a dust cloud similar to a nuclear winter which would have catastrophic consequences globally — not just in the target nation.
They add: “Even assuming you could perfectly drop an asteroid on Washington DC, the results for the planet would be hard to predict.
“Its possible a big strike would blot out the sun, cool the Earth and destroy a year of crops.
“But the fact that ‘Hey, Kim Jong-un isn’t that nuts’ is pretty cold comfort,” they concede.
Because so-called “space crime” is likely to become a real problem once outer space is commercialised, “space sheriffs” will have to be brought in too.
Dr Martin Elvis, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, told the Weinersmiths: “Eventually we’ll need a space geek squad to repair billion-dollar mining equipment in space.
“I reckon we’ll need space sheriffs and space forensic experts too because rare, valuable resources always lead to ‘extra legal’ activities."
Dr Elvis has previously warned that new space laws are desperately needed before the galactic goldrush gets underway.
The politics of space is still largely undefined, with no nation allowed to own objects in outer space but no regulations around private ownership.
Ways to make mining asteroids simple and economically viable are still being explored, with one group suggesting that NASA could build a space station inside an asteroid to act a permanent mining base.
'Soonish - Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve And/Or Ruin Everything' by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith was published by Penguin Science this month and is available to buy now.