During an episode of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “StarTalk” podcast, a cosmochemist talked about the risks involved in mining asteroids. According to the scientist, mining an asteroid could alter its trajectory and send it crashing to Earth.

The idea of sending spacecraft to space to mine nearby or passing asteroids has gained the attention of the public after space agencies and private aerospace firms expressed their interest in taking on the venture. With the amount of precious metals and other resources that can be obtained from space rocks, mining asteroids could be the next booming industry.

Unfortunately, like other major projects, mining asteroids also has its own set of risks. Probably risk it poses is altering the asteroid’s path into a collision course with Earth.

During an episode of the Tyson’s “StarTalk” podcast titled “Cosmic Queries – Asteroids and Comets,” a follower of the show asked if it’s possible to affect the trajectory of an asteroid while mining it.

Tyson’s guest Dr. Natalie Starkey, a cosmochemist, noted that mining asteroids could have significant effects on their orbit. If companies and agencies are not careful about their mining procedures, they could unintentionally cause an asteroid impact on Earth.

Fortunately, according to Starkey, this scenario can be avoided through proper planning. She noted that space miners could focus on smaller asteroids first since these will burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere if they end up on a collision path with the planet.

“It’s a huge risk but this is why the people that are looking at doing it are probably looking at focusing on smaller asteroid or comets if they want to look at comets but it’s generally asteroid’s we’re talking about at the moment,” she said during the episode.

“Because then if they were to dislodge it onto an orbit that was then a hazardous one for our planet, then it hopefully would burn up in our atmosphere, not cause us any issue,” she added.

Aside from going for small space rocks, the scientist also said that agencies and companies could drag asteroids into a safer orbit away from Earth before mining it.

NASA Asteroid family Mars and Jupiter This artist concept catastrophic collisions between asteroids located in the belt between Mars and Jupiter and how they have formed families of objects on similar orbits around the sun. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech