Business, Policy, Sustainability: How my Interest for the Commercial Space Industry Led me to an Internship with an Asteroid Mining Company

by Zephyr Benton

Zephyr Benton

Growing up in a small agricultural community in the United States, topics such as the emerging space economy are not widely discussed. Most people in the community where I live do not think about what outer space holds. I, however, was determined to use my passion for business, policy, and sustainability to reach for the stars.

During my first year at college, I had a difficult time finding myself. I went from majoring in environmental science to environmental engineering in just one academic year. So, after some pondering, I decided to major in accounting. During my first semester of accounting, a professor stated that with an accounting degree, you can work in any industry imaginable. That quote really inspired me to look at a wide variety of exciting industries. During my research, I came across an article written by an accountant about space and taxation. This article opened my mind to the possibility of working in the space industry. As I did more research, I realized that the space industry, specifically resource extraction, is at the intersection between business, policy and sustainability, and therefore combined all my interests. When I first uttered the desire to work in the space mining industry, I was met with great scepticism. I even had someone tell me that those ideas are just impractical in this area and that I should just settle for something more down to earth. However, instead of caving to pressure, I developed a drive that would lead me to some amazing opportunities.

I began to look outside my immediate surroundings to find opportunities which would enhance my professional development. This included attending space conferences, getting an internship in Washington D.C., ranking third in an international thesis competition and much more. However, the greatest accomplishment of my college career was yet to come: in February 2020, I received an assignment to reach out to a professional who is living our desired career. After some research, I discovered a company that is working on mining an asteroid for platinum to assist in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Since I have had the desire to work in the space mining industry, I decided to reach out to the CEO for an interview. Fortunately, he responded to my email and agreed to speak with me. Roughly one year after this initial meeting, I was scrolling through LinkedIn and found a post from him stating that his company was looking for Interns for the summer months of 2021. I was one of the applicants selected for this amazing internship opportunity.

During this internship, I worked in both the Business Development Department and the Policy/Law Department. In business development, I worked on a variety of tasks including crafting new methods to generate revenue, analyzing new markets for mining technology, and drafting industry reports. With the Policy/Legal Department, my duties included legal/regulatory analysis for current space mining law, legal research in space mining law, development of stakeholder strategies, and laying the basic infrastructure for sustainability initiatives.

Reflecting on the past years, I am truly amazed that space gave me the focus, passion, and drive to seize so many amazing opportunities. When working for the asteroid mining company, I had the opportunity to combine all my passions into projects that will define the course of our civilization. Moreover, I had the privilege to experience collaborating with young professionals from all over the world with a wide variety of backgrounds, working together to establish an industry that will alter the course of human history. That is why it is vital that we must significantly increase our attention toward the cosmos so we can build a better future for all humankind. 

My advice to all young professionals entering or wanting to enter this amazing industry is to just begin. Do not worry about whether you have the right profile. The space industry is rapidly growing and is looking for people of diverse backgrounds to tackle the complex challenges of space. Now is the time for transformational leaders to use the opportunities made possible through space to stand up to seemingly impossible challenges such as tackling the climate crisis. For the benefit of future generations, we need to utilize the scientific, economic, and psychological opportunities that space provides for all of us. This is our generation's time to shine. Do not be afraid if people are having a hard time understanding your ideas. Know that there is a big space community covering the globe that truly understands your vision for space.

I would like to end with a quote by Norman Vincent Peale that I think perfectly encapsulates the mentality needed for the space industry. "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." 

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