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Space Science

Asteroid Resources Could Make Science Fiction Dreams and Nightmares a Reality 223

Posted by samzenpus
from the best-and-worst dept.
MarkWhittington writes "With two private companies, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, proposing to set up asteroid mining, the prospect of accessing limitless wealth beyond the Earth has caused a bit of media speculation about what that could mean. The question arises, could asteroid resources be used to create the greatest dreams — and perhaps the worst nightmares — of science fiction?"
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Asteroid Resources Could Make Science Fiction Dreams and Nightmares a Reality

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  • We have no clue (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mbone (558574)

    We tend to have a naive feeling that we understand the solar system, that it is really just like Earth, but with craters or whatever. It isn't, and we don't.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28, 2013 @11:52AM (#42715595)

      The solar system is nothing like Earth.
      For one thing, it's not a planet.

    • Re:We have no clue (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khallow (566160) on Monday January 28, 2013 @12:27PM (#42716057)

      We tend to have a naive feeling that we understand the solar system, that it is really just like Earth, but with craters or whatever. It isn't, and we don't.

      Given that the vast majority of those naive people will never ever have any impact on space activities, I really don't see the point of the observation. Instead, you should be asking what people who actually plan to do anything in space have as their understanding of space.

      Their basis is the laws of physics, which so far have shown to work just the same on Earth as in space. And they've done a lot of remarkable stuff in space that requires more than a ignorant human's understanding of space in order to perform.

      • by erroneus (253617)

        I don't know, but I think Kraft is going to have a lot of competition when they start mining cheese from the moon.

    • by JeanCroix (99825)
      I'm suddenly reminded of the Terrible Secret of Space.
    • We tend to have a naive feeling that we understand the solar system

      On average, perhaps. But I hear all the guys at NASA and ESA are fairly clued up, and any private companies that aren't are going to learn the hard way, probably long before they get out of the atmosphere.

    • Re:We have no clue (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Monday January 28, 2013 @02:00PM (#42717217) Homepage Journal

      We tend to have a naive feeling that we understand the solar system, that it is really just like Earth, but with craters or whatever. It isn't, and we don't.

      "We"?

      Why must morons project their own ignorance to everyone? It's like an opposite Dunning-Kruger effect - they find something hard to comprehend, so they assume it is equally hard for everyone, and attribute any expression of knowledge or enthusiasm as naivete.

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        Because they're morons?

        The LAST thing you learn is humility, not the first one.

    • Well, we do have a clue about some things. From TFA

      Noting the successful White House petition to build a Star Wars-style "Death Star," rejected by the administration partly for fiscal reasons, Simberg seeks to prove that the cost of a moon-sized terror weapon, while immense, would not be quite as great as the White House claimed. Then he suggests that a combination of asteroid wealth, space-based manufacturing and construction, advanced technology and perhaps an excess of megalomania on the part of future politicians could make a Death Star possible. Why anyone would want a moon-sized terror weapon capable of destroying entire planets is another question entirely, but given the flow of wealth from asteroid mining, such things are perhaps economically possible.

      We do know that won't happen. We also should have a clue that when "We'll be able to afford to build THE DEATH STAR!!!" Is the only "nightmare" raised by asteroid mining that they mention, we should ignore whatever moron wrote it.

      Then again, it's "yahoo news," and I could have seen that before I clicked on it, so shame on me for actually looking at it.

  • Summary... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ashenkase (2008188) on Monday January 28, 2013 @11:48AM (#42715525)

    Something might happen... or not.

    They completely left out the notion of a Dyson Sphere [wikipedia.org] in this horribly written "article".

  • by schneidafunk (795759) on Monday January 28, 2013 @11:49AM (#42715527)
    It's just minerals and metals. It'll be humans, not meteorites, creating anything from these resources. Stupid article, move along folks.
    • *Sorry, meant to say asteroid.
      • One of the major concerns that isn't mentioned is what happens to earth-bound mining companies and their markets when these trillions of dollars of minerals arrive?
        • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

          by magarity (164372) on Monday January 28, 2013 @12:41PM (#42716237)

          One of the major concerns that isn't mentioned is what happens to earth-bound mining companies and their markets when these trillions of dollars of minerals arrive?

          Yep; Heinlein's Future History already covered this; DeBeers and their lobbying efforts made it illegal to import moon diamonds. The same will happen to gold and platinum from asteroids. Banned for public health reasons because of all the solar radiation that's contaminating them.

        • by t4ng* (1092951)
          First they need customers that have a need for trillions of dollars worth of minerals, and the money to pay for it.
    • by CommieLib (468883)
      Exactly - this is what comes from confusing wealth with resources. WEALTH is a quantity of people's solved problems - resources are a necessary but not sufficient precondition for wealth.
  • Hello, economics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hsmith (818216) on Monday January 28, 2013 @11:51AM (#42715571)
    Now, I still think the idea of mining an asteroid is - well a long time off.

    But, the reason for doing so would be that the incentive to mine an asteroid is insanely high - for instance, supplies on earth run low and the price is through the roof, many factors of what it is today.

    Then you have the economic incentive to build a space ship and dig for that substance on another planet.

    Much like deep sea drilling for oil. If oil is $5 a barrel, there isn't much incentive to build massive platforms to drill. At $100 a barrel, the incentive is there. Investment seeks the highest rates of returns.

    If you found an asteroid that could provide every human 1000 pounds of platinum and could easily mine it - platinum isn't going to stick to $1000+ an oz, it would be insanely cheap.
    • by Urza9814 (883915) on Monday January 28, 2013 @12:03PM (#42715745)

      It's not just about the price of minerals increasing...the cost of retrieval is decreasing at the same time.

      The ship that collects these will be unmanned and probably fairly cheap...speed isn't a major concern either...really is worth it if the value of materials returned is less than the value of the fuel to get your thing in orbit. We're probably not there yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if we could come close to breaking even if we could snag a fairly large asteroid with a good composition. But of course that still means large scale use of this is quite a ways off...nobody's going to launch a commercial venture with such a high startup cost for just the promise of breaking even....I doubt this will be commercially viable until we've got a better way of getting crap into space. Could potentially use some kind of small, high power rail launcher for this though since there's no humans that need to survive the acceleration.

      • It's not just about the price of minerals increasing...the cost of retrieval is decreasing at the same time. We're probably not there yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if we could come close to breaking even if we could snag a fairly large asteroid with a good composition.

        There isn't a material known to exist in significant quantities in asteroids (let alone easily accessible to mining) that could possibly repay the cost of getting at it - even if access costs were a tenth of what they are.

        • by Jack9 (11421)

          > There isn't a material known to exist in significant quantities in asteroids (let alone easily accessible to mining) that could possibly repay the cost of getting at it

          I will respectfully disagree. There is a LOT of ice water.

        • by Gilmoure (18428)

          Depends. What's the cost of something on Earth or in orbit? With $10k/lb (2.2 kilo-hectors I think) into orbit being low end for now, it could be worth it to set up mining and manufacturing in space. There, everything is worth more so it may prove equitable to produce. Now, are there any economically feasible reasons to be up there, that would make financial sense to a banker on Earth? Probably not but bankers aren't the be-all and end-all of humanity. At least, I hope not.

    • Re:Hello, economics (Score:5, Informative)

      by History's Coming To (1059484) on Monday January 28, 2013 @12:16PM (#42715919) Journal
      Pick something cheap - really cheap, as cheap as you like. Mud, rainwater, leaves, whatever you fancy. Now put a kilo of it into Earth orbit. Doesn't matter how cheap the thing is, it still costs around $10k per kilo to get it into orbit. The point here is that whatever you mine is already out of the Earth's gravity well, so you save the best part of $10k per kilo once you've accounted for the initial missions (which pay for the following ones).

      Building a large space station (say, 100x bigger than the ISS) would cost a silly amount of money if everything was lifted from Earth into orbit, but if you can get the raw materials into place from another source then some of the basics, like water and metals, become far, far cheaper, regardless of the Earthbound costs of these materials.
      • Building a large space station (say, 100x bigger than the ISS) would cost a silly amount of money if everything was lifted from Earth into orbit, but if you can get the raw materials into place from another source then some of the basics, like water and metals, become far, far cheaper, regardless of the Earthbound costs of these materials.

        That's the theory - but given the cost of the infrastructure to convert those raw materials into a useful form... it's not at all clear that it will work out in reality.

        • by Jeng (926980)

          Yes, and once the most basic infrastructure is completed to create new items then progress will increase at a very rapid rate, just the beginning is going to be a slow process.

      • Re:Hello, economics (Score:5, Interesting)

        by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday January 28, 2013 @01:29PM (#42716813) Journal

        Building a large space station (say, 100x bigger than the ISS) would cost a silly amount of money if everything was lifted from Earth into orbit, but if you can get the raw materials into place from another source then some of the basics, like water and metals, become far, far cheaper, regardless of the Earthbound costs of these materials.

        The space shuttle threw away every single external tank (the big rust colored one) even though they were brought to the point we more or less consider 'outer space'.
        Each main tank weighed from 55,000 to 77,000 (the oldest version) and was destined to splash down somewhere unrecoverable, in the ocean.

        We could have built something 100x bigger than the ISS.
        What a waste.

        • by Bucc5062 (856482) <bucc5062@gmaiMONETl.com minus painter> on Monday January 28, 2013 @02:23PM (#42717575)

          I would hope your thought is modded up. I had similar thoughts over the many years of both the Shuttle program and ISS. My goodness, those tanks could have been lifted that last leg and been retro-fitted as living or cargo space. Even if they did one out of ten the station would be far more robust.

          Logistics would be an issue in the beginning, but imagine just one tank turned into a hydroponics farm, another manufacturing. Somewhere along the line We stopped thinking big.

          • Re:Hello, economics (Score:5, Interesting)

            by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmail. c o m> on Monday January 28, 2013 @05:19PM (#42719771) Homepage

            I would hope your thought is modded up. I had similar thoughts over the many years of both the Shuttle program and ISS. My goodness, those tanks could have been lifted that last leg and been retro-fitted as living or cargo space.

            No, both of your "thoughts" should be modded down into oblivion - because they're fantasies borne of sheer ignorance.
             
            To take a tank to orbit would require the Shuttle flying essentially empty of all other cargo. And once you've got the tanks in orbit, your problems have just begun... The ET's insulation isn't specced to survive on orbit, and it would take three to four flights (tossing away their tanks) just to put on a barrier to stop it from flaking off and becoming orbital debris. (And really, you want to remove and replace it, because it breaks down over time... so, yet more flights). Then you need some kind of robust debris protection, and thus another three to four flights (at least, and tossing their tanks away too). Now you need power, and environmental controls (five to eight flights, tossing their tanks)... And we haven't even started to consider attitude control and reboost, let alone installing anything useful inside the tank... (Oh, did I mention there's no airlock or other access? That will have to be provided too.)
             

            Even if they did one out of ten the station would be far more robust.

            Only if somehow, magically, it didn't require a dozen or more flights just to begin to turn the tank into something useful.
             

            Logistics would be an issue in the beginning, but imagine just one tank turned into a hydroponics farm, another manufacturing.

            Logistics never stops being an issue. A hydroponic farm would need steady inputs of various supplies to remain in operation. A manufacturing plant is pretty useless without raw materials, and pointless without a market...
             

            Somewhere along the line We stopped thinking big.

            No, using the tanks was examined several times in the early days... and the whole idea was eventually shelved when it became abundantly clear that it was much cheaper and easier to boost completed modules than it was to try and refit a tank on orbit.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          That was actually considered in quite a bit of detail by NASA and found that the effort needed to modify, clean, get those things positioned and filled with useful equipment to not come out ahead of just hauling stuff up there.
      • by Americano (920576)

        How do you propose we smelt, process, cast, and mold all that ore into useful forms to build a space station? I suspect the price of lifting a space station module into orbit is not the majority component of its total cost, which would include the engineering & manufacturing costs (and cost of building that manufacturing infrastructure in orbit) associated with building all those components here on earth.

        Saving the lift costs is probably not going to reduce the costs that much, because you'd have to de

        • Solar Smelters [wikia.com] to smelt and distill the various metals, then a good 3-D printer, and I think we have a working business model.
          • by Americano (920576)

            Great, we can reach high temperatures with a very precise, stationary configuration of mirrors.

            Now, how do we do that in zero gravity? (think a glob of molten steel floating around in your habitat might be a problem in space?) How do we pour molten steel into some sort of 3d printer reservoir for use? How do we keep it molten for the printing process? How do we add and combine the various reduction agents and fluxes required in smelting?

            There are immense engineering challenges around making all of this

            • OMG, you're absolutely correct! We don't [wikipedia.org] have any [wikipedia.org] experience [wikipedia.org] at all in keeping mirrors in very precise, stationary configurations in space!

              As for handling molten steel in a micro-g environment, the best I can say for your level of comprehension is Magnets, How Do They Work [youtube.com]?

              As for the printing process, we've pretty much solved [extremetech.com] that problem here on earth, and micro-g just makes it even easier.

              There are large challenges, no doubt, to making it all work and getting into production, but the key is that th
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The piece that everyone forgets about this is that while the raw mineral resources themselves have some value, they have another feature that is extremely valuable, which is that they are outside of a deep gravity well. Current cost to LEO is ~$15k depending on launch system. If you can combine resource extraction, refining, and zero-G 3D printing (which is exactly the secret sauce that DSI claims to have), then every new strut for the ISS or successor research platforms becomes very low-cost to produce.

      • by sam_nead (607057)

        "The piece that everyone forgets about this is that while the raw mineral resources themselves have some value, they have another feature that is extremely valuable, which is that they are outside of a deep gravity well."

        And so we deduce that the resources, outside of the deep gravity well, are only valuable to communities living outside the deep gravity well. Ie, nobody. There is nothing up there worth something to people _down_here_.

        I believe that this is a highly non-trivial bootstrapping problem. You

    • by grep_rocks (1182831) on Monday January 28, 2013 @01:24PM (#42716751)
      I think a better business model would be: 1) nudge near earth astroid into collision course with earth 2) submit ransom note 3) profit!
  • In a word: no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jeffmeden (135043) on Monday January 28, 2013 @11:52AM (#42715585) Homepage Journal

    Wealth based on what? Real estate, or other things that are both durable and widely used? Nope. Precious metals. But, what good is gold or platinum if everyone has a brick or two of it lying around? Some things will become more affordable (meaning the wealth of everyone will go up) because once-precious metals will find their way into products in ways that actually improve them, but overall not much will change even if we manage to start bringing home tons and tons of some metal that is only valued because it's rare.

    • Re:In a word: no (Score:5, Interesting)

      by trout007 (975317) on Monday January 28, 2013 @12:00PM (#42715697)

      The value of everything is purely subjective not just precious metals. The specific value (Price/weight) is what is high compared to other things because of many factors rarity being one of them. But you are right if tons are brought back it will lower the price. This happened many times in history during gold and silver rushes. Pretty soon the market adjusts to the new supply.

      • Re:In a word: no (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jeffmeden (135043) on Monday January 28, 2013 @12:12PM (#42715857) Homepage Journal

        The value of everything is purely subjective not just precious metals. The specific value (Price/weight) is what is high compared to other things because of many factors rarity being one of them. But you are right if tons are brought back it will lower the price. This happened many times in history during gold and silver rushes. Pretty soon the market adjusts to the new supply.

        Salt is an even more interesting story. For a large part of human history, it was more valued than gold or any other metal. Now, we sprinkle it on our roads because we don't want our hunks of iron and plastic to slide around.

    • Re:In a word: no (Score:5, Informative)

      by schneidafunk (795759) on Monday January 28, 2013 @12:01PM (#42715715)
      Gold [gold.org] and platinum [ipa-news.com] have real world uses, besides just being a scarce metal used in jewelry.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The whole idea is to find these resources and 'claim' them before someone else does, so you can keep them "in reserve" (and underport the size of the reserve) and manipulate the prices, with only some staged gradual releasees to ensure your profits.

      • The interesting thing is that, if predictions pan out, it will be difficult for any one organization to establish a monopoly (of the sort now maintained by DeBeers), with regard to any particular resource. As such, your plan won't work for long. It would be too easy for someone to go out there and find another 1000-ton asteroid filled with 1% platinum, or whatever, and no reason for them to participate in a cartel.

        Caveat: the real monopoly may be various resources required for those wanting to get out to

    • by EdZ (755139)

      Wealth based on what? Real estate

      Hell yes! The primary utility of an asteroid is that it is not on the surface of the Earth; you don't have to expend truly ludicrous amounts of energy to drag it out of a gravity well.

  • Sure there are lots of resources just floating around out there.

    Please explain a safe way to get them down here in any sort of quantity and usable form.

    **footfall**

    • by Magada (741361) on Monday January 28, 2013 @11:57AM (#42715653) Journal

      Get them down where? Why would you not leave them in orbit, build stuff there?

      • Get them down where? Why would you not leave them in orbit, build stuff there?

        You sell where demand is highest, if you have the choice. It will take time for orbit demand to become a significant percentage of what's available up there if we bring an asteroid into orbit.

    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      Sure there are lots of resources just floating around out there.

      Please explain a safe way to get them down here in any sort of quantity and usable form.

      **footfall**

      Right idea, wrong question. Getting material back down to the Earth's surface might not be the foremost goal, but getting it close enough to manipulate IS. The thing we need to be wary of is an asteroid mining operation that tries to adjust the orbit of the prospect, with the intent of bringing it close enough to mine for specific materials.

      • by dpilot (134227)

        Which brings us back to the "Death Star" mention in the article.

        As you say, the idea is to use something cheap to bring the asteroid back near Earth, where we use the expensive facilities to mine/refine it. The real weapon here is bringing the asteroid back to Earth - all the way to Earth - with slightly different aiming.

        • That's what I was thinking. Folks will need to be damn sure of the security and stability of the orbit adjusting mechanism. Otherwise, someone could use the asteroid as a weapon. Who needs an airliner when you could have an N metric ton rock hit a target at M km/s? (Not sure what the typical weight or impact velocity would be...)

          • by dpilot (134227)

            I don't think that there is a typical out there, there's everything up to Vesta. (+ or -)

            T=1/2*m*v^2

            Slingshot around a friendly nearby planet and bring it into a retrograde collision path. Much more effective.

    • by gmuslera (3436)

      Going up and down is pretty expensive, usually more of what it cost down here those minerals. But in the other hand, there are a lot of uses for them up there for them, bringing down processed goods that only can be built in orbit should be the profitable way to bring down something.

      And yes, it could make some science fiction dreams reality, like space habitats, or deeper space exploration. Regarding nightmares, we are getting fast into dystopias to worry about improbable mistakes done in space.

    • by cellocgw (617879)

      I can't resist suggesting a nice pulley arrangement. Drop a line from your geosynchronous factory to the ground, fill the bucket w/ food, or porn tapes, or whatever, then release the finished products in the other bucket. One goes down, the other goes up!

    • by Rob Riggs (6418)

      Who said it needs to be safe? Orbital bombardment. Ransom, etc. Then, all of a sudden, the world needs to get access to cheap materials in space for defense. Space economy established.

      Nobel Prize please.

  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday January 28, 2013 @11:55AM (#42715627)

    I seriously doubt even a solid gold asteroid would justify the costs to go into space, mine it, and return said gold to earth--even if it were a relatively close solid gold asteroid. And since we don't even have the technology to move an asteroid yet (just some "Well it's possible" bullshit speculation), there is no point in even considering that.

    In short, anyone investing in these asteroid mining companies is basically either trying to grab some patents or just throwing their money into the equivalent of buying swampland in Florida. You'd probably be better off investing with Bernie Madoff.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Find an ice asteroid.
      Mine ice, separate into oxygen and hydrogen using solar.
      Sell to space-faring nations as water, air and fuel.

    • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Monday January 28, 2013 @12:16PM (#42715923) Homepage Journal

      I seriously doubt even a solid gold asteroid would justify the costs to go into space, mine it, and return said gold to earth

      Nobody is talking about returning products to Earth - the whole problem is that it's too expensive to get stuff off of Earth. DSI is currently pursuing the model of 1) recovering water from asteroids and using that to refuel satellites that are already in orbit (revenue stream) and 2) mining nickel from asteroids to use in an 3D printer in space to build space infrastructure.

      And since we don't even have the technology to move an asteroid yet (just some "Well it's possible" bullshit speculation)

      We understand Newtonian physics, and we have ion engines deployed in space on deep space probes and on satellites for station keeping. There's 15 years of on-mission experience with these things.

      If we need to move an asteroid quite a distance over a long period of time, that will be done with a gravitational mass that is held in the desired orbit with ion engines and gravity between the two bodies drags the asteroid towards that mass. The expense will be in doing the first one, as we'd probably have to lift something very heavy off the Earth to bootstrap that process. But once the first asteroid is in Earth orbit for mining operations (you'd want to attach new ion engines from Earth in the near term) then the process can be done much more cheaply.

      For small objects near to us we could just attach ion engines directly. NASA has already landed a craft on an asteroid, so the rest is just a matter of working out the system to fire the right engine at the right time. This doesn't scale very well, but for first efforts it might be worthwhile. Heck, if it were very very close and in a very similar orbit, we could even use chemical rockets.

      We do have the technology - certainly not much experience or engineering best practices yet - but that's why it's a nascent industry, not an established one. Just because it hasn't been done yet, it doesn't follow that we can't do it yet.

      • You're missing the fact that there's no infrastructure and minimal investment up in orbit. Since it can't be immediately used in orbit, there's a fair chance that they'll have to hedge some of their costs by selling whatever is even partially worth it on Earth. Even if only 10% of it gets sold, that's an enormous amount of money to then reinvest into the necessary infrastructure.
        • Did you see the part where their revenue stream is water mined from the asteroid and sold to the satellite operators, who pay > $10K/k for propellant to orbit now?

          • So the infrastructure for in-orbit refuelling is already there? Barring a few experiments, it's not. They'll still need further investment before they have an income stream.
        • by MightyYar (622222)

          Satellites are a pretty good chunk of infrastructure. If you could refuel them for a reasonable cost, that seems like a good start. Add services such as on-station repair gradually. Once you have sustainable "gas stations" up there, NASA (hell, everyone) could start launching lighter loads. Once that happens, access to space becomes more cost-effective. More cost-effective access to space leads to more exploitation of space. That creates more customers and demand for more resources.

    • People will pay $10k for a kilo of ANYTHING if they're in orbit and they need it.
    • by dpilot (134227) on Monday January 28, 2013 @12:33PM (#42716135) Homepage Journal

      > And since we don't even have the technology to move an asteroid yet

      Yet it's essential that we develop that technology. The Earth has been hit before - and odds are that it is going to be hit again, it's just a matter of time. It's a simple matter of long-term self-preservation that we need to be able to adjust asteroid orbits. Asteroid mining is an excellent idea, because it lets us learn those techniques - and it may defray some of the costs.

      It doesn't stop at precious metals, either. Even if SpaceX hits its target launch costs of $150/lb, that means that a ton of anything we bring back to Earth orbit has a starting value of $300,000. (Today the numbers are closer to 10X that.) Even if it's "worthless rock", others could call it "radiation shielding" or "thermal mass" and it becomes valuable. Given an adequate supply of focused solar energy, I suspect just about anything can be refined, in orbit.

      • by Gilmoure (18428)

        /Thurston Howell III voice: Yes, but what is the impact on this quarter's profits? I need to make sure my bonus performance experiences year-on-year increases. /Thurston Howell III voice

        • by i.r.id10t (595143)

          makes me wonder how many here aren't old enough to know about Thurston...

          But on that note, Ginger or Mary Anne?

          • by Gilmoure (18428)

            D'oh! Just reached Old Fart stage by referencing something I thought everyone knew about.

            *sigh*

            I'll hang up my 'puters, head home, put in a lawn and start yelling.

          • by Gilmoure (18428)

            Oh, Mary Anne of course. Tré sexy farm girl for teh wins!

  • by tippe (1136385) on Monday January 28, 2013 @12:01PM (#42715721)

    ... but I've duly made a mental note to never accept a mission to fix the communication gear on one of their mining ships after it suddenly stops all transmissions with Earth... I've already got enough "training" on that subject to know that things never turn out well.

  • Only heads won't explode quite like that from sudden decompression.
  • Someone returning so much of a valuable mineral or metal that it completely destabilizes the economy.

    Someone using say a mass driver to return a large asteroid to Earth orbit, screwing up their calculations and either disrupting satellites or worse crashing it into the planet.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28, 2013 @12:15PM (#42715911)

    TFA manages to miss reality with almost every sentence, but somehow has just enough truth behind it to provoke useful conversation.

    NO we are not going to mine asteroids with the intention of bringing resources back down here in significant quantities. Not anytime soon anyway.
    ALTHOUGH if an asteroid really is worth 20trillion as stated in TFA (doubtful) then maybe it would be worth it.
    YES, asteroid resources could and probably will be used to build spacecraft and maybe habitats but
    NO, NASA are not working on warp drive and interstellar travel is not just around the corner.
    NO, nobody is going to build a moon-sized planet-killing Death Star. That's fucking stupid in more ways that I care to enumerate but
    YES, once asteroid-moving becomes established tech in the realm of private companies / individuals then the chances of somebody accidentally or deliberately dropping a big rock on a city goes up. That is something to be concerned about.

    TFA fail.

  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Monday January 28, 2013 @12:31PM (#42716117)

    NASA's Near Earth Object Program's website, quoting the 1990s-era book "Mining the Sky," suggests that there is in the asteroid belt alone enough wealth to provide everyone on Earth $100 billion.

    Except that, you know, if gold were as abundent as steel it would also be $0.06/pound scrap value so that's not actually true. So you go bring back a bunch of iridium, it's not worth thousands of dollars per pound anymore either. One asteroid alone could hold enough of a rare material to up the worlwide supply by 10x or 100x or who knows. That would single handedly crash the market before the company could even get a chance to sell it. So then they'd have to be a big, evil monopoly and artificially slow down the flow of supply like oil or Nintnedo Wiis so the price stays high and everyone hates that.

  • The economics (or lack thereof) of putting stuff into orbit are well known.

    What about the cost of bringing large amounts of cheap, heavy material back DOWN the gravity well?

    I have a feeling that it won't be economical enough to do for something like thousands (or millions) of tons of pig iron.

  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Monday January 28, 2013 @12:40PM (#42716227)
    Don't bother to RTFA. I did it for you. Complete waste of time. Some no-name blogger, who just rambles on for a few paragraphs about making trillions of dollars from asteroid mining, to get hits on his ads. He's had other equally useless articles linked here.
  • mega lolz (Score:4, Informative)

    by slashmydots (2189826) on Monday January 28, 2013 @12:44PM (#42716277)
    So guess who invested in one of the major companies. Microsoft and Google high ranking billionaire personnelle, James Cameron, and Ross Perot Jr. That's quite the mix, lol. All they need is a rapper and Bonno and they've basically got the justice league of weird billionaires investing in crazy stuff.
  • I always wondered if there are alloys that could be made in microgravity that simply are not feasable to produce on earth due to the weight and density differences of the source metals.

    Maybe that should be the first focus, what materials can be made in space that cannot be made on Earth, which asteroid supplies the most of said materials.

  • I don't even need to RTFA. I've been following this concept for 30 years before these companies finally decided to talk about it. The Trillions of dollars of materials are not worth Trillions of dollars on Earth... this is their value in orbit based on present day LEO launch values, which run upwards of $1K/lb.

    While it is possible that there may someday be a market on the Earth from some space produced material... I'll lay odds that it will be in the form of some manufactured good/material produced in Zer

  • My question is why are they focusing on M-Type instead of C-Type asteroids?

    Sure metal is a useful building material, but the world's energy demand is far outstripping the supply.

    Bringing back a couple of carbonaceous asteroids would very likely satisfy most of our global energy requirements for the foreseeable future.

  • Why not just change the asteroid's trajectory and send it straight down to Earth? It'd be easier to get the materials on Earth and the impact would likely spread it out and make it easier to gather. What could go wrong?
  • ... I'll have to dig up my old copy of GDW's Triplanetary [boardgamegeek.com] to help with navigation. Gimme a military Corsair and I'll overload an extra hex to my vector and mine those asteroids before anyone.
  • More of the same? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Evtim (1022085) on Monday January 28, 2013 @05:03PM (#42719623)

    The space mining buzzing is increasing lately. "Everyone on Earth would be a billionaire if we use the resources in the asteroid belt" claims R. Branson.

    Well Richard, are you going to tell me that if we assimilate the resources the result won't be a handful of gazzilionares that will order planets at Magratea and the rest of us would slave it "Blade runner style". You wanna tell me that magically, incredibly our socioeconomic system will disappear overnight? Provided that by definition the people who can change the system are the greatest benefactors of it, so why will they want to change it?

    A billion dollars will be pocket change? How much of it will "trickle down" to my "middle class, ever decreasing buying power because of financial frauds by greedy people" pocket, Richard? It does not matter at all how much resources we can lay our hands on. We will grow, expand, waste them even more recklessly as we do now and eventually finish them off....while all the evils of the socioeconomic system will be with us all the time. Don't fool yourself Richard. Don't try to fool me too!!

    But you know, Richard, actually your lie is the way to go from purely egoistic, survival point of view. If we want to make it to the Star Trek era [in one piece] we have to change and I don't mean Obama's change here. I mean paradigm change. I mean the simplest idea of all time - limited growth in an practically infinite Universe. Everyone has their human needs fulfilled. That's just the starting point.

    All the above is why I stopped being excited about technology news whatsoever. We made an engine that uses half the fuel? Well, we will just buy twice as many engines because they will be cheaper and besides the whole fraking world including politics, business and religion (but not art and science mind you) constantly, relentlessly screams "more people, more money, only infinite growth is possible, if we stop wasting ever more the economy will collapse, the world would burn and we will be back to the caves, we need more growth, more children or our pensions will be gone, we need more believers in the true faith, we need more, more, more, more, more.....).

    Our civilization has no redundancy, no back-up, no long-term planning at all. It is the sloppiest piece of engineering of all time.....no decent geek would ever dream of putting his/her signature on such a piece of crap! And we all live by it, die by it, are run by it! It's horrifying that we first waste the most accessible and the least replaceable resources. That is the way of our system; nothing in it that contradicts this behavior survives. We are re-active not pro-active. Our leaders never lead, they follow, adapt and mimicry.

    I will finish this rant by respectfully altering the last sentence from Richard Feinman's "addendum" to the NASA report about the Challenger disaster:

    "For a successful civilization reality must take precedence over politics, business and religion *, for Nature cannot be fooled"

    * politics, business and religion all operate without any regard of reality [they are all ideologies] and are therefore in the form they are, highly dangerous for the survival of Homo Sapiens

Philogyny recapitulates erogeny; erogeny recapitulates philogyny.

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