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Space Science

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

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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  • 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: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.
  • 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.

  • Re:Summary... (Score:5, Informative)

    by timholman ( 71886 ) on Monday January 28, 2013 @12:31PM (#42716107)

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

    Not to mention the only "threat" they could think of was for someone to build a Death Star (!?) using asteroid resources. The much simpler idea of steering asteroids into re-entry trajectories over the cities of your enemies (e.g. Footfall) completely eluded the writers of the article.

  • 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.
  • Re:Hello, economics (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28, 2013 @02:25PM (#42717603)
    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.

In 1869 the waffle iron was invented for people who had wrinkled waffles.