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Space Businesses

Mining the Heavens: In Conversation With Planetary Resources' Chief Engineer 80

cylonlover writes "It wasn't long ago that asteroid mining was only found in the pages of science fiction. Now, with increasing interest in the commercial exploitation of space, companies are springing up to turn asteroids from things that Bruce Willis blows up into raw materials for future travellers and colonists. One such firm is Planetary Resources, which is currently winding up a Kick Starter campaign aimed at raising public awareness about asteroid mining by offering the public access to a space telescope. Gizmag visits the company's Bellevue, Washington headquarters and talks to the President and Chief Engineer, Chris Lewicki." Long, but worth the time.
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Mining the Heavens: In Conversation With Planetary Resources' Chief Engineer

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  • by Intrepid imaginaut ( 1970940 ) on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @04:37AM (#44098749)

    You've got it backwards. The unfathomable amount of raw materials and energy available in space will act as a great leveller, ushering in an age of post scarcity undreamed of. I'm not saying it's going to happen tomorrow, but it is inevitable, and while the first movers may make a lot of money in the process, ultimately when we've got deep orbit factories being fed an endless stream of ores by automated refinerminers that will hardly matter.

  • by Intrepid imaginaut ( 1970940 ) on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @05:04AM (#44098807)

    Please not, that "trickle down" economics has failed every single time it has been tried on Earth.

    Good thing I'm not proposing it then. You can't just fly up there and start building cities in space, you have to finance each step as you go progressively, and you do so by first returning raw ores, then refined ores, then basic manufactured goods, then larger manufactured goods and ultimately agricultural/medical products.This stuff is wildly expensive, beyond belief, even if you disregard the fact that the technology doesn't exist to enable your randian outposts. Do you imagine some cabal of rich guys taking over the solar system and then chortling over the rims of their bubbly glasses at the rest of us below?

    You really, really don't understand the scale of what we're talking about here.

    The asteroid Eros has more metals including precious and semi precious than ever have been or ever could be extracted from the earth's crust, tons of gold for every man, woman and child on earth, and we have a giant nuclear reactor sitting there just waiting to help us take it apart. That's just one single asteroid out of millions, and not a very big one either. An embarrasment of riches doesn't begin to cover it. Once space manufacturing takes off do you know what happens to a global economy flooded with everything? I don't, but I'm looking forward to finding out. This is what's known as a 'post scarcity society'. I suspect it will start to look like Western Europe on steroids, with a very good basic standard of living guaranteed while still allowing options for those who want to excel.

    Hell, they'll need to place restrictions on how many cars you can buy in a year just to stop the place being flooded with trash. Growth industry of the longest term future? Waste disposal.

  • by EdgePenguin ( 2646733 ) on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @07:07AM (#44099089) Homepage

    You won't achieve a post scarcity society (if such a thing is even possible...) with rich guys holding all the resource wealth. Such people have demonstrated a willingness and an ability to ensure that the rest of us see very little of the profits they make - despite the fact said profits often exploit public resources. You haven't addressed the fundamental issue - you hand over the solar system to those selected primarily by their capacity for greed and then you think they will just hand over these resources? No, they will demand trade. If space manufacturing achieves what you think it can, what can Earth possible have to offer? We would become the Somalia of the solar system. Trickle down hasn't failed because of lack of resources, it fails because the rich are simply too good at hoarding the wealth - and when they and their puppets in government try to prop up dwindling consumer spending power with credit, they cause a crisis.

    I do understand the scales involved. I'm an astronomer. Understanding things on a really big scale is kind of my job.

Forty two.