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Asteroid Resources Could Make Science Fiction Dreams and Nightmares a Reality

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the best-and-worst dept.

Space 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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We have no clue (2, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | about 2 years ago | (#42715503)

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.

Re:We have no clue (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42715595)

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

holy fuck, were you dropped on your head as a chil (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42715737)

Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future. You are interested in the unknown... the mysterious. The unexplainable. That is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing to you, the full story of what happened on that fateful day. We are bringing you all the evidence, based only on the secret testimony, of the miserable souls, who survived this terrifying ordeal. The incidents, the places. My friend, we cannot keep this a secret any longer. Let us punish the guilty. Let us reward the innocent. My friend, can your heart stand the shocking facts of grave robbers from outer space?

Re:We have no clue (4, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:We have no clue (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42716211)

Given that the vast majority of those naive people will never ever have any impact on space activities

That's not really true. Those naive people tend to end up having a lot of influence politically and economically. They are the majority of the population after all.

So they have an impact: on how much funding ends up going to space activities.

Re:We have no clue (2)

JeanCroix (99825) | about 2 years ago | (#42716145)

I'm suddenly reminded of the Terrible Secret of Space.

Re:We have no clue (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about 2 years ago | (#42716411)

Don't worry, I'm here to protect you from it. Can you please stand next to the stairs?

Re:We have no clue (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#42716161)

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 (4, Insightful)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | about 2 years ago | (#42717217)

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.

Summary... (4, Insightful)

Ashenkase (2008188) | about 2 years ago | (#42715525)

Something might happen... or not.

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

Doesn't lose suction (4, Funny)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#42715699)

They completely left out the notion of a Dyson Sphere

I wonder if that's because the target audience might confuse it with a brand of vacuum cleaner [dyson.com] .

Re:Doesn't lose suction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42716519)

lol human society has grow super stupid. all hail our kings of the new age the corporations. we are only but something to be used in the current world we live in. We can change this hell, but we need to solve our immediate problems first.

Re:Doesn't lose suction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42716869)

Why do you think they charge so much for those carpet cleaners? Clearly they plan on scaling up a tad.

If you want to confuse me, you need to say something like, "NASA fired up the F-1's gas generator to see how the technology can be applied to the SLS." Perhaps they are going to slap 5 F-1 engines on to replace the solid boosters. 5 RP1 engines to push 5 hydrogen engines. I don't get it.

Re:Doesn't lose suction (2)

tmosley (996283) | about 2 years ago | (#42717271)

Man, what CAN'T that guy invent? Awesome vacuum cleaners, crazy fans, terminators, and giant machines powered by stars.

Re:Summary... (4, Informative)

timholman (71886) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Summary... (1)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about 2 years ago | (#42716601)

Call Larry Niven. Time to build the Ringworld.

Re:Summary... (1)

phayes (202222) | about 2 years ago | (#42717233)

What, did someone invent Scrith [everything2.com] ? Without scrith, the Ringworld is not feasable.

No (2)

schneidafunk (795759) | about 2 years ago | (#42715527)

It's just minerals and metals. It'll be humans, not meteorites, creating anything from these resources. Stupid article, move along folks.

Re:No (1)

schneidafunk (795759) | about 2 years ago | (#42715567)

*Sorry, meant to say asteroid.

Re:No (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | about 2 years ago | (#42716017)

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 (4, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:No (1)

t4ng* (1092951) | about 2 years ago | (#42716641)

First they need customers that have a need for trillions of dollars worth of minerals, and the money to pay for it.

Re:No (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42716841)

Nothing - they'll be bankrupt from the completely ludicrous notion that they can ever make any profit off of asteroid mining and returning those materials to earth.

They'll have trillions of dollars in minerals, at the expense of tens of trillions of dollars in mining and shipping and recovery equipment - sure they'll lose money on every ton they bring back, but they'll just make it up in volume!

Hello, economics (4, Insightful)

hsmith (818216) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re: Hello, economics (4, Insightful)

Urza9814 (883915) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re: Hello, economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42715887)

Why not just build a hotel on the rock and call it a day? It could have all the finest gold, silver, and platinum amenities and be spun to have 1g gravity. The weirdest part of such a construction would be the ability to see space through the "floors".

Re: Hello, economics (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 years ago | (#42716527)

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.

Re: Hello, economics (1)

Jack9 (11421) | about 2 years ago | (#42716597)

> 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.

Re: Hello, economics (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | about 2 years ago | (#42717205)

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 (5, Informative)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about 2 years ago | (#42715919)

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.

Re:Hello, economics (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 years ago | (#42716569)

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. You can go down to your local home center and pick up bar stock cheap because they're turning out hundreds and thousands of tons a day (amortizing the cost of the infrastructure across decades of output) and power and transport is cheap. Neither condition applies on orbit.

Re:Hello, economics (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#42716727)

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 (4, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 2 years ago | (#42716813)

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.

Re:Hello, economics (2)

Americano (920576) | about 2 years ago | (#42717015)

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 design, test, and build all that infrastructure to operate in zero gravity, then lift it into orbit, or come up with some way of boot-strapping it somehow from raw materials.

This isn't just "launch something, leave it up for a while, bring it back down," we're talking about industrializing zero-gravity.

Re:Hello, economics (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42715981)

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. Whoever got there first could just undercut the lowest reliable cost-to-orbit and make mad bank.

Re:Hello, economics (3, Funny)

grep_rocks (1182831) | about 2 years ago | (#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!

Re:Hello, economics (1)

Belaj (1073748) | about 2 years ago | (#42717189)

Much like deep sea drilling for oil

You just gotta watch out for the Russian water tentacles.

In a word: no (4, Insightful)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 2 years ago | (#42715585)

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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42715665)

what good is gold or platinum if everyone has a brick or two of it lying around

It'll finally be cheap enough to replace copper in all our electronics.

Re:In a word: no (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#42716089)

And our plumbing and all the shinies we put on things.

Re:In a word: no (1)

thomasw_lrd (1203850) | about 2 years ago | (#42717167)

Not to mention we could create some bad ass batteries, if my elementary science teacher knew what she was talking about.
I don't remember the formula, but something plus gold caused super long lasting batteries.

If we had these, solar and wind power might make a lot more sense in a lot more areas.

This could cause a new industrial revolution.

Re:In a word: no (4, Interesting)

trout007 (975317) | about 2 years ago | (#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 (5, Insightful)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 2 years ago | (#42715857)

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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42716119)

What about women?

Re:In a word: no (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42716279)

You can, I suppose, but I prefer my women un-salted.

Re:In a word: no (2)

trout007 (975317) | about 2 years ago | (#42716349)

Arggh! To each his own I say. I prefer me women salty.

Re:In a word: no (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | about 2 years ago | (#42717239)

Unsalted women == slipperier.

Re:In a word: no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42717321)

What about women?

Salt melts ice faster then women.

Re:In a word: no (4, Informative)

schneidafunk (795759) | about 2 years ago | (#42715715)

Gold [gold.org] and platinum [ipa-news.com] have real world uses, besides just being a scarce metal used in jewelry.

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

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42716005)

Using it to get laid is a real world use...

Re:In a word: no (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42716031)

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.

Re:In a word: no (1)

garyebickford (222422) | about 2 years ago | (#42716653)

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 the asteroids, mining them, and delivering them back to near-earth. I expect that the early players are going to work very hard to establish monopoly power by lobbying for exclusivity with the UN, and proceed with rent-seeking. The most likely argument will be the need to limit vehicle re-entry to licensed paths, and 'volunteering' to provide that traffic control for free (and optimizing for one organization's traffic). I hope that they fail in that.

Therefore I hope that an internationally-chartered body is established (perhaps descended or merged from the various national satellite tracking organizations, and/or from the national air traffic control organizations) to provide near-earth orbital traffic control, without favoritism to particular entities.

Shameless plug, which is relevant: Support the National Space Society's Kickstarter project! Our Future in Space [kickstarter.com] to produce several videos that demonstrate the opportunities and the need for space development, with award-winning production team.

Re:In a word: no (1)

EdZ (755139) | about 2 years ago | (#42716059)

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.

getting them down here is risky (1)

RichMan (8097) | about 2 years ago | (#42715607)

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**

Re:getting them down here is risky (3, Insightful)

Magada (741361) | about 2 years ago | (#42715653)

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

Re:getting them down here is risky (2)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | about 2 years ago | (#42716053)

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.

Re:getting them down here is risky (2)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 2 years ago | (#42715685)

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.

Re:getting them down here is risky (1)

dpilot (134227) | about 2 years ago | (#42715963)

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.

Re:getting them down here is risky (2)

archer, the (887288) | about 2 years ago | (#42716131)

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...)

Re:getting them down here is risky (1)

dpilot (134227) | about 2 years ago | (#42717053)

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.

Re:getting them down here is risky (2)

gmuslera (3436) | about 2 years ago | (#42715899)

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.

Re:getting them down here is risky (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about 2 years ago | (#42716969)

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!

Re:getting them down here is risky (1)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about 2 years ago | (#42717187)

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.

No, because it's still laughably expensive (2)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#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:No, because it's still laughably expensive (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42715713)

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

Re:No, because it's still laughably expensive (4, Informative)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 2 years ago | (#42715923)

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:No, because it's still laughably expensive (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | about 2 years ago | (#42716103)

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.

Re:No, because it's still laughably expensive (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 2 years ago | (#42716767)

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?

Re:No, because it's still laughably expensive (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about 2 years ago | (#42715949)

People will pay $10k for a kilo of ANYTHING if they're in orbit and they need it.

Re:No, because it's still laughably expensive (4, Interesting)

dpilot (134227) | about 2 years ago | (#42716135)

> 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.

Re:No, because it's still laughably expensive (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42717313)

http://i.imgur.com/5LMIp.jpg

Death Star (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42715655)

Death Star here we come!

Cost Prohibitive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42715701)

Since when does a bloody Yahoo News item make it onto Slashdot. Holy crow.

And limitless resources does not equal limitless wealth. Getting refinery-type infrastructure out of Earth's gravity well would be prohibitive, to say the least.

I have no idea... (5, Funny)

tippe (1136385) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Outland! (1)

DriveDog (822962) | about 2 years ago | (#42715791)

Only heads won't explode quite like that from sudden decompression.

Two potential problems (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 2 years ago | (#42715849)

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.

Re:Two potential problems (1)

vlpronj (1345627) | about 2 years ago | (#42716099)

1) DeBeers, according to some, manages the first problem with moderate discretion. Assuring certain investors that you have income into perpetuity can get you large cash investments upfront. 2) Depending on the size of the asteroid, it might not be out of line to plan for a sudden stop at the moon. Close to home, not overcrowded yet.

Not having RTFA.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42715861)

My first thought is "if we can mine asteroids and bring the materials into close orbit, then the same tech can be applied to meteoritic bombardment."

Or, in other words, "clean" WMDs. No radiation, city-scaled to planet-wide destruction.

Giving the power that wiped out the dinosaurs to a few dozen people chosen on their ability to look good on a photo (or, worse, by who their parents were) does not strike me as reassuring.

Oh well, we survived that far. I suppose we can cohabit long enough to create outworld colonies, and this is a necessary step towards interstellar travel.

Re:Not having RTFA.... (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | about 2 years ago | (#42716121)

"Clean", apart from the enormous amounts of dust and debris thrust into the upper atmosphere.

Re:Not having RTFA.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42717109)

Which you would have in any case since it is a by-product of the destruction itself. You'll be stuck with the dust till you learn how to disintegrate, I'm afraid.

Worst article in a long while (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Worst article in a long while (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42716101)

>NO, NASA are not working on warp drive and interstellar travel is not just around the corner.

Actually.. NASA is working on the WARP Drive...

Don't you read Slashdot?

Re:Worst article in a long while (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42716345)

>NO, NASA are not working on warp drive and interstellar travel is not just around the corner.

Actually.. NASA is working on the WARP Drive...

Don't you read Slashdot?

"Working on" and "will one day be able to deliver" are not equivalent concepts.

Re:Worst article in a long while (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42716695)

There is a group doing theoretical work on the alcubierre metric, and yes they have figured out some way in which it could be made more efficient to use less negative mass.

The problem is that negative mass has never been seen, and there are good reasons to believe that it doesn't exist.

Negative mass opens up all kinds of FTL and time travel scenarios in general relativity, including the sort that generate paradoxes.

Being able to refine your warp drive algorithms so that less negative mass is used is a bit like saying "Hey great! It turns out we only need one magical genie wish instead of the million wishes we used to need in the old theory!"

When did /. become a forum for bad jokes. (1)

plebeian (910665) | about 2 years ago | (#42715915)

This is not a news story. I come to /. for information an halfway intelligent discussion and after reading that article I had fewer brain cells than when I started. samzenpus shame on you...

Asteroid miners to clash with android Thatcher (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42715993)

Asteroid miners to clash with android Thatcher [thedailymash.co.uk]

UNIONISED asteroid miners will battle a robotic version of Mrs Thatcher in the 22nd century, it has been claimed.

Professor Henry Brubaker said: “As entrepreneurs explore the possibilities of space rock mining, they are simultaneously aware that one day the IUM – Intergalactic Union of Mineworkers – may become a problem.

“Mrs Thatcher’s brain will be removed from her body and cryogenically frozen until the technology exists to slot it into an android body, like a witchier version of the thing from Metropolis but with massive steel hair.

“Then she will be blasted into space to battle the socialist cyborg leader Scarg-1LL.”

Energy source? (1)

jimbodude (2445520) | about 2 years ago | (#42716069)

Isn't all of this useless without a good energy source? Rockets and mining operations don't run on wishful thinking.

what a load of crap (4, Insightful)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Unanswered question (1)

benjfowler (239527) | about 2 years ago | (#42716147)

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.

And that assumes 100% profit and 0% mining costs. (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 years ago | (#42716181)

You would need 2,333 $30,000,000,000,000 asteroids to afford an $850,000,000,000,000,000 Death Star.

Christ. Think once in awhile people! >:-(

Re:And that assumes 100% profit and 0% mining cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42716407)

And for god's sake, if you do it, patch that hole!

another wanker promoting his blog (4, Informative)

1u3hr (530656) | about 2 years ago | (#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 (3, Informative)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 2 years ago | (#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:mega lolz (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about 2 years ago | (#42716699)

The League of Extraordinarily Rich Gentlemen?

Alloy Research (2)

Polybius (743489) | about 2 years ago | (#42716451)

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.

If it's stupid and it works.... (1)

MMAfrk19BB (2029982) | about 2 years ago | (#42716461)

How about letting dumbass bloggers and media say whatever they need to in order to get VC's and other money repositories sniffing around. Let the money get interested and let the tech get developed. Think about all the goodies that came out of the Space Race, back when the US actually had a fuck to give about research and exploration, even if it was only to beat those goddamn Ruskies.

Value of Materials Is In Orbit (1)

ATestR (1060586) | about 2 years ago | (#42716803)

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 Zero G, and impossible to make on Earth. It will not be raw materials.

No, that's not it (1)

drankr (2796221) | about 2 years ago | (#42716901)

This is so clearly not about getting richer, at least not in the short term and not via asteroid mining.
Somebody out there has some sort of a vision and money to invest in it, and this is their first step.
Btw, what a waste of space that "article" is.

Why M-Type instead of C-Type? (1)

JoeDuncan (874519) | about 2 years ago | (#42717055)

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.

Asteroid Mining? (1)

asylumx (881307) | about 2 years ago | (#42717283)

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?
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