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There’s been huge buzz about Planetary Resources and their bold proposed mission to mine asteroids for "trillions" in purported mineral wealth. I offer a detailed (if general) look at this ambitious concept. How are these billionaires planning to obtain metals and fuel by mining nearby asteroids? Has the future finally arrived? Is it B.S. or not B.S.?
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Great video, thanks for the share!
I read Mining the Sky in college and while I clearly saw challenges to it, I thought there was no absolute technological limitation as to why it could not be done should cost to launch, scout and mine near earth asteroids be reduced. I can confirm many people (from a University that produces a lot of astronauts) find this concept to be laughable, which is a shame. I tried talking to one of my former professors when I was a year or so out of school about this concept (actually he was a visiting professor... a wealthy guy who is somewhat of an entrepreneur) and he said, "Who would want to do such a thing because it would cause things like the London Metal Exchange to crash." The FT even took jabs at the Planetary Resources plan (with some of the poorest cost analysis I have ever seen). At any rate, what I think they all do not understand is the confluence of factors, economics, and timing for this effort. Excited to see the next video.
Although, I have to say, it looks like you are about to give the concept a thumbs down in your embedded video still frame, ha ha.
What an exciting concept! I would like nothing better than to see young people of today getting inspired by such ideas, then making them happen. Let's get off the damn plateau!
I think that mining the materials for return to earth will not be the long term goal but it will be the way to pay for the real work of building structures in space.
+Scott GrantSmith & +Silaz Carbryck I believe the point is that we will be swimming in metals once we do 1-2 asteroids(1 sq. km apiece) per year. We could build half a dusin space elevators per year, making space<->planet transport a non-issue in a very short amount of time.
The problem, +Silaz Carbryck, is that extracting those metals on Earth causes a lot of environmental degradation and pollution. It's true, though, that it will change the economics of the countries having and/or wanting those resources.
We have vastly better things to do with gold & Platinum than rub our hands over our pathetic little coin hoards.
Unless, +David Brin, we find so much of it that we can all have our pathetic little dragon hoards! Finding a place on earth to store my pile will be the challenge if the population continues to grow, though. Personally, I'd rather leave the bulk of it in space doing something useful.
+David Brin absolutely correct. The true value of gold and platinum lies in their chemical and physical properties, not in their current relative rarity or use in ornamentation or monetary exchange.
From The Skylark of Space by E.E. "Doc" Smith (1928)

"I suppose your men are loading the platinum, Dunark."

"Yes. They're filling Number Three storeroom full."

"Good work, Seaton," DuQuesne said. "I've often wished there was some way of getting platinum out of jewelry and into laboratories and production, and your scheme will do it."
I share your opinions +David Brin and you use pretty nice comparisons. Thanks very much for sharing, you made my day!
I am keeping my shiny gold jewelry. If we start getting substantial amounts from asteroids, maybe we'll have enough for both new and wonderful technologies AND the price of shiny decorations will come down.
The smart plan would be to keep MOST of the metal and elements up there... maybe occasionally show people the chunks of platinum the size of cabbages. Manufacture a few nice (very nice) platinum based large scale catalysts to do something really useful, like fast electrolysis to make water purifiers that work in seconds.. and ship THOSE back down the hole.

Use the stuff up there to make more things like spaceships, and colonies.... while always encouraging more people to take the climb.
+Silaz Carbryck Yes and it is litterally a hundred multinational companies that has no option then to adjust to a new world and learn how to knit those robes to pull those ressources down to earth where they get the chance to use their metalexpertise and melt new iphone covers or whatnot out of it.
As to mining huge amounts of metals destroying economies, every new smelting or mining technology changes the shape of resources economies. Even new finds of substance X can change things. It never stopped humans before. Because those grabbing that new resource, even though it's value is not what it would have been, still become fabulously rich.
When you change the face of economics, typically, you change it in your favour.
And yes, of course you'd keep some of it up out of the gravity well, but not most of it. Space exploration's hunger for resources is tiny compared to the rest of humanity. You can horde goods (like South Africa did with gold etc) but people know they're horded. And the price drops anyway.
Maybe flooding the market all at once isn't the economically smartest, but the other extreme isn't either. Somewhere between a flood and a trickle, after all, there's no point selling faster than it can be used.
If we mine asteroids we get air, water, rocket fuel and metals. Combined with solar energy, industry in space could become self-sufficient.

We could build huge spaceships and not have to spend a king’s ransom to hoist the pieces up Earth’s gravity well. A manned mission to Mars would be a lot more practical if we could send a ship the size of an aircraft carrier.

Here on Earth we need more resources to continue economic growth. Dropping them down from space is a better idea than digging holes in the ground. Manufacturing goods and refining ores in space would also benefit the environment.

What’s the downside? Raw materials would lose their value become cheaper. Cheaper materials would allow us to do more with less cost.
Sure, mine all those asteroids and bring it here. Then we'll have Global Bulking, and the impending high gravity crisis as we increase the mass of the Earth ...
+Mark Adler That will solve the issue of precious metals losing their value. As they become more available they’ll have less value per weight but they’ll also weigh more.
Isn't the only country that is currently importing insane amounts of minerals China? They are certainly importing a lot of stuff from Australia. However as Australians are constantly reminded, all that could dry up if the Chinese economy slows down.

I've always figured that this sort of thing will only happen once it moves beyond the nerds who want to do it because of their space fixation and it becomes attractive to the bean counters because it makes more sense financially to obtain the stuff from space than it does to obtain it from terestrial sources.
+Silaz Carbryck The first or second metallic asteroid will put an end (again) to the idea that gold is a good, stable currency base. Never mind that the Spanish Empire's experience should have already demonstrated it.

"During the 16th century, Spain held the equivalent of US$1.5 trillion (1990 terms) in gold and silver received from New Spain. Ultimately, however, these imports diverted investment away from other forms of industry and contributed to inflation in Spain in the last decades of the 16th century: "I learnt a proverb here", said a French traveler in 1603: "Everything is dear in Spain except silver".... The wealthy preferred to invest their fortunes in public debt (juros), which were backed by these silver imports, rather than in production of manufactures and the improvement of agriculture.""
if the surface mining industry faces a series of financial reevaluations once asteroid metal is imported, so be it. Nickel or Gold mining are some of the dirtiest and most destructive industries we have.
The inherent value of gold is that of an excellent electrical conductor or as a corrosion proof coating material. Oh, and it is shiny. The "financial value" of a metal is best shown by the inclusion of Aluminium into the crown of Napoleon III (IIRC), as one of the most expensive metals available at the time. (Must have made that crown one of the more comfortable to wear, though...)
+Silaz Carbryck
Metal coins are outdated. We'd do better with Kauri shells.
Seriously, what is so sacred about a gold standard? We might fare better with a consumable quantity as monetary standard, e.g. electrical or chemically stored energy, food, or freshwater. There are advantages to an economy that incites to reinvest rather than hoard wealth.
It seems to me very likely that they could realize these profits from asteroid mining, but not by collecting minerals and then dropping them on earth. If, instead, they begin converting asteroids to solar arrays and collecting energy to transmit to the earth, costs would be much less and the benefits much more quickly applicable.
Gold, n.: A soft malleable metal relatively scarce in distribution. It is mined deep in the earth by poor men who then give it to rich men who immediately bury it back in the earth in great prisons, although gold hasn’t done anything to them.

-- Mike Harding, The Armchair Anarchist's Almanac

As far as I can see "the gold standard" is a social construct based on scarcity. If I go to a reserve bank to exchange my cash for gold I don't want to say "now what?"
Are... people really suggesting a return to the gold standard in a post about something that could increase the gold supply on earth by orders of magnitude in one swoop? You couldn't get a better material demonstration of precisely the supply problems inherent with that.
I believe future Arkyds will find extinct comets with icey interiors. But accessible extinct comets are much less likely.

A body from the Kuiper belt will have a ~30 AU aphelion and will be moving close to 44 km/s while in our neighborhood. The earth's moving 30 km/s. So, depending upon orbit direction, the body could be moving anywhere from 74 to 14 km/s with regards to earth.

If it's a short period comet fallen from Jupiter's Trojans, it would be moving around 40 km/s while in our neighborhood. Not a whole lot better than something from the Kuiper or Oort.

If a dead comet has had it's aphelion lowered by the influence of passing planets, the average temperature will be higher. Over time this average temperature would spread into the insulating mantle and the interior ices would sublimate.

So while I find it likely we'll find a dead comet with an icey interior, finding such a body easier to reach than the moon's ice is a long shot.
Yes you save money & energy by leaving it in orbit. You have a mine station to process fuel for sats. & space ships. The minerals for new ships & sats. A satellite recycling  program would work as well.
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