Asteroid mining to commence in 2015

It is definitely now the future.

A new venture is joining the effort to extract mineral resources on asteroids. The announcement of plans by Deep Space Industries to exploit the rare metals present in the space rocks turns asteroid mining into a two-horse race. The other venture, Planetary Resources, went public with its proposals last year.


      1.  …That’s probably the best decision.  Holding your breath is actually the wrong thing to do if you’re abotu to go out in vacuum without a spacesuit; the air in your lungs will expand and seriously damage your lungs (think ‘popping balloon’).

        The right thing to do is to take a few deepbreaths, hold it for a bit, then exhale as much as you can, so you have enough oxygen in your blood to function for a bit, but not enoguh gas in your lungs to make them pop.

  1. I don’t know much about asteroid mining, nobody does because it has never been attempted before.   What I do know is that 2015 is a joke and anybody who says we’re going to be doing anything close to asteroid mining in 2 years is either full of shit or completely insane. 

    It takes that long to set up a mine on Earth.  In order for that date to make any sense at all, they would have to already have all of the equipment in orbit, have site surveys under way or complete for various astroids, have already done the almost unthinkable amount of prep necessary for even considering something like this, and so on. 

    By the way, launch costs alone on this are going to be appropriately astronomical, so unless the guy you’re talking to has major corporate or government backing, it is not going to happen. 

      1. No active feelings – I missed it at the time and never bothered to catch up. Those were the Night Shift Years…

  2. I fully believe that autonomous robots asteroid prospecting, smelting, mining, and manufacturing is the next huge step for mankind.

    The article list a some costs for bringing back materials, but these are more or less startup costs. Well, they’re the first chunk of the startup costs. When you get to the point where you can manufacture your robot workforce on site, using materials onsite, solar energy onsite or nuclear fuels from locally mined rocks, well, that that point everything’s pretty much free and goes all logarithmic shaped. Near infinite free materials, energy and labor. It won’t take very long before it’s cheaper to manufacture space based assets from the asteroids than to launch them. Things like spacecraft, stations or solar power arrays beaming power to earth.But it won’t be much after that than it’s cheaper to manufacture and glide them down to Earth. Things like computers, electronics, cars, airplanes, that sort of thing.

    The bar to get to that point is so high, but once you clear it the payoff is so huge. Clearly the people who clear the bar need to be rewarded but ultimately you’re driving the means of wealth creation into a tiny number of hands. Who owns the asteroids? Those who got there first? I believe the major problem will be the political system/distribution of wealth issues. What if all labor is replaced by robots — who will buy the goods? Clearly you’re still going to need product designers for a while anyway, but apart from that what jobs will be available? Will people be denied infinite “free” goods falling from the sky because there are no jobs? It mirrors the situation of record homelessness and a record numbers of empty houses, and in a lot of ways it echos the problems of maintaing jobs in the face of cheap foreign labor. Ultimately self replicating robotics and asteroid farming could spell the end of capitalism as a workable system.

    1. “The bar to get to that point is so high, but once you clear it the payoff is so huge.”

      yeah, kind of like perpetual motion engines. reeeaaaaaalllllly hard to do, but boy, once you’ve got one, you’re golden.

    2. Making a robot in space out of raw materials is impossible with even the most leading edge and expensive modern technology.  Not hard, impossible.

      As Carl Sagan said, in order to make an apple pie from scratch, you first need to invent the universe.  Well, in order to make a robot from scratch, you need need a semiconductor fab and a crap-ton of earth only synthesized chemicals.  You can probably make a pretty 3d printed robot sculpture from scratch.  You can probably even make some very basic nuts and bolts from scratch, but every single moving bit, chip, circuit, actuator, etc requires more infrastructure than you can wrap your mind around.

      I wish these guys the best of luck, but making in robots in space is just not going to happen unless the only thing they intend to make is the hard outer shell.  Even then, they are probably better off making robust and bad ass robots on earth, eating the fuel cost, and expecting the robots to work off their cost.

      1. Impossible is a dangerous word. There is no one step that’s impossible, therefore the whole is not impossible. There are techs we need to develop. It may require a stepping stone manufacturing base on the moon. Remember, at some point robotic agility and general adaptability will exceed ours. Ask yourself if it would be impossible for a colony of, say 100 humans who didn’t need to sweat life support systems could accomplish. I think i’ll see your impossible in my lifetime.

        1. Remember, at some point robotic agility and general adaptability will exceed ours.

          This is a statement of religious faith, not of logical inevitability.  It’s not even clear what “general adaptability” means.

          I suspect that robots will be as agile and adaptable as we are right about the same time we start making robots from human flesh.  Better yet, we can just fuck and have some kids and it will be pretty  much the same thing.

          1. It is a statement of faith, or maybe expectation, but it’s based on factual extrapolations, so I don’t think ‘religious’ is fair.

            What I mean by adaptability is the ability to adapt to unfamiliar situations, both physically and mentally. Humans currently murder computers in terms of situational awareness and problem solving, but robots have some advantages in tems of being able to survive harsh conditions and being adaptability to differerent body plans/sizes.

            The problem with fuck-babies is that human slavery is both illegal and morally wrong, plus fuck babies are not well suited to asteroid mining due to the lack of air and general harsh conditions.

        2. Why on the moon? Then you’re just in another gravity well that you need to get everything in and out of. Better do it on Deimos or something.

          1. Convenience. It’s close to home. It’s generally easier to ship to from earth, and has less of a transmission delay if we need to be directing some of the activity at first. Deimos or Ceres are less conveniently situated but have smaller gravity wells and still will provide a stable base. It’s all trade offs.

        3. Nope…. 100 humans couldn’t do it either. To build a robot from scratch takes thousands of chemicals, work in thousands of factories, and tens or hundreds of thousands of humans working together. 100 humans could certainly assemble a robot, but build one from scratch? No.

          Like I said, you could fabricate a basic metal shell perhaps, but every thing else is the problem. Short of nanotech magic, you just can’t do it. You need real infrastructure in the form of thousands of companies to make anything even vaguely complex.

      2. The hard outer shell is the expensive-to-launch part. How ’bout a hybrid system where computer chips are made on earth and the heavy, hard-to-lift stuff is made in orbit?

  3. What do they think they’re going to mine? Aren’t asteroids — really pretty much the entire solar system — made out of the same stuff that the Earth is? Earth’s plate tectonics and volcanism does a pretty good job of concentrating rarer elements into economically useful lodes, but out in space it’s pretty much chunks of iron, silicon, and water, with miniscule trace elements mixed in.

    1. Not really… with asteroids you don’t have that pesky 1g depositing all the good rare stuff deep down where it’s hard to get. In fact, many asteroids have pretty high concentrations of materials you’d have thought to be spread around quite evenly in a zero-g environment… Which leads credence to the theory that at least some asteroids were parts of larger planetary bodies where gravity “sifted” the materials over a period of time and which are now exposed.
      Also “pretty much the entire solar system is made of the same stuff that the earth is” – yes, but in what proportion? For example, titanium is common as dirt on Moon’s surface. On Earth? Not so much.

  4. If you can ignore the libertarian rants he goes off on (or like that sort of thing), John Ringo’s Troy Rising novels give a pretty interesting take on asteroid mining. Advanced alien technology fills in the gaps to make it possible, but mainly it involves making a bunch of mirrors to aim at appropriate asteroids to melt them. Having artificial intelligences and faster than light communications does help a lot for aiming though.

  5. At the end of the day though, aren’t the engineers, scientists and dreamers who are behind these companies really the ones smart enough and bold enough to pull something like this off, as opposed to say folks like us who can manage to post a note on BB every once in a while?  I say more power to ’em. The Future is Absolutely Here, it’s just not evenly distributed.

  6. It will take a long time to get something viable happening. The 2015 date mentioned is for the first small launches. Followed by larger and more launches. But, no matter how long it takes, it will happen. Next step, move the refineries and factories out there, too.

  7. Well no, that’s not true at all. What happens in 2015, maybe, are asteroid flybys with OTS instrument packages the size of microwaves. That’s rather far down the list of challenges to extraterrestrial resource exploitation. Just to get everyone on the same page.

  8. Looking at the background of the people involved, I’d be inclined to write them off as either dreamers or crooks.  There’s no way they can do what they propose in the time frame proposed.

  9. The last two lines of the story assume the material is to be sent back to earth, while the miners are talking of using the stuff out there. Which is it? 

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