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A $20 Trillion Rock That Could Turn a Startup Into Earth’s Richest Company (mashable.com)
241 points by jpadilla_ 1613 days ago | hide | past | web | 193 comments | favorite



Does anyone know of any good hard science fiction that deals with such "first generation of space exploration" themes?

This might be way off base, but something like the future East India Company of space, where corporations end up colonizing planets and asteroids and get immensely wealthy and powerful in the process.


Accelerando, by Charles Stross (a HN'er actually!)

Features asteroid mining, expansion through the solar system in the quest to find more matter to turn into computronium, and some people becoming obscenely rich in the process.

I wouldn't describe space travel itself as the books primary focus, but it's a solid theme. Look into it before you dive into it after just reading my comment, otherwise you'll likely be confused.


And it's available free, under a CC license: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/fiction/accelera...


Also a brilliant, in my humble opinion, imagining of how we would function with accessible and 'intelligent' autonomous software agents at our beck and call. I've read tonnes of science fiction, and this book really stuck out in my head.


Not quite exactly what you asked for, but Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars (and sequels) are absolutely fantastic hard sci-fi books. By far the best books on the colonization of Mars that I've ever read.


Ugh, those books are excruciating. The protagonists are unbelievable superheroes (curing cancer and inventing a fair economic system that everyone agrees on in an afternoon, oh while colonizing another planet, and partying lots). It's not hard sci-fi because it has no basis in any reality.


The books present the development of the Martian economic system as a long struggle culminating in a year-long constitutional convention and followed by all-but-civil-war and subsequent political hostility between opposing parties, with lots of trade-offs, compromises, betrayals, deal-breaking, backstabbing, etc.


And the nice thing is that the trilogy gives you a view into the lives of multiple successive generations of space colonists. Those books were beautiful.


Yeah, the description of "Martian natives" was interesting.


There's some economic activity here: "Space family stone" (a.k.a. Rolling Stones) is chronologically a little after "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rolling_Stones_%28novel%29

Some John Wyndham: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Outward_Urge, but that's more geopolitical than economic.

Both very old, so the sci fi has a different flavour (future as projected from the 1950s, rather than from now).


There is Planetes anime where people are collecting debris in earth's orbit, and there is a fusion ship going to jupiter.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetes


C.J. Cherryh's Alliance/Union novels don't quite do first generation (Though Heavy Time and Hellburner come close), but they have a brilliant portrayal of "East India Company, in space" called the Earth Company.


The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Heinlein, explores some of the potential labor and social issues.


It's not about first-gens though, loonies have been there for a few generations (the protagonists's line marriage is a century old)


Actually some of the early Robert A. Heinlein stories such as "The Man who sold the Moon" have themes very similar to what is actually going on with this asteroid mining company.

It's been a while since I read them, but basically some rich guys with ideas for space think of various marketing schemes(smuggling in some stamps for collectors for the first trip out and so on) to finance their dream of mankind colonizing the space. As they say, baby steps, baby steps.

Very entertaining read, with some plausible science behind it for the time.


Rendezvous with Rama has a lot of back story involving early solar system exploration/settling, and the main plot is exploration of an unknown object. One of my all time favorite books, but the sequels are mediocre at best.

http://www.amazon.com/Rendezvous-Rama-Arthur-Charles-Clarke/...


I'd suggest the excellent Heart of the Comet by Gregory Benford (an astrophysicist), a story about mankind's first attempt to live on a comet, including all the hardships that come along with it and the changes which occur there and on Earth over time.


Both by Peter F Hamilton, the novel "The Nano Flower" and the last story in the "Second Chance at Eden" anthology deal with first-gen space colonization (and the latter is in the Night's Dawn universe if you enjoyed that series).


Allen Steele has the Coyote series, which covers some colonists settling on a planet. They're (at least one of them is, I forget if the others are) chapbooks, but that's okay.

There's some nice stuff about failure of important systems and the consequences of that for outbound travellers; food and shelter; exploration; law and order; and eco disaster. I enjoyed reading them. I wasn't a fan of the audiobooks.

(http://allensteele.com/)


A lot of ben bova books are about the earlier space exploration of asteriods, the moon, planets, etc.

For example the asteroid wars v1 - v4 are more first persony.


"Space Inc" is a collection of short stories about work in space. It's a loose fit for your description.

(http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/075640147X/ref=oh_details...)


Asimov: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Martian_Way.

Not exactly what you asked for, but pretty close. Deals with bringing water to Earth.

Edit: Added very brief description


this is not about first generation space exploration, but this series may explain its conclusion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gap_Cycle

this book series is without a doubt my favourite.


"Live Free or Die" by John Ringo, and the rest of the "Troy Rising" series.


Science fiction doesn't seem to touch on "first generation" all that often. From the video games perspective, in Mass Effect you're at least three generations out from first contact, which was initiated by the military, although corporations quickly started exploiting planet systems for resources and became very wealthy, improving humanity's standing in the galactic community by the time of Mass Effect. You also have Dead Space, where corporations crack planets to get at their resources. It seems to be a general theme in space science fiction that big companies mine resources to become very wealthy, but you don't get stories of big companies financing space expansion a la East India Company.


The price of the metals is based on Earth's supplies. If the expedition was successful, the supply would increase dramatically and the equilibrium would shift.


But having 1 entity control such a large amount of supplies means that entity can control the market rate (they simply hold on to it or sell it as needed). National banks, like the Bank of Canada, already do this with their country's currency.


First, there's already a ceiling on the price from the current supply. The price can only go down.

Second, if it works out for them and they're able to start mining these, other people will start doing it, too.


Out of curiosity, what happens if a second company (say, Anglo Platinum) goes out there and blows up the facilities of these guys? Maybe even murders their miners (if there are to be any humans out there). What would the legal protection be?


"Out of curiosity, what happens if a second company (say, Anglo Platinum) goes out there and blows up the facilities of these guys?"

War.

However, the good news is that even on Earth the benefits of cooperation tend to outweigh the benefits of aggression, in space for the foreseeable future it will be even more so. It is so, so easy to trash a space facility and so, so hard to defend against it that in essence all private companies in space will de facto be in a MAD situation should they decide to go that route. It will be a long time before anyone will have a position where they can afford to attack somebody and have a reasonable expectation of survival.


…other people will start doing it too…

What if the pioneer's space manufacturing, using their cheap and plentiful resources, gives them an insurmountable lead? They win the race to claim and defend new prospects against latecomers.

(To the planetbound, this might just look like a suspiciously long string of failures by all subsequent foothold missions…)


As a nation with an army, they could do something like this.

As a private company--especially if this mineral becomes very necessary and expensive--would be a very big target for some sort of 'congressional oversight' to 'protect national interests' and prevent a harmful monopoly.


With the Google folks running things, yes, that's very possible. Someone who's more savvy and experienced in these kinds of things would find ways around that problem, like De Beers has.


Diamonds would be a good example too, right? Platinum would be even better in this situation, I think, because it has more practical uses than diamonds.


Diamonds aren't worth very much. Try reselling a diamond to find out how little they're really worth.


Computers aren't worth very much. Try reselling a computer to find out how little they're really worth.

Cars aren't worth very much. Try reselling a car to find out how little they're really worth.

Shoes aren't worth very much. Try reselling a shoe to find out how little they're really worth.


I love how HN is some bastion of free-market thinking, but when it comes to items of fashion (aka items that females tend to desire), suddenly supply and demand go out the window, and the pricing of diamonds (and other fashion items) is a vast conspiracy. Horseshit. De Beers monopoly died a long time ago. Diamonds are no more overpriced than any other item of fashion. If you want to buy diamonds at "wholesale" prices there is nothing stopping you.


Diamonds are not an investment vehicle, but rather a consumer item. They carry high markups and have a limited resale market.


Cars and shoes depreciate because they wear out. Computers depreciate for the same reason, and more so for the fact that the price/performance ratio of computing technology improves so rapidly. Neither of those apply to diamonds.


diamonds aren't artificially scarce to control demand, they're artificially scarce due to low demand. bringing a gigantic chunk of platinum to earth isn't going to increase the utility of platinum, although if prices fall far enough it may increase the utilization


They would still be constrained to degrees by their marginal costs (the price floor) v what the market will bear. Who knows what the actual costs will be the day they have a giant rock in orbit, although I expect they will fall rapidly with advancing privatization. I am sure they will take very conservative actions, but imagine the potential liabilities–might be a lot more than the value of the rock.


Its only worth the $8 trillion because they haven't any.

Imagine they release 100 tons / year.

The world supply of platinum has just gone from 100 to 200 tons / year.

Or they release 200 tons, and the world supply goes up to 300 tons / year.

At some point really low they'll make platinum as common as dirt and worth about as much.

* exaggeration to make point. Point stands.


Price will surely go down, but as long as they have exclusive control on supply, and the ability to manage it smartly they could still make a ridiculously huge amount of money.


kind of unlikely revenue will be $8 trillion or whatever the valuation is, though, right?


Wait, your argument is that because they could flood the market and tank platinum, platinum will tank?


Absolutely.

You cannot value the asteroid at weight * current_price_per_ton.

Because the earth is surviving on 100 tons of platinum / year, and the current_price_per_ton is based on demand to supply.

If you rocket back with a whole 100 tons in the first year, you dramatically affect supply. The price drops; platinum suddenly becomes more affordable for more things, demand may increase and so on.

But we can all see that if there were mile cube of platinum delivered to earth, it wouldn't actually be worth $1500/ounce any more.


Sure the price would be influenced, but as expensive as dirt?


* exaggeration to make point. Point stands.


eg, De Beers for diamonds.


They would be the De Beers of precious metals [1]. With that kind of wealth at stake, the monopoly wouldn't last long. You'd see competition from other private ventures, as well as from countries (Russia, China, ...).

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Beers#Diamond_monopoly


Yeah, it would. Modeling a demand curve is a really hard problem in economics; it's one of the holy grails in the field. That being said, I'm sure you can either take that into account and reduce the scope of the mission to more cheaply mine a smaller asteroid that won't flood the market.


I'm not so sure it would work like that; the costs of mining an asteroid are a bit too high for that. Mining in space is not even new yet, it is still a plan, and if it goes according to plan, it will still be very expensive, and there will be limitations in the system that limit the speed with which the metals are brought to earth.

My guess is that in the initial stage their profit margin would be low, or they'd have to work at a loss, if they have to compete with current prices. As scarcity drives the prices further up and their technology improves, their profit margins would soar, but that would only happen in the long term. Only then would supply start bringing the prices down.


It could, but you also have to consider the cost of getting these materials back to Earth. No article has mentioned the details of that. I don't know if Planetary Resources has disclosed that. And then there's extracting the material. Yes, the sheer scope does mean a huge wealth... But it costs to access. And until I hear a professional suggest a price tag on that, I'm not too worried about it destroying economies.

(Or maybe they could extract it in space... But that would need new first gen technology, but at least retrieval from space may pay off in the long run, as they'll no doubt require space extraction eventually.)


Only if there was competition. If they were the only ones with an astroid, then they could limit their sales to keep prices high. It's basically what DeBeers did back in the day.


This strikes me more as billionaires wanting to play big adventure games with their cash then as a real business opportunity. But I can't blame them, if I had the cash I would want big toys too. Or maybe I'd go the Bill Gates route. On the other hand, it really feels like we are living in another guilded age with Robber Barons gracing us with the equivalent of Carnegie's libraries or Rockerfeller's universities.


I'm not complaining if this generation's robber barons give us asteroid mining...


Sooner or later, this sort of money is just going to become completely meaningless. There is no "$20tril check waiting to be cashed", there is an economic bomb in the form of a massive space rock. I'm still very excited and hope they get results but there going to be some pretty large, unforeseen consequences if they succeed.


Before we could use electric furnaces and electrolysis to turn bauxite to aluminum, it was one of the most rare and valuable metals on earth. I for one am looking forward to wrapping leftovers in platinum foil.


The Washington Monument was capped with aluminium because at the time it was as valuable as silver. 2 years later aluminium became a common metal.


Not sure if it would be such a economic bomb. Assuming there are many mineable asteroids, others would enter the market. So the long term effect would be that the cost of natural resources approaches the marginal cost of extraction. And markets should have time to adjust as there is increasingly better information on what the initial extractions will look like. It will certianly disrupt the commodities sector, ending many companies and giving rise to incredibly large new ones. And the implications of the new commodity prices would ripple through the rest of the economy. I think it will seem like a bomb to those companies displaced, but for the economy as a whole not as much.


I would say that if space mining is more efficient (both productivity wise and/or environmental wise), then doing it will be better overall for the whole of earth.


The dollar amount might become meaningless, were it to happen, but they might still be called the "richest company" merely by virtue of controlling such a huge amount of valuable resources.


Their control would be quite short lived. I haven't heard that they have anything that someone else could not do.

If this appears very valuable, and especially once proven, you can bet other investors will do the same.


The "everyone else will catch up" argument is based on the idea that there are plenty of genius rocket scientists who can deliver this project and that it's just a matter of throwing money at the problem. That may be true, but we definitely don't know that for sure.

Seems oddly reminiscent of the iPhone/iPad market. How's throwing money around worked out for the competition so far?


> Seems oddly reminiscent of the iPhone/iPad market. How's throwing money around worked out for the competition so far?

Extremely well: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/A/AS_SKOREA_EARNS_SAMSU...


I can't read that link from Europe, it just shows a map of the US and asks me to click my state.


Does this one work? http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hLwK7mWdjJ...

Or search for "Smartphones fuel Samsung profit to record".


Has everybody forgotten that it's REALLY expensive to get into space? Per the BBC,

They struggle to see how it could be cost-effective, even with platinum and gold worth nearly £35 per gram ($1,600 an ounce). An upcoming Nasa mission to return just 60g (two ounces) of material from an asteroid to Earth will cost about $1bn.

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17827347)

So a back of the envelope calculation: Assuming that it costs as much to haul gold from orbit to Earth, and the Space X Falcon can haul 6.4+ tons per flight, we could bring down $167,116,800 of gold per flight. Since each launch costs $80M+, we're down to $80M of profit. However, this assumes we're just plucking gold out of orbit, not hauling asteroids to orbit, harvesting and processing the gold, and dealing with all of the logistics of this operation - which are bound to be very expensive. It's ambitious to be sure, but we're very far away from platinum as the new aluminum.

Price of gold per ounce: http://goo.gl/htL7b Falcon launch costs: http://goo.gl/SWZlw


> Assuming that it costs as much to haul gold from orbit to Earth

It doesn't. Coming down is way cheaper than going up.

But that may not even be particularly relevant, as there's a good chance that a lot of the material may be sold in space. After all, we want to launch more stuff into space, and that's expensive, so why bring it down if you're just going to shoot it back up again?

Of course, not all of it's going to be sold in space. A tonne of aluminum or a tonne of water would be very valuable in orbit, but, at least for now, a tonne of platinum is going to do much more good down here on the ground in catalytic converters and electronics than it would up there being used in... I dunno what. But the stuff that stays in orbit could still be a pretty hefty chunk of the bottom line.


Or that those mined from astroids become ships. I.e., industrial complexes built in space, for large scale manufacturing of more ships, with the intend of eventually conquering/colonizing a planet.


After a certain amount of equipment has been launched, they will no longer have any need to get more stuff into space, as everything they need will already be there. All they have to do is make sure they can reach that tipping point where they can construct the bulk of their miners in space (Building the hulls out of asteroid metals, and then just launching the smaller, complex, electronic etc parts from earth).

Break even for these people wont come from the first asteroid they mine - and I doubt they are expecting it to.


I'm seeing lots of comments talking about how they will bring all this platinum down and it won't be worth anything but not very many people talking about using platinum as a raw material for something worth far more than just platinum.

What if Planetary Resources creates a lab to have the world's best researchers across a variety of fields be able to invent with a nearly unlimited source of free platinum?

Could they make a product that is worth more than the raw platinum (or whatever else they pull down)?


Firstly, this isn't the first time Amun 3554 mining has come up [1].

Look, I'm a sci-fi fan like so many other HNers but the economic reality just doesn't add up.

Amun 3554 has a highly eccentric orbit [2], even though it does cross Earth's orbit. JPL has data [3].

You need to consider that:

1. It's expensive to get into orbit. Even at SpaceX's prices, you're talking ~$1000/kg for LEO insertion;

2. You need to get equipment to the asteroid;

3. You need to get to the asteroid. Proximity to Earth isn't the problem here. The problem is the delta-V required to match velocities;

4. You either need to bring back the entire asteroid, which would require a massive amount of delta-V, or you need to mine the asteroid, which would take a massive amount of equipment;

5. If you get raw materials back to Earth orbit, depending on the application, you may then need to get them back to Earth, which granted is significantly easier than escaping Earth's gravity; and

6. If you get a massive quantity of some valuable material it'll change the economics. That $20 trillion won't be $20 trillion with the added supply.

I am assuming this would be an automated operation as the cost of manned spaceflight is significantly higher and automated systems should hopefully improve in the intervening years.

Now, compare this to some other materials we have on Earth. Iron is pretty abundant (both on Earth and in the universe, due to it's energy relationship with fusion). On Earth, we dig up iron for under $30/ton and can ship it anywhere on Earth for another $50-100/ton (IIRC).

For the cost of a single SpaceX launch you'd need to bring back about a million tons of iron to be on the same scale.

Obviously that's why they're targeting much more valuable materials like platinum but I hope that puts things in perspective.

Our society is built on cheap and plentiful resources (fossil fuels, metals and minerals). As abundant as they might be in space, increasing the cost of iron 1000 times is going to have profound implications for our entire species. At some point of course recycling makes more economic sense but that's just a temporary cushion (eg you lose materials through corrosion).

I believe we're coming to a resources-crunch within the next 100-200 years that will result--one way or another--in a massive drop in population and a fundamental change in our society. Let's just hope we survive it.

As much as I'd wish otherwise I have a hard time envisioning space mining or even prolonged living in space as being economically viable in any way, shape or form.

[1]: http://money.cnn.com/2006/02/27/technology/business2_guideto...

[2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3554_Amun

[3]: http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=3554+Amun


I wonder if all of the challenges you've just listed aren't what makes this an attractive problem for highly speculative investment. The rock has value, but solving the problems of economically acquiring, transporting, and selling the materials will produce innovations that can be applied in more mundane terrestrial businesses. You may never mine the rock but you might end up with stronger and lighter materials, more efficient fuel, automated manufacturing, automated transportation, or even just economic models for maximizing profits when you have enough supply of a resource to devalue an entire market.

If using Python used to be a way for entrepreneurs to find top programmers, perhaps being conversant in some or part of this kind of space problem is a way for entrepreneurs and investors to find people with breakthrough ideas.


So basically Planetary Resources may be the next NASA, in terms of spurring all sorts of innovation.


Interesting idea. Think of the disaster scenario where they miss the moon and the thing is caught in the earth's gravity well. That would be horrific.


I think it would get burned up on reentry.


I don't think so.

3554 Amun [1]

  Estimated Diameter = 2500 m
  Estimated Mass = 16,000,000,000,000 kg
For comparison,

International Space Station [2]

  Longest Dimension = 109 m
  Mass = 450,000 kg
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3554_Amun [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Space_Station


I agree with you on the issues regarding the orbital mechanics of getting to the asteroid and getting the goods back to Earth, but I think you've missed one important idea regarding how these materials could be used.

Assume $1k/kg for LEO insertion. That means a metric ton of iron, in space, would cost a million dollars if you had to ship it from Earth.

Let's now say that you wanted to build a large space-based manufacturing facility, focused on producing high-value goods like zero-gravity metals and pharmaceuticals. Shipping the raw materials from Earth to build the facility would cost around a half-billion dollars, and then afterwards, you'd need to ship them the additional materials from which to produce the goods.

Or, you can do something crazily ambitious -- figure out how to get the materials from somewhere in near-earth-orbit, and use that to bootstrap both interplanetary travel and space-based industry.

It's crazy. I know. It's crazy enough that it just might work.

Personally, I'm excited. This kind of ambition is what we need as a species right now, and I'd rather see the money spent on this than on yet another collection of mega-yachts.


Honestly asking here, are zero-gravity metals and pharmaceuticals 'real'?

As in things that can't be made much cheaper (or at all on Earth) and that companies would jump to create if there was a platform for them?


So, I don't know about zero-gravity metals and pharma, but space-based mining and manufacturing is absolutely essential for producing large-scale stations, spacecraft, and other things. It costs a ton to put things into space and during that time they're subjected to a considerable amount of force. By building in space, you don't have to build for gravity (look ma, no support structures!) and don't have to concern yourself with the cost of launches.

Imagine building a massive spacecraft for long distance travel. It'd never land on a planet, just go between them; you'd take a shuttle from your planet up to the craft and leave from there. This is possible with space-based manufacturing.


Putting millions of tonnes of material into orbit is an absolutely trivial problem compared to actually making that massive spacecraft travel anywhere meaningful.


Well, once you're already in space, you can use nuclear pulse propulsion without leaving a giant radioactive crater on the earth's surface:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_pulse_propulsion


You're missing his point entirely. If there's no real market for zero-gravity metals and pharmaceuticals, the whole venture will fail fast because it can't make money.

If all you can do is build more space stuff but the stuff is more expensive than earth stuff then it's not going to work.


Platinum is about $1500 usd per troy ounce.

There are 32 troy ounces in a kg.

People are estimating £1000 per kg to get stuff into LEO. It costs less to get stuff back to Earth.

Surely they only have to beat $50,000 per kg to get the mining equipment up there and get the stuff back and they're in profit.

And they amortise the cost of getting the mining equipment up there over all the kg they mine and return. Since they're talking about 16000000000 kg of asteroid that's a lot of amortising.

And even if it doesn't have direct commercial value it has many other benefits - it is inspiring. Perhaps some children are seeing this and wanting to get into science. That's great.

But maybe I'm wrong, and I really welcome better information.


That only holds up until you start shipping a lot of Platinum down at which point the market crashes. Also, it's £620 or 1,000$ to LEO right now and 100$ /lb to LEO is possible if we scale things up far enough. What NASA found out from the shuttle program is we just don't need that much stuff in space, because once stuff is up there it can stay there for a long time.


Did you like read the thread? Point 6 in cletus' opening argument.

Rare materials will not make you as much money as you can make now because they will become not rare. So you have to make something which only can be made in space or you have to play the De Beers game, be an evil fucker and spend all eternity in hell if it existed.


Platinum is used in a lot of stuff. Catalytic convertors, electronics, but perhaps most importantly in fuel cells. Usage is going to increase dramatically, meaning people will need this stuff. Getting something in space down to Earth surface is not as expensive as escaping Earth gravity.

You really think platinum is going to drop from $50,000 per kg to something like $1,000 per kg before they've made their money back?


You'd have to mine the "long tail" of platinum :)


reduced and zero-gravity environments allow crystals to grow faster, and in more perfect configuration than gravity-bound locations. This could lead to some really interesting metal alloys.


Um...

why is moving the stuff from Earth to orbit so expensive? Because it takes an absurd amount of energy.

What does it take to move stuff from the asteroid belt to near-Earth orbit? An even more absurd amount of energy.

Absent of some breakthrough in technology that would make orbital factories seem child's play, it's not crazily ambitious, just unrealistic.


Well, let's be cautious. The constraint of moving from the asteroid belt to near-Earth orbit is less "absurd amounts of energy" and more, "how fast do you want to get there?". More importantly, we're not necessarily going to choose the asteroid belt for our source, due to these time constraints. Measuring in terms of Earth's orbital radius ("astronomic units" or AU), the Moon is 2.5 mAU away, Mars and the asteroids are 1000+ mAU away, and the metallic asteroid (6178) 1986 DA approaches Earth's orbit within 161 mAU, which is to say nothing of Earth-crossing asteroids.

It's true that moving an asteroid would require a lot of energy simply because they're unbelievably massive; the space shuttle propulsion system might dish out something like 10^14 joules, but a typical mining asteroid is 10^13 kg or so. But apart from that, space is frictionless, and so moving a longer distance does not require much more energy, just much more time. Sending ships to and from asteroids shouldn't require an energy cost except to cut down the travel times, in principle.


Space does not have air friction, but it still has gravity, which you still need a large amount of energy to counter, if you want to move a massive object to a specific spot.


Low Earth orbit is proverbially "halfway to anywhere". That is, it's not an even more absurd amount of energy to get from elsewhere in space to LEO. (Also the idea is to mine asteroids with nearer orbits, not out in the belt.)

Which isn't to say I expect large-scale returns anytime soon.


Firstly, the article is misleading in mentioning iron, when platinum group metals are their stated focus. Platinum at $1550/oz is priced much closer to gold ($1650/oz) than to iron ($30/ ton), that's 50x the figure... 32,000x oz per ton... a combined factor of a million (1,600,000x). Note: I'm comparing refined to ore. In addition some rare earth metals are considerably more valuable - but it's not just price, but also strategic value, as China currently is the only source for some rare earths. [Prices http://www.kitco.com/market/]

Secondly, the article is misleading in speculating on Amun. Planetary Resources is first sending telescopes (in a year or two). That's how very far they are from choosing their target. An extremely low value-per-weight metal, in an expensive orbit, is not representative of their plans.

Also, a proposal to cushion supply decreasing prices is to sell futures in the metals http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2012/04/25/how-plane...


> but also strategic value, as China currently is the only source for some rare earths

China effectively subsidizes mining for strategic purposes. Cheaper mining = cheaper manufacturing = strong industrial base = higher employment and lots of foreign IP to acquire.

This blew up in their face for rare earths, because they are valuable enough that shipping isn't a big deal, so cheaper rare earths in China just means cheaper rare earths in Japan.

If they didn't subsidize mining, or they keep restricting exports, people will look elsewhere. I'm not sure if China has particularly good reserves, I think they just dig it up cheaper, because they want to feed their industrial base.


less environmental controls, that's the biggest reason it's cheaper.


I said "effectively subsidizes". Environmental controls is one factor. Cheap land / water use is another. OH&S standards, favorable tax, there's a lot of ways it can be done if the government decides it's strategically important.

That attitude will start changing now that they have plenty of IP, and they no longer suck at engineering low cost stuff.


but also strategic value, as China currently is the only source for some rare earths.

80% of the platinum comes from South Africa.



>> ... like so many other HNers but the economic reality just doesn't add up.

It's very difficult to predict what technology is gong to be available in 15-25 years. And making long-term economic predictions in the techy areas is even more difficult. A famous example: "I think there is a world market for about five computers.", Tom Watson, IBM chairman, 1958.

There is also an analogy with early days of aviation, 1905..1912. An idea that airplanes could possibly be used as a means of transportation was considered as pretty ridiculous at the time. Certainly not economically viable. For example: "In 1905, when the Wright brothers offered their invention to the United States Army, it was rejected without any consideration. Even the patent office was skeptical; an application filed in 1903 was finally approved and granted in 1906 for a "flying machine.", from "The Spirit of Innovation", by Curtis Wright corp.

Yet technology improved. And things that haven't been economically viable "in any way, shape or form" time and time again became such.


> 6. If you get a massive quantity of some valuable material it'll change the economics. That $20 trillion won't be $20 trillion with the added supply.

For comparison, back in 2010 or so it was estimated that all the money in the world was about 70 trillion. That asteroid, if brought in it's entirety and valued at 20 trillion would represent around 30% of the world's money.

They'd have to do some pretty ingenious financial tricks to keep it from extreme devaluation: at the current prices and money supply, there just isn't enough money in the world to sell it off within the next 50-100 years - possibly more.


I think everyone here is confusing of 'total supply' with 'supply available for purchase'.

There is an analogy : the US bullion reserves are something like 12,000 tons of Gold. Obviously if this was all offered for sale at once, then the price of gold would crash. But it doesn't, because they don't.

Assuming someone is sitting on a massive lump of platinum, the market price would only be affected if they chose to dump it all on the market at once. Knowledge that the large supply of platinum exists wouldn't cause the market to crash.

There would likely be some effect of releasing more supply of platinum onto the market, but the company wouldn't be stupid enough to offer it all for sale at once. They would hold it in reserve and sell it according to demand.

So yes, increased supply would affect prices. No, it wouldn't cause chaos.

Of course, this assumes that whomever is in charge has the discipline to do it properly. Perhaps, though, human frailty would win out and your scenario would come to pass. For this, we can look back to the Spanish conquest of the gold and silver mines of South America.


> 6. If you get a massive quantity of some valuable material it'll change the economics. That $20 trillion won't be $20 trillion with the added supply.

True, but who says they have to sell it? The way I see it, if they bring that platinum back to earth, they might be better off just using it themselves. That way, yes, they are not making the market value of it in cash - instead, they are saving the market value of it in cash.

Platinum is so expensive because it is rare and you can build awesome stuff with it. If you take rare out of the equation, you can still build awesome stuff - and awesome stuff will surely always sell at a good price.


Exactly this. Think about the kind of industries that abundant platinum would make possible. Invest in those industries. Then go get the platinum... Profit!

It's the Netscape strategy. Jim Clark said "I'm selling printing presses, but first I've got to teach people to read".


Apparently Jim Clark personally did well, but the phrase "the Netscape strategy" does not paint a rosy picture of success.


The so-called browser wars were irrelevant really - Netscape's strategy was to seed the world with browsers then sell servers. My employer at the time spent millions on those servers - but as of version 3, they dropped the ball, and all their customers deserted them. That's the real story of Netscape's failure.


Why would it be of more value to them (presumably not mass-manufacturing experts) than to others who already specialize in that?


Could you try phrasing your question a little more specific? I have trouble making sense of what you're getting at.


Sure: I understand your proposal to be that they should—after getting it to Earth—use the platinum to manufacture and sell products (rather than just selling the raw platinum) so as to maximize the value they extract from it. But that assumes that the platinum is worth (massively) more to them than it would be to the existing manufacturers of the world. Which would seem to only be the case if they were particularly skilled with manufacturing using platinum—and had the designs to do so—in some way that every other manufacturer isn't.

To put it another way: there's a reason that most of the world's terrestrial mining companies sell raw materials to manufacturers rather than manufacturing end-user products themselves.


True, but it did make me wonder: Maybe they only do that because it IS so much more profitable to just sell it off. Any company that had access to dirt-cheap platinum would surely have a huge market advantage.

Furthermore - The companies that mine the platinum may not be the technologically most advanced while Planetary Resources will surely be the most technologically advanced to have dirt-cheap platinum at their hands.


They may lose money on the first asteroid, but once they have the first one, everything should become exponentially cheaper as very little will need to be launched into LEO, and once they have a water rich rock, they can manufacture all the fuel they need, virtually for free. Once they have brought enough metals into LEO, along with some sort of manufacturing plant, they can build more miners, and they will only have to launch the complex parts into LEO, building the rest in orbit.

At some point, mining these asteroids will, for all intents and purposes, be free.

Edit: Another alternative is that these bored billionaires want to actually change the world just for fun, or to see if they can.


> Now, compare this to some other materials we have on Earth. Iron is pretty abundant (both on Earth and in the universe, due to it's energy relationship with fusion). On Earth, we dig up iron for under $30/ton and can ship it anywhere on Earth for another $50-100/ton (IIRC).

> For the cost of a single SpaceX launch you'd need to bring back about a million tons of iron to be on the same scale.

> Obviously that's why they're targeting much more valuable materials like platinum but I hope that puts things in perspective.

I'm not sure I understand your point. Obviously it's silly to spend the money to go to space and get something that's commonly available on Earth. (Although capturing an asteroid for science would be good.)

Platinum costs about $1570USD per troy ounce. There are about 32150 troy ounces in one metric ton. 32150 * 1570 == $50475500USD per metric ton.

Amun has about 16000000000 metric tons. That's about 8.07608 × 10^17 USD; with no adjustment for obvious market trashing effects of dumping that much platinum on the markets.

Apologies for mangling scientific units.


So... $50m for a metric ton of platin.

The problem: how much does it cost to get a metric ton from that asteroid's orbit to Earth? More than $50m. Probably more than $50b.

Failing to mention that little fact makes the article a fluff piece, and unless the company has some very convincing proposals on how to deal with it, it's little more than a scam.


If your goal is to get a single ton from the asteroid to earth it could very well be $50b.

But maybe it costs $60b to get the entire asteroid to earth. Then you've made money.


If I was them, I would try to move the whole asteroid. Maybe Amun is too big, but there will be smaller ones. Whith a little billiard playing with gravity, they could be "smoothly crashed" into the Moon, or even some deserted Earth location. Maybe ideal result would be placing it in not-so-low Earth orbit and make the extracted materials go spiraling down to the surface.

Disclaimer: I haven't the faintest idea of the amount of energy needed to move celestial bodies, but I guess it could be made so the first targets will be small ones and using the resources obtained from them, create stronger and stronger infrastructure to capture bigger ones.

EDIT: Archimedes already said it. To move worlds they first need a big enough lever and a place to put it.


The raisin d'être for mining asteroids is that it's cheaper than mining the moon...


"Mining the Moon" as in digging holes there is not the same as picking up the pieces of a crashed metal mountain. Anyway, forget that. Put the asteroid in Earth's orbit and work from there. What about the value of a new moon that could be used as a gigantic station?


Char doesn't need any more things to send crashing into Earth.


*raison d'être


It sounded delicious though :-)


Not that I disagree with your conclusion, but increasing the actual supply doesn't necessarily have to wreak havoc on the economy if limited number of distributors are willing to control the release of the supply (which could be considered the perceived economic 'supply').

See (at least formerly) the diamond industry.

(I am not an economist, so somebody correct me if I'm terribly off base here.)


But then it's not worth a bajillion dollars anymore.

If you can only sell, let's say, 1 ton each year (worth $53 million), then the present value of the platinum needs to be discounted (because you have to finance the recovery cost upfront).

Assuming a discount rate of 5% (ridiculously low for such a high-risk operation), the present value of 1 ton of platinum delivered 364 years from today is 1 dollar. The present value of an infinite stream of annual deliveries of 1 ton of platinum is $1.1 billion.

The fact of the matter is that platinum has limited uses and even more limited supply, that's why it's very expensive. If you managed to find a huge supply of it, it wouldn't be very expensive anymore, unless you also found thousands of other extremely high-value applications for it. If you can find a way to make platinum entertain people, give them better sex lives, give them better food, help them get to work faster, help them teleport, and help them become famous, then you'd have a $20 trillion opportunity.


The main reason we aren't driving cars powered by fuel cells is that the platinum makes them too expensive. So there's one use for a high volume of platinum.

With a little googling, it looks like platinum can also be used for producing hydrogen and absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere to produce hydrocarbon fuels.

With lots of cheap platinum, we could make the whole transportation sector carbon-neutral, even if we never manage to make those 600-mile batteries.


I cannot agree with (4.) "You [..] need to bring back the entire asteroid, which would require a massive amount of delta-V".

You don't need a rocket nor fuel for the full delta-v to put the asteroid into a near earth orbit. Look how mars probes arrive: just use a tiny rocket motor to steer into the athmosphere and perform aero braking. Takes long, could even take years to reshape the orbit, but it doesn't neccessarily take much fuel. I'd just place a light-weight ion engine on the asteroid.


I wonder what you could sell a hunk of ice (already orbited) the size of a schoolbus for to the governments that maintain the ISS.


You still need to refine it to within the specs of something the ISS can accept. Your water might also be radioactive after having stayed millions of years in space.


Even if it costs $500 billion, or more, to create - if it's successful and you increase natural resources on Earth by $2 trillion + create a whole heck a lot of innovation in the process, it'll be a huge overall positive / success.

Perhaps though this is all a coverup plan to visit a spaceship that crashed on the moon...


> That $20 trillion won't be $20 trillion with the added supply.

Very true. However, the value of having access to cheap gold and platinum is worth even more for sure.

Only, that value won't be concentrated around the mining company, but the society as a whole.


The whole thing reminds me of the Spanish in the New World. They spent a lot of time and effort mining silver, the price crashed to 20% of what it had been, and as a country they were outcompeted badly by the Netherlands, their former possession (and somewhere that had few resources and little manufacturing). Good for the world as a whole, but not so good for Spain.


The problem was that Spain misjudged what was valuable in the New World. They colonized it in order to loot it, when the real value was actually in the enormous economic productive potential.


I believe we're coming to a resources-crunch within the next 100-200 years that will result--one way or another--in a massive drop in population and a fundamental change in our society. Let's just hope we survive it.

I don't believe this, and you didn't give any kind of evidence for this.

Speculatively, I think the opposite is far more likely: Not only will oil, minerals, etc. not run out, but technology will advance quite rapidly, so it will be less and less an issue. I think the big threat is unrelated sociopolitical developments that constrain freedom, innovation, and technology.


I don't believe it either: I think the crunch will be the spur that finally gets us out of this single-point-of-failure that we call the Earth.


7. You need to achieve revenue at some point. No one can afford millions of "loss" forever.

If they succeed, this will be one of the longest market bet in a long while. Longer term than financing land caravans to India to buy spice, clipper to china for tea, or caravels to the americas.


>>4. You either need to bring back the entire asteroid, which would require a massive amount of delta-V, or you need to mine the asteroid, which would take a massive amount of equipment;

I was thinking they'd crash it into the far side of the moon. Is that an option?


Planetologists might dislike this option (think how archeologist would react if you offered to air drop an atom bomb on their search site).

"Practically", you would have to ship your ore / ingots back up the moons gravity well, then to earth. You would need to build a moon base, a moon maglev cannon for shipping your final product, and then, make sure you miss all this infrastructure when you "land" your bundle of resource.

This (mobile) processing plant would need to resist debris from the impact (no air = no slowing down of the debris) and the moon-quakes generated by the impact of millions of tons of dense metal ore at high speed in the vicinity. If your processing plant is far from your impact site, you need your many "harvesters" to transport your ore for a long while.

But at least you don't have to undock your processing plant from your asteroid, only its tug.

Depending on Delta-V it might also dirty up the moon's orbit.

Also, any equipment stuck on the rock is lost (equipment up there cost A + weight-in-kg(A) * 1.n * $1000, unless made "on-site"). But you might end up with an already melted pool of material.

Different challenges.


all I hear is "blah blah blah, never been done before, too hard, no money" - same things said about flight prior to the Wright Bros. These guys (who are smarter than us) see an opportunity. I, for one, would like to see them succeed. We need to get heavy industry off of the Earth.


Let's not forget that the massive increase in supply of platinum would massively decrease its price </economics>


this is easy. someone call Bruce Willis.


> You couldn’t offload all those metals on the world market at once, for fear of crashing their prices

If you have a disruptive innovation (such as cheaply bringing tons of Platinum from space), prices will just settle at the new equilibrium. You wouldn't be able to sell a million tons of Platinum at US$ 1500 an ounce, but, as long as you make a profit, you're good.

But how about the Moon? It's nearby (making remote operation feasible) and bringing back stuff doesn't require more than a large railgun that can be built and powered locally. There is gravity and vacuum (a combination that's very good for working with metals - they fall towards the ground and they don't react with the atmosphere). And we already have soil samples. Plus, people can live there and repair equipment that breaks down.

And for the science types, the far side is an excellent place to put a radiotelescope.


using a moon as a base for asteroid mining is so Ender's Game. I love it.


"Of course, there’s a catch. You couldn’t offload all those metals on the world market at once, for fear of crashing their prices. But the company would still own that much in equity, which would allow them to borrow against it. They would be that wealthy, to all intents and purposes. That’s just how capitalism works."

You don't have equity to borrow against unless you can liquidate and transfer to the lender.

You can't liquidate and transfer to the lender unless you can bring it all down here (destroying the market and making the equity worth much less), or transfer any on-going and steady operation that is bringing it down little by little (show me the money), or by bring us up there in the form of widespread operations across multiple companies.

If we go up there in a big way, well, precious metals aren't so precious.


It doesn't really matter though does it? The people backing this company have billions of dollars they can throw at this until it makes money.


I think the comments here have a lot of logical, well thought out ideas. The thing is, who cares whether they will ever be able to do it or what the implications would be if they succeeded? The fact that someone is seriously thinking about this type of thing is just awesome. Regardless of whether they succeed or fail, the most valuable output of this won't be the precious metals. It will be the technical innovations that would be created in order to attempt to achieve the goal.

It's sort of like how the value of going to the moon was not just the PR and historical significance, but all of the technical innovations like satellites that ultimately came from that effort.


How do they know what's under the surface of these asteroids?


They assume that it's probably pretty similar to the surface, which is a good assumption as long as the asteroid hasn't undergone geological processes to cause differentiation. If it's spherical, it has enough to gravity to have made itself that way, and stuff probably melted and floated and sank and it's probably not the same on the inside as the outside. If it's not spherical, it's probably a pretty uniform blob of stuff all the way through.

They know what's on the surface by looking at IR and radio spectra. This is complicated by overlapping spectra from different minerals, but you can still get a pretty good idea of what range of minerals are there. And since we know the elemental compositions of the minerals on Earth that produce the same spectra, we can use that to predict how much of any particular element the asteroid contains.


In addition mass and therefor density are known so they can probably be used to cross verify this?


(http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/question.php?number=13)

I don't want to do a TL;DR because I'd mess it up.


TL;DR - Science!


I'm skeptical about this. Lets see in 8 years[1] if i was right.

[1]http://predictionbook.com/predictions/6696


If a huge supply of platinum became available, its price would plummet. If one company figures out a way to mine asteroids, competition would soon follow. So they won't be able to control the supply and hence price of platinum. So even if they do succeed in mining and transporting the metal, they are not going to make anywhere near the money they're claiming.


i say worth doing even if they only break even. The tech and new injection of resources will give the world something to hope for.

Plus, i dont think the price will "plummet". It will at most reach some equibrium, and that new equilbrium ought to still be profitable. More plentifyl resources can only be a good thing.


> You couldn’t offload all those metals on the world market at once, for fear of crashing their prices.

So instead of lowering the price of gold and palladium, metals that have innumerable uses in technology, revolutionizing the industry, you should create an artificial scarcity?


You have it backwards. Without scarcity where the demand? Without demand where the the money? Without money, where is the expedition? Lather, rinse, repeat.


> Without scarcity where the demand?

Iron is hardly scarce, but it is in high demand. There are a thousand uses for cheap gold. It's not like if the asteroid would be made of rare postage stamps that become worthless without the scarcity.

Let's say the huge chunk of gold would drop the market price to 10% of it's current value. If they earn $ 2 trillion at once instead of $ 2 trillion slowly, is it really a problem? It should still be enough to finance the next run, and earn even more.


Could this work?

A large mirror planted on the astroid focuses sunlight onto a small point. The heat from the mirror blasts off (ionizes? vaporizes?) bits of rock. Over a long time period, the rock gradually sails into a more accessible orbit.


It just detonate a nuclear bomb on one side.


The $20 Trillion valuation is dubious.

Platinum has industrial uses, but it is also a Veblen good--the price decrease due to increased supply wouldn't be the only factor; the abundance of a Veblen good affects the demand curve itself.


I wonder how exploitation rights are handled. Can any company just send robots up there to mine it? Or will there be a remote war fought on the asteroid over the resources?


Crazy question for hobbyists probably not otherwise suitable for Hacker News:

Could a large body like an asteroid be used to clean up space junk? Or would that just be way too risky?


I don't quite understand...how exactly do you intend to use an asteroid to clean up space junk?


I'm guessing via gravity, but I think drawing something big enough to attract space junk close enough to attract space junk will be too dangerous for earth.


That's not really how gravity works. In low earth orbit you have thousands of objects moving at high relative velocities, which is why they are dangerous. You can't just "attract" them with the gravity of a large object, all you would do is deflect them a little. They are moving fast enough that the gravity of a large nearby planet (Earth) is only bending their path enough so that they don't escape completely. An asteroid in LEO would do pretty much nothing to change that. You just might be able to deflect some (very small) fraction of the objects into different orbits, maybe enough so that they reenter the atmosphere. But most of them wouldn't interact at all.


I was actually thinking deflection. Assuming they're going to bring it near Earth anyway, why not, say, slowly circle the ISS? Sure, it wouldn't do MUCH good... But it's the biggest space squeegee we're going to have access to for the near future...

Why not?


See, why is it that the mining companies are seemingly keeping quiet as some new innovative entrants are gonna wreck their market, and why is it that the music/film industry cry like babies when a "similarly" technologically inventive disruption happen to them? I'm not trying to twist this into an argument against the MPAA, just observing how differently capitalism can unfold itself.


Not a fair comparison. MPAA has been losing sales for years already. This may never even happen.


Fair enough. Do you expect the mining companies to pursue a similar path as the MPAA once they actually start losing money?


Yes, absolutely. There's a lot of money on the line, right?


Can you really just bring back the whole Asteroid? I mean without even knowing what exactly is inside and extraterrestrial hazard? But As somebody pointed out the operation cost does not yet make this feasible. The RAW materials inside are priced by supply and demand. While the cost of mining is pretty much fixed for a long period of time.


The idea that there could be something bizarre and dangerous is basically a Hollywood science fiction idea. In a Hollywood movie, sure, the inside of this rock would house an alien space fleet that was just waiting for us to mine it and attack and try to wipe out humanity, only to be stopped by the plucky scientist who was skeptical about the operation all along and warning about how dangerous it is.

In reality, it's a rock with some metals running through it, and that's basically a full description. It isn't covered in deadly deadly viruses; if it were, Earth would long since have been exposed to them, we're hit by space rocks all the time. It isn't housing an alien fleet. It isn't anchoring a wormhole to a dimension of Cthuluian horrors. There isn't any bizarre chemistry that will cause a chain reaction that will turn all the oceans into gel if it so much as orbits. It's a rock, except it's in space.

Everything that could go wrong in such a scenario did, a long time ago, over and over again.


Sooner or later these gigantic resources will be the reason for armed spacecrafts and intergalactic conflicts :)


I've wondered if we could simply controlled crash asteroids into deserted parts of earth and then cheaply mine them?

I'm wondering if you could build some kind of shock absorbing device to "catch" the asteroid and prevent a crater, or other adverse effects?

I don't see why it wouldn't work in principle.


Heh, this was the plot of a second-series Tom Swift novel. Ah, childhood.

Anyway, there are a lot of problems with the idea, most having to do with risk and resources required.


There isn't any real claim to ownership of that asteroid though, so it really sort of a land-grab? Couldn't China build a system to go retrieve the asteroid first?


Well, may be the USS Enterprise will become a reality.


The main problem with this 'rock' is that Planetary Resources' plan only allows for ~10m diameter asteroid. This one is over a mile large!


It's a cute concept, but apparently the visionaries have little sense of supply and demand. The high prices on rare earth metals are dependent on their extreme scarcity. If the supply is bolstered (in this case, to the tune of $20,000,000,000,000), the selling price will decrease. It's simple economics.

I'm not saying it's anything but amazing. However, if the founders think they're going to get today's prices for every last ounce, as the article seems to imply, they are in for a realization.


Oh I think the visionaries do know about all that, after all, they do know a bit about how money works at large scales. I'd be really surprised if they are in for that realization.


I really think it's just the article authors that are trying to hype this innovation up too much. I doubt the actual CEO is going around presenting this potential revenue to investors if he wants to be taken seriously.


“There are $20 trillion checks up there waiting to be cashed,”


mmm. You're right. I wonder how much he believes that himself.


he doesn't. It's just a great quote to give to journalists.


An interesting thought I just had: Suppose we did bring back voluminous quantities of raw material back to earth, what could the environment impact of this be over hundereds of years? Could we bring back so much that we change the weight of the world to shift to a different orbit? or to wobble more or less (the cause of seasons) What forms of energy do we loose by importing these new forms (assuming conservation of energy applies) Ie fuel for material.


The earth is ~ 6*10^24 kg. So if you bring back a billion kilograms, you'd increase the Earth's mass by around 0.000000000000017 percent. You get variations in surface gravity well over a trillion times larger just by traveling from Ecuador to Antarctica. (The Earth is flattened a bit at the poles, so you're a bit closer to the center of the planet there, and 'g' is a bit bigger.)

I wouldn't worry about that one.


Yeah, but I'm sure the first person to find oil spurting out of the ground didn't have to worry about it running out anytime soon. Ingenious peoples cutting down the first tree on Easter Island never saw the trees running out. We a humans tend to underestimate our impact as it scales and grows over time. But as growth goes exponential, industries scale, and population explodes, the story, elapsed over time, changes dramatically. Look how far technology has advanced in 100 years. Who knows what crazy shit will go down in the next 300. A billion kilograms might just be "one truckload" out of hundreds being imported daily. We have no idea how big it could scale.

You're right, it's a metric shit-ton of material to make any difference, but to say we'll never have done that much is just impossible.


By all means worry about environmental problems. Like the various suggestions on this page to crash-land a mining asteroid on Earth---let's not do that.

But at the moment the possibility of changing the mass of the earth has to be really low on the list of environmental worries. When we're moving a billion kilograms an hour, net, to Earth, I will sign your petition and donate to your campaign.


I think you took me the wrong way. I'm not trying to be political/environmental. I'm curious on the broader scheme "sci-fyi-ness" of what the future could look like, and how we would get in such places. And the Sociological causes/effects of such futures.

That, and the theoretical thought of what would happen should we impact the weight of the world to the point of it having a noticeable impact on earths astronomical characteristics intrigues me.


Fair enough, and sorry. Sci-fi version: once you're moving that sort of tonnage, logarithmically speaking you're closer to Ringworlds and Dyson spheres than you are to near-future asteroid mining.


This much extra metal will surely crash the markets. Remember the Ducktales episode of "soda caps in the valley".


[deleted]


...ala deadspace.


EVE is coming to real life. Watch out for space pirates out there man.

"2mil ISK OR PODDED"


Do we trust some billionaires with a massive asteroid in earth orbit?


This is what is needed to finally get real private money into space exploration. With those kinds of resources waiting out there, private companies have significant incentive to pick up where NASA left off.




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