Can hu­mans af­ford to mine in space?

Guru Magazine - - ASK A GURU -

Asked by ‘Mad Moules’ via Face­book. As the hu­man race rapidly con­tin­ues to grow larger, not only are we run­ning out of space, but we’re also short on re­sources. Sooner or later, as we out­grow our planet, we will have to start branch­ing out to­wards space. One idea is to start min­ing on as­teroids. Earth and as­teroids came from the same start­ing ma­te­ri­als (they’re like broth­ers but Earth was far more suc­cess­ful, de­pend­ing on what you mea­sure suc­cess on!) If hu­mans were to mine as­teroids, they would find a wealth of re­sources like gold, plat­inum, cobalt and ice wa­ter. At present, it would cost tens of bil­lions of dollars to set-up a min­ing fa­cil­ity in space, as there is no af­ford­able way to sup­ply and launch a rocket into space. In fact, we cur­rently have the tech­nol­ogy needed to mine as­teroids; we have space­ships that can or­bit and land on as­teroids. The prob­lem lies in mak­ing this tech­nol­ogy faster and cheaper so as to make min­ing worth­while. There are a great va­ri­ety of ways to make the ven­ture cheaper. All cos­mic min­ing mis­sions will con­cen­trate on near-Earth as­teroids which, quite ob­vi­ously, fly near Earth’s or­bit. Most re­sources would not be brought back to Earth – the process most as­ter­oid min­ing projects would fol­low is called ‘in-situ re­source util­i­sa­tion’ (I wouldn’t want to have to say that of­ten). ‘In-situ re­source util­i­sa­tion’ is the big­gest way of keep­ing costs down, and in­volves us­ing all mined re­sources on fa­cil­i­ties specif­i­cally in-space. It would mean cos­mic min­ing com­pa­nies would be able to fi­nance them­selves with what they mine. To put it into per­spec­tive, a metal­lic as­ter­oid about 200 me­tres across could be worth $30 bil­lion dollars. You can imag­ine all the prospec­tors in space­suits slap­ping their knees and shout­ing “gold, gold!” Read the full an­swer on­line

An­swered by Matt Pow­ell

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