18 thoughts on “Asteroid Mining”

  1. The problem with the essay is twofold. First, Aeon is a left wing publication, so he’s preaching to people who believe human extinction is a good idea. It’s basically a better written version of what’s in The Atlantic. Second, it’s basically just the same old combination of over promising (like the Platinum Asteroids articles you used to see all over) and scare mongering (Remember the Dinosaurs!).

      1. I haven’t read his book, just reviews, excerpts, and condensations like this one. The thing is, I wrote a feature article on asteroid mining and the Near-Earth asteroids (published in Ad Astra in 1989) and made some of the same mistakes. But that was 32 years ago, and a huge amount of data has accrued since. I didn’t even have “Resources of Near-Earth Space” (UAZ, 1993) to work from. But I was able to figure out a principal resource base would be tidally processed CHON (the hydrocarbon resources of Titan would be unknown for another 15 years in 1989). Writers ought to be able to do better than this nowadays, but mostly they don’t, instead sticking with same same cheap sensationalism that’s dominated the subject since before I was born. Look up “Ride the Grey Planet,” published in 1949. It features the retrieval of an asteroid made of thorium! Would that it were true. But it ain’t.

        The other issue is this venue, which is a fairly bad Marxist Progressive site. I read Aeon as a counterpount to Quillette, but it’s hardly worth the effort. I wonder how much they paid for the article. Probably nothing.

  2. First, Aeon is a left wing publication, so he’s preaching to people who believe human extinction is a good idea.

    He probably conned them into publishing him by asserting that asteroid mining is best done from the Earth’s surface, after they are brought down near population centers at full speed….

  3. I’m currently writing a computer game called Asteroid Commander for the Commander X-16, a new 8bit computer system about on par with a 286. I’ll probably be porting it to a number of other systems including mobile/handheld once it’s done. It’s basically SimCity, in space, with a storyline.
    Players will set up a base and mine and refine materials and build and ship stuff around the solar system.
    I figure computer games are the best way to push these sorts of ideas out to the world; Kerbal Space Program alone has trained hundreds of thousands of people to intimately understand orbital dynamics, maybe I can do the same for asteroid mining.

      1. I don’t know, it’s months from completion right now. And then I’d have to port it.

      1. I have to keep it simple: ices, rocks, and metals. From there refineries and smelters and centrifuges etc turn it into commodities.

        1. This rapidly becomes an elephants on the backs of sea turtles exercise. What kind of commodities? Are they useful in building other things in the game? It never ends… lol… Part of the reason I never got into game design even tho’ I thought it’d be fun. I just didn’t have the time to figure out where the ‘horizon’ was nor the time to run through simulated games to see if it was actually play-worthy. That’s the real trick, the rest is automation. That I can do…. Best of luck, you have my respect. Let us know when it’s available to try, esp. on a smartphone.

          1. Commodities would be things like water, O2, H2, steel, pure metals, grain, ethanol, and so on; anything that is bought in bulk and basically the same no matter where it comes from. Yes, you’d need to build up various commodities in order to build other things – no new construction without steel or concrete, for instance. Balancing all of those is going to be tricky.

        2. Please don’t leave out CHON. Carbonaceous chondrites dominate some parts of the solar system, such as the Jovian Trojans. It can be used in lieu of petroleum as a feedstock for plastics. In addition, we are currently possessed of an enormous hydrocarbon-based technological civilization that can and should be transplanted off-earth, depsite the fact that misguided people want to throw it away in favore of solar-battery-electric technology. Off-earth, “clean and green” simply don’t matter. I once did a poster showing a dirty industrial site, complete with belching smokestacks, sitting on an asteroid, with Earth hanging in the background. The text said, “Save the Earth. Develop Space.” That’s kind of sensationalistic and rhetorical, but I did it decades ago. Sadly, I have no copies and there’s no sign of the image file.

          1. Have you considered the possibilities that CHON could provide for terra-forming a planet?

            Another use for ELMO, a great starting point for building a giant solar powered toroidal field coil, for magnetizing the Martian core, if it’s a magnetizable metallic solid as some speculate. And also provide a temporary Barzoomomagnetic Field until the core is magnetized. So all those essential CHON gasses don’t get blown off into space by the solar wind, again.

          2. Yep, that’s the “ices” I mentioned: water, methane, ammonia, CO2, simple alcohols, and so forth, all mixed together with gravel and dust in a dirty slushball.

  4. Do we have any idea what we are mining?

    Estimates of grain density, porosity, and mineral composition of even the larger asteroids are all over the place.

  5. “Embrace the power of ‘and’,” applies here. We don’t yet know what we will find. Or how much.
    Rand linked to an audio of a man who reminded us that if you heat lunar regolith, you get steam. I am sorry I forgot his name. But it reminded me of the story of why meteorites don’t usually reach the surface. A steam explosion breakes them apart many miles up. And this happens to almost all of them.
    If steam is this readily available this close to earth orbit, then we will have very little problem finding life-sustaining elements when we venture out in search of the unknown.
    I said embrace the power of ‘and’. And we should. Space exploitation of resources will not replace local surface supplies, any more than wind and solar will replace legacy power generation fuels. But they will supplement the tonnage we have to lift to orbit in the next several decades. And one day, hopefully soon, replace it.
    Christopher Columbus set out in search of a shorter route to the East.

    1. At least that was what he told the people with money. He was an accomplished con man. He also studied enough that he knew the approximate size of the earth so it is unlikely he really believed India was that close. He was an accomplished sailor so he should have been able to predict about where what we now call the gulf stream came from in both distance and direction.

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