Chart: many asteroids are worth quintillions of dollars each


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/11/07/chart-many-asteroids-are-wort.html


#2

Asteroid farming would ruin our economy. The only way it’d work is if it were accessible to a lot of people. But if only one or a few orgs had a shot at it, it’d ruin Earth’s economy.


#3

Our economic system is already fucked. If we step back from worrying about the economy, there’s no question that getting that quantity of raw resources without the attendant environmental destruction from mining them here would be a huge boon. Also, fuck mining companies. Those fuckers business model should have been made illegal ages ago. They can’t get driven out of business too soon.


#4

I mean… It’d be awesome if we had a lot of gold and lithium and other stuff super easy. But it’d destabilize everything.


#5

I don’t think destabilizing everything is necessarily a bad thing. There’s a lot of things that need some destabilizing.


#6

As usual, it’d mean a handful of folks get disgustingly rich


#7

Ok peoples, here it is: There is no money in space.
That there is, is a fantasy all of your upbringings have taught you to believe.

How does this work? Like this: there is no scarcity in space. If you need heavy metals, there’s more than enough for more people than you can breed in 1000 years in the kuiper belt alone, nevermind the 9 planets of our system.
Ditto for oxygen, water, carbon, anything and everything.

Let that sink in for a second, that there’s no money in space.
The trick is getting there, and right now we cannot because we lack the technology.


#8

We don’t really exactly lack the tech. We could try it, and it’s not completely implausible that it could succeed. But it’s still unlikely.


#9

Specifically, I meant that we still cannot overcome long term radiation/zeroG exposure, and we can’t travel fast enough for kuiper belt mining to be meaningful.


#10

Ah, yes, “It is believed.” I’m not hearing the names of the scientists who believe this, or citations to their papers. Just the good old passive voice “It is believed.”

So who believes it? Could it be… song and dance men seeking venture capital with which to buy Newton’s cradles and foosball tables?

(There’s a big difference between an ore and a rock contaminated with exotic element such-and-thus. Ignoring refining costs in the value calculation-- “This is what the element would be worth in its pure form”-- enables one to argue that worthless rock so-and-so is valuable. In the old days, the get-rich-quick types used to argue that all we had to do was extract the gold from seawater.)


#11

A problem there, is that this applies to “space” itself as well. There’s an awful lot of it, and it tends to make local scarcity a real issue.


#12

Actually getting there solves that problem, or goes so far towards solving it that it may as well be the same thing.

After all, we’re talking about enormous quantities of materials, and local problems tend to require comparatively little.


#13

Only if the “there” that you’re getting to has all the things you need. Otherwise, you’re just trading scarcity as you move, and the new things you need still have all that space (and time) between you and them.


#14

The lure of money will get a colony on Mars faster than the lure of science.


#15

So you’re saying there’s no need for capitalism in space… this might not discourage some people.


#16

If you summarise the OP as “a sufficiently thriving economy in space would have access to unlimited raw materials”, that’s hard to dispute.

The problem is the “sufficiently” part. Once you have (thousands? millions?) of spacecraft moving between the orbits of Mercury and Jupiter, that economy will encompass enough energy and matter that it becomes simple to arrange any asteroid mining you want to do, and it will be feasible to hollow and rotate huge metal asteroids with 100m-thick hulls, where humans could live full healthy lives. And for the people within that economy, it could just as easily be a socialist paradise as a feudal hierarchy (who wants to be sealed in a closed habitat with a bunch of angry oppressed slaves?).

But the barrier between here and there is stupendous. Not only can it not help today’s poor people, it can’t help today’s ultra-rich people, or even their grandchildren, probably.

Still, if it happened somehow, perhaps those future space Eloi would find it in their hearts to land giant metal asteroids along the coasts of Africa, transforming it into a continent with vast mineral wealth instead of… oh wait


#17

I hope not. Becoming a space faring people is more or less essential to our survival in the long term.


#18

It would be fun to watch all the gold bugs have a cow over the now relatively worthless metal.


#19

Sorry I have laid claim to all of them.


#20

I sincerely doubt it will be humans doing the mining. 'Bots are far better suited for the task anyway.