|1/20/2015 by mdc|
|Christopher Rawluk reports that at first glance mining an asteriod sounds ridiculous. Why would anyone consider mining in space when even the largest Earth-based mining operations seem to have trouble managing costs? After all, mid-grade and marginal deposits seem to have trouble finding any money and the process of moving a project from prospect to mine can take decades and cost hundreds of million of dollars.|
First, one of the many items that was lost back in October, 2014 when the Antares rocket was destroyed was the Arkyd 3 satellite. Arkyd 3 is a testing platform designed by Planetary Resources, otherwise known as the asteroid mining company. Apparently these guys are not just doing interviews. There is actual work going on here. A re-built Arkyd 3 is scheduled for launch in about 9 months.
Second, the recent landing of the Philae spacecraft on comet 67P stirred all of our imaginations in a way that was reminiscent of the moon landing, first shuttle launch or first Mars rover. If we can effectively land a bullet on a bullet 500 million miles away from Earth, then the idea of grabbing a near-earth asteroid does not sound nearly as crazy. The economics might still seem crazy, but the technology not so much.
As it turns out, there are three groups currently working on a long-term strategy to gather resources from space. Two are private companies and the third is NASA. All have different approaches, but their end games are largely the same.
An After Note - The economies of scale of off-world mining changes the economic basis of mining. Not unlike building a nuclear power plant, the cost to build is large but the cost of electricity becomes very low, just as the cost of producing platinum, chrome, etc, would also become very low compared to that produced on Earth.