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How feasible is space mining ?

Posted on Saturday, 25 August, 2012 | Comment icon 10 comments

Image credit: ESA

Can Eric Anderson and Chris Lewicki of Planetary Resources actually succeed in mining asteroids ?

The idea seems simple in principal but just how feasible is it ? Is there money to be made sending spacecraft to asteroids, mining valuable materials and then bringing them back to the Earth ? "A lot of the technology required to do that has not yet been demonstrated," says Tim Spahr, director of the Minor Planet Center at Harvard University.

"Of course, that's what somebody would have told you about brain surgery or heart surgery before it was actually done. So while this hasn't been demonstrated yet, the only way to do so is to throw a whole lot of money at the problem and to undertake a lot of experiments on Earth and in space."

"What do those in the know make of the bold plans dreamed up by wannabe asteroid miners Eric Anderson and Chris Lewicki of Planetary Resources?."

  View: Full article |  Source: New Scientist

  Discuss: View comments (10)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by shaddow134 on 25 August, 2012, 14:15
Good idea but i don't think it will happen in my life time,potential though for big problems towing asteroids into close Earth orbit,especially if some one get's their maths wrong. Wouldn't it cause big problems though?If for instance, Earth markets were flooded with precious metals.
Comment icon #2 Posted by and then on 25 August, 2012, 14:39
I hope they are able to pursue the technology. Even if it turns to be a failure from a profitability standpoint it might still provide much needed knowledge of how to maneuver or even change the trajectory of a potentially earth threatening body in space.
Comment icon #3 Posted by pallidin on 25 August, 2012, 15:06
I read the article, and I don't think it addressed the issue of "which" asteroids to mine. Like, how do you know that a particular asteroid is 50% platinum, for example, or some other highly valuable substance? And I agree with "and then" that the technology might prove useful in dealing with possible asteriod hits.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Occams Razor on 25 August, 2012, 15:08
Sci-fi, Nostromo style. Mineral ore mining, off planet!!! They're on drugs. What would they mine? Whatever it is would have to be incredibly small, light, and unimaginably valuable to make it commercially viable. It's got to be an investment con.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Occams Razor on 25 August, 2012, 15:11
No, not a chance, pure fantasy.
Comment icon #6 Posted by ealdwita on 25 August, 2012, 15:37
First problem - How to stop the pit-ponies floating away!
Comment icon #7 Posted by Idano on 25 August, 2012, 15:37
Yeah, bring an asteroid into close Earth orbit...what could go wrong??
Comment icon #8 Posted by goodgodno on 25 August, 2012, 19:22
Anything is mineable as long as it has economic value. A lot of mines opening up at the moment which have low grade ore wouldn't have been considered a couple of years ago, but as the prices have risen they have become a profitable option. I can't see asteroids economic and today's prices, but in 20/30/40 years, it could be a real option. As long as the price is right.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Sundew on 25 August, 2012, 22:03
Probably the most likely metal they would find is iron, a common component of metallic meteors. Should they find enough gold/silver/platinum to make those common metals, they do have many valuable uses outside of coins and jewelry and there is the cost factor of retrieval, so precious metals may still be quite precious even if found in abundance.

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