Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Planetary Resources Confirms Plan To Mine Asteroids

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the that-better-be-some-delicious-water dept.

Businesses 500

Matching widespread predictions, The Bad Astronomer writes with word that "The private company Planetary Resources has announced that it plans to mine asteroids for water, air, and even precious metals in the next few years. Your initial reaction may be to snicker a bit, but it's headed by Peter Diamandis — who established the X Prize — has several ex-NASA personnel running the engineering, and also has the backing of a half-dozen or so billionaires. So this is no joke — their plan looks solid, and may very well be the first step in establishing a permanent human presence in space."

cancel ×

500 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

What could possibly go wrong? (5, Insightful)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782489)

Hopefully they'll be very careful about bringing asteroids into Earth orbit. But the energy and mining industries are pretty safe and responsible right?

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782505)

Where's the "Scary because it's true" moderation choice when you need it.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782685)

Fuck off and die -- it's not scary, because there's almost no conceivable way you can mess up popping an asteroid into Earth orbit that doesn't either leave it on a slow (LEO-like), grazing path through the atmosphere, easily burning/breaking up before it hits ground, or cause it to miss the Earth entirely. Orbital mechanics just don't work the way you alarmists seem to think, and the only way you'll get a weapon-like trajectory is if someone actually tried for that.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (0)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782709)

easily burning/breaking up before it hits ground

Like Tunguska which was completely harmless.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (4, Informative)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782805)

You don't see a difference between aiming a meteor to take up orbit and aiming it to hit the Earth? Like the GP said, that is HARD to do, and you really have to try to get it into that range. This is why for every Tunguska, there are at least hundreds of thousands of similar sized rocks that burn up or get flung away.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782925)

the only way you'll get a weapon-like trajectory is if someone actually tried for that.

And there is my next movie idea. A rogue non-union group of asteroid miners, sick of lousy pay, blue gruel, and malfunctioning sexbots, actually tries to get an asteroid into a weapon-like trajectory in order to hold to Earth ransom for one bazillion, no wait, one gazillion dollars. Cue Dwayne Johnson to get Bruce Willis out of retirement for one last Earth saving "Hurrah!" Call it "Die Hardest Mega-Impactor Go Joe Go".

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (3, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782599)

Slightly paraphrasing Hubert Farnsworth: "Yes, there's no safer occupation than mining. Especially when you're on a rock whipping through space at a million miles an hour! Whoo whoo whoo whoooo! Safe!"

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (5, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782701)

Slightly paraphrasing Hubert Farnsworth: "Yes, there's no safer occupation than mining. Especially when you're on a rock whipping through space at a million miles an hour! Whoo whoo whoo whoooo! Safe!"

Dr. Zoidberg: It's true, it's true. I've never had one asteroid miner come to me seeking medical attention.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (5, Funny)

pr0t0 (216378) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782611)

Well, there's always the possibility that some enterprising manager finds that if he provides performance enhancing narcotics to the miners, his quarterly numbers and thus compensation will go up. Then a marshal of Scottish descent will catch on after a miner wigs out on the drugs and opens an airlock without an environment suit on. He'll try to stop the operation leading the manager to send up some thugs to take the marshal out. This will cause a bloody gunfight and some EVA shenanigans; maybe an explosion or two.

Props to everyone who's old enough to get the reference!

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (1)

Joehonkie (665142) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782671)

Nice.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (3, Informative)

jpedlow (1154099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782713)

I'll just leave this here
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outland_(film)/ [wikipedia.org]
It was made 3 years before I was born. But I did catch original transformers & spiderman & gi-joe. (and a-team re-runs) Ahhhh the 80's, could do no wrong..

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (1, Funny)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 2 years ago | (#39783085)

Ahhhh the 80's, could do no wrong..

I loved the 80s.
But the in fact could [wikipedia.org] do wrong.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782729)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082869/

'nuff said.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (1)

kdogg73 (771674) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782851)

I thought I read somewhere they are going to pull a small asteroid (17–22 meters) into moon's orbit, not the earth's, then mine it.

A lot, but (4, Insightful)

oGMo (379) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782939)

A lot could go wrong, but hopefully they're talking about dropping it at L1 [wikipedia.org] and not actually bringing it into LEO/MEO. After all, we already have a rather large chunk of rock [wikipedia.org] in orbit. A fair-sized asteroid at L1 would make a great place for a real space station, especially if it's ice and rock ... water, breathable air, and a place to build, and you don't have to do anything to keep it there. And the moon is a short jump away.

just in time (3, Funny)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782507)

Because we're just about running out of problems to solve here on Earth

Re:just in time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782569)

I hope thats sarcasm...otherwise your a twit

Re:just in time (2)

Travco (1872216) | more than 2 years ago | (#39783113)

Everyone knows the way to solve problems is to keep doing the same ineffective things 'till suddenly by magic they work!
New efforts are NEVER helpfull.

Re:just in time (5, Insightful)

EnsilZah (575600) | more than 2 years ago | (#39783117)

Shouldn't you be out feeding the poor or something?

Best of Luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782511)

It sounds ridiculous and I won't be investing in that "enterprise".

Re:Best of Luck (4, Informative)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782539)

Wise choice. From TFA:

I asked Lewicki specifically about how this will make money. Some asteroids may be rich in precious metals — some may hold tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars in platinum-group metals — but it will cost billions and take many years, most likely, to mine them before any samples can be returned. Why not just do it here on Earth? In other words, what’s the incentive for profit for the investors? This is probably the idea over which most people are skeptical, including several people I know active in the asteroid science community.

I have to admit, Lewicki’s answer surprised me. “The investors aren’t making decisions based on a business plan or a return on investment,” he told me. “They’re basing their decisions on our vision.”

These guys aren't even making excuses, they're throwing money down a hole for the lulz. And if this is one of Elon's "playing the long game" ideas he's going to be really disappointed that this will never be profitable as long as spaceships are being pushed from A to B. The only material that could possibly be profitable to bring back to Earth would be He3 from the Moon for use in fusion power.

Re:Best of Luck (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782681)

Actually, I think this is worth doing on a "because it's there" basis. If you've got the money and want to spend it that way.

For my values, it beats buying a football team or a casino.

Re:Best of Luck (5, Insightful)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782711)

These guys aren't even making excuses, they're throwing money down a hole for the lulz.

The money put forth into space endeavors is NOT packaged up and shot into space. It's spent right here on earth. It employs people here on earth. It uses infrastructure and resources here on earth. It's not being thrown down a hole. Even if they are doing it for lulz, it employs people.

Re:Best of Luck (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782761)

True nothing wrong with doing this as rich guy entertainment, but any investors who are expecting a return are going to be disappointed.

Re:Best of Luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39783089)

More rich envy eh? We should spend money on space rather than the welfare bums who refuse to work and anything social you twit.

Re:Best of Luck (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782803)

Actually, if we packaged up the money and shot it into space, it would help counteract the ongoing attempts by the US government to debase our currency with their inflationary tactics....

Re:Best of Luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782965)

What fucking inflation?

We could do with some right now BTW, given the cause of the current crisis was a massive, localized, amount of deflation around four years ago.

Re:Best of Luck (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#39783135)

The Fed can print money much faster than you can build rockets to launch it into space.

Re:Best of Luck (5, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782743)

Yeah, throwing money down a hole for the lulz. Just like space travel always was!

Seriously, are you so short-sighted that you cannot see how useful mining asteroids for water, air, and eventually precious minerals is? I'll give you a hint: absolutely, 100% vital to the continued development of the human race. This has nothing to do with doing something "for the lulz." It is all about advancing the state of the human race. Not for profit, but because humanity can and should expand. Asteroid mining is one step forwards in our expansion towards other planets, and if we intend to not go extinct, we need to do that. We may not need to now. We may not need to in a hundred years, but we will in a thousand, or a million, and we are only going to get there if we start at some point. Might as well do it now.

To quote from the article: "[Planetary Resources] want to make sure there are available resources in place to ensure a permanent future in space." Our future, eventually, is in space. Whether from global warming, resource exhaustion, or nuclear war, Earth will eventually not be enough. When that day comes, we will be glad some billionaires chose to spend their money on space expansion, instead of building/buying shiny new toys, or hookers and blow.

Re:Best of Luck (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782995)

I said the same thing in the latest poll but from a business standpoint it's still throwing money down a hole. If they're not doing it for profit it's strange that they set it up as a business.

Re:Best of Luck (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782773)

These guys aren't even making excuses, they're throwing money down a hole for the lulz. And if this is one of Elon's "playing the long game" ideas he's going to be really disappointed that this will never be profitable as long as spaceships are being pushed from A to B. The only material that could possibly be profitable to bring back to Earth would be He3 from the Moon for use in fusion power.

The investors seems to be rich enough to sit down and think about life.
Money by itself does not have more value than the things you can buy for it and you can't take money with you when you die.
There is not really much reason to spend your life earning money that you aren't going to use. It's almost as bad as spending money you haven't earned.
It appears that some of the "investors" thinks that spending money on the space industry is a lot cooler than buying mansions and yachts. I wish that more insanely rich people had a hobby like that.

Re:Best of Luck (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782963)

Not really. They are leveraging valuable materials to colonize space. If everyone thought the way you do, we'd have never bothered to explore the world. Hell, it was expensive to set up mining operations in Africa and the Americas. But we did it. And those operations made enough money to build vast cities. Might as well have sneered at Columbus because he would have had to take the vast riches back and forth across the Atlantic on his little carracks.

Never mind that in many ways, it will be easier to mine in space than it is on the Earth. For one, you can pick and choose among your asteroids. For another, none of the desired minerals have been taken yet. For a third, there is no need to dig miles into the Earth. Etc. etc. Yes, it is hard to get to space. But there are limitless resources available once we are there.

Re:Best of Luck (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39783017)

The ROI on Columbus' voyage was in time measured in centuries.

Re:Best of Luck (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 2 years ago | (#39783029)

Now hold on - they obviously don't have profit as their primary motive. That doesn't mean they are throwing money away. It's an extremely high risk business, but it is still a business and could still return a profit in the very long term.

Re:Best of Luck (4, Funny)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782855)

Men, flying through the air!? Ridiculous! I won't be investing in that "enterprise".

As if you had the means or the opportunity.

I'll believe it (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782517)

when I see it happening.

Does anyone know what the (plausible) ROI for this is?

Re:I'll believe it (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782547)

How many zeroes can you write (within reason)? If asteroid mining is implemented properly, the potential returns could dwarf the US national debt. Run improperly on the other hand, and we'll need a hotline to Bruce Willis (backing music from Aerosmith).

Re:I'll believe it (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782765)

the potential returns could dwarf the US national debt

If you take the current price of platinum and multiply it by the amount that you could obtain from asteroid mining.

However, what is going to happen to the price if you bring that much to the market?

And for that matter, is there that much of a market for it? Will we all be wearing platinum belt buckles in 50 years?

Re:I'll believe it (1)

DrMaurer (64120) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782927)

I wrote a short story about this. I spent some time looking into the effect of flooding the market with gold (hey, it was my story, right?). Would mess everything up right quick. You could make a fortune on the short-sell kind of thing, but at what cost? Especially since gold is one of those "safe" investments.

Of course it was a story. I won't tell you how it ends, but now that I think about it, it might have been a better story if I had pursued those consequences instead of the ending I did go with. That really does sound interesting. Of course, I'm older how. Who knows?

I'm still missing the "why". (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#39783007)

If you take the current price of platinum and multiply it by the amount that you could obtain from asteroid mining.

My question is more along the lines of what is it that we cannot do right now that requires more platinum. Or that is prohibitively expensive based upon the current price of platinum.

And for that matter, is there that much of a market for it? Will we all be wearing platinum belt buckles in 50 years?

Exactly. Bringing down more gold or platinum will initially depress the price of such. What, on Earth, requires more gold than is currently available?

Re:I'll believe it (3, Informative)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | more than 2 years ago | (#39783039)

Precious metals are used in more than just fashon. Do you even know how much goes into all that expensive tech, not including the toys? Gold is one fo the best conductors you can find, and most, if not all high end tech has gold connectors. Im not even going to get into how much titanium and other harder alloys are used where I work every day.

Re:I'll believe it (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39783049)

I'm pretty sure the plan isn't to bring it (or, at least, not most of it) to the surface. It's value as construction material, up there, is greater than its market value down here.
I think Big Money, recognizing that there is no growth left for them in their current domains, is fanning out again. There is more money to be made establishing ports of business, communities, and enterprises out there, than there is here.
One neat thing that might happen - IF it can be built, would be that mass from orbit could be used as a counter-weight on a space elevator to lift materials/people from Earth's surface. Mine the materials that are needed for your space station, extract the minerals/metals that have value on Earth, shift people and wealth from the surface to your habitat. All kinds of profit in there, if you can pull it off.

Re:I'll believe it (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39783071)

Platinum has the advantage of being reasonably intrinsically useful(a brilliant catalyst for a variety of applications(certain fuel cell designs, for one), nice and corrosion resistant, in addition to being pretty and rare); but the price would certainly plummet if supply increased dramatically.

There are relatively few elements that are genuinely without practical applications(some of the shorter-lived radioactive ones are probably too hot to handle but fade too quickly to be useful industrial or medical emitters); but some get bumped into the status of 'financial instrument with a few esoteric applications' by their scarcity.

Re:I'll believe it (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782981)

How many zeroes can you write (within reason)?

I can write a lot of zeroes. Problem is, with asteroid mining, the ROI will be nothing but "a lot of zeroes."

If asteroid mining is implemented properly, the potential returns will be negligible.

If asteroid mining is implemented improperly, the potential returns will be vastly negative.

Re:I'll believe it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782583)

There are no environmental restrictions on mining asteroids to my knowledge.

Strip mine the sky baby!

Re:I'll believe it (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782853)

There are no environmental restrictions on mining asteroids to my knowledge.

And no restrictions on advertising! You can show someone actually drinking a beer or even pretend to be a nutritional expert [slashdot.org] and no one can make you stop :-)

Re:I'll believe it (4, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782615)

They are not sending metal down to earth.

Their first step is to mine water and air and other materials to sell to NASA in orbit..

Cheaper for a space station to get water from an asteroid mine than it is to ship it up from earth.

Similarly, if they can get a simple forge up there, they can build the heavy support structures for satelitels and space stations out of metals mined on the asteroid.

This allows bigger construction in space.

Re:I'll believe it (0)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782691)

This allows bigger construction in space.

Which is needed for ... ?

Orbiting whore-houses for the miners?

Re:I'll believe it (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782899)

This allows bigger construction in space.

Which is needed for ... ?

Orbiting whore-houses for the miners?

Space stations, moonbases, interplanetary travel... for starters?

Re:I'll believe it (4, Insightful)

Gnomaana (1698442) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782901)

Going by this logic the human race should still be confined to some small valley in Africa. Human's do stuff and go places "because it's there." When we stop doing that the clock to extinction starts ticking.

Re:I'll believe it (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782989)

Well, now we know what jobs those fired Secret Service agents will be applying for...

Re:I'll believe it (2)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782993)

I don't know. Why build cities in the New World? No-one lives there!

Re:I'll believe it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782971)

Whether your raw materials are on a big rock zipping along this way, or a little rock zipping along that way, you've still got a tremendous delta-vee to buy to get them where you want them.

Re:I'll believe it (1)

oracleofbargth (16602) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782641)

Finding just one asteroid rich in Platinum and other valuable metals may result in a return on the order of trillions of dollars, justifying the billions in expenses of bringing such an asteroid to earth/lunar orbit and extracting all of its resources.

Re:I'll believe it (1)

Abreu (173023) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782791)

Wouldn't bringing large amounts of Platinum to Earth cause it's price to plummet?

Re:I'll believe it (3, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782831)

Yes, but lower price means more people can afford it, which in turn increases demand. So even if they don't get a trillion dollars for it, they can still make a lot of money.

Re:I'll believe it (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 2 years ago | (#39783105)

Yes, but lower price means more people can afford it, which in turn increases demand. So even if they don't get a trillion dollars for it, they can still make a lot of money.

Or they can act like De Beers and limit the release in order to control the price.

Re:I'll believe it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782911)

Not on Earth, where it costs you ten-thousand a pound to import it from orbit, but yes, its price on orbit will plummet.

Re:I'll believe it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782913)

See: diamonds.

Re:I'll believe it (5, Interesting)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 2 years ago | (#39783099)

One of the ironies is that many materials are prized for their scarcity, but their scarcity actually makes them less valuable in the real world.

Take gold as an extreme example. There's not enough of it to be useful, so we don't really use it that often. Instead, its rarity is prized by people who value rarity and that's it.

Libertarians might think it's valuable as some post-apocalyptic currency. Me, I think gold's useless. Outside of plating electrical connectors (something silver's pretty good at too), it's only in my house 'cos my wife like wearing the stuff decoratively.

If we had lots of gold, on the other hand, we'd start using it. Copper wire would start being replaced by gold/copper alloys. We'd use it to plate large objects to protect them from rust - car components, train bodies (perhaps even train rails.)

The irony here is that by becoming abundant, gold would become useful. As such it would be valuable. You could build and fuel industries around it. There's not enough of it to build industries around it today.

Re:I'll believe it (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782697)

There isn't any for the first trip. Still, how much would you pay to put 100 tons of iron, or water, or oxygen into earth or lunar orbit? $10,000/lb is a round figure, and bulk launches could probably come in at as little as $500-$1000/lb. A million dollars a ton is a pretty hefty sum of money.

Re:I'll believe it (5, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782769)

Does anyone know what the (plausible) ROI for this is?

Most people are just going to babble nonsense in this article, but I'm going to try to actually give you numbers.

You can orbit a Kg for about "ten grand". However asteroids are already in orbit, and it takes a hell of a lot less fuel to deorbit than to orbit. So to a VERY crude first approximation the delivery expense is perhaps a buck per gram. Precious metals from the ground cost around one to two orders of magnitude more. So the delivery cost seems high in an absolute sense, but its not really a significant fraction of the cost of the metal.

Its kind of like complaining that you can't mine gold in South Africa because a 747 cargo plane costs $50M and $50M is a lot to spend for a little gold. Well, yes $50M is a lot of dough but you'd find that the cargo capacity of a 747 in gold is worth a whole hell of a lot more than $50M, so suddenly the airplane cost doesn't matter much.

The ROI killer is going to be the mysterious and unclear latency from when the $ are spent until the capsules of solid gold hit the earth. I would postulate that you're trading the risks of international and national politics (nationalization of mines, strikes, government delaying regulation, etc) for technology risks.

I think the ROI/risk is about as bad as opening a gold mine in South Africa. Much riskier than a diamond mine in Canada. Not as risky as a rare earth mine anywhere on the African continent. Its a plausible realistic investment.

Re:I'll believe it (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782793)

Does anyone know what the (plausible) ROI for this is?

If you bring enough precious metals back to make huge profits then the price of the precious metals will drop because they won't be as scarce as the were before you sent your miners into the heavens on a fool's errand.

Re:I'll believe it (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782979)

And then since it is now cheaper there is a larger demand for the materials.

Yea, they might not be selling the platinum at $1500 an ounce, but instead at probably $500 an ounce and still have a nice profit.

Seconded. (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782833)

And not just happening but turning a profit.

Those guys have enough money to throw at something like this and never show a cent profit ... for a while.

I think the fascination on /. with this is more driven by bad science fiction than by an understanding of the science behind it.

From TFA:

The key point is that their plan is not to simply mine precious metals and make millions or billions of dollarsâ" though thatâ(TM)s a long-range goal. If that were the only goal, it would cost too much, be too difficult, and probably not be attainable.

Okay, I can agree with that. Mining asteroids is not cheap.

The first is to make a series of small space telescopes to observe and characterize asteroids. Lewicki said the first of these is the Arkyd 101, a 22 cm (9â) telescope in low-Earth orbit that will be aboard a tiny spacecraft just 40 x 40 cm (16â) in size.

Okay.

This telescope will be used both to look for and observe known Near-Earth asteroids, and can also be pointed down to Earth for remote sensing operations.

I'm seeing scope creep already.

If they hitch a ride with a satellite destined for a 40,000 km (24,000 mile) geosynchronous orbit, the motor can be used to take the telescope â" now a space probe â" out of Earth orbit and set on course for a pre-determined asteroid destination.

And now we're getting into the "floor wax and dessert topping" area.

Many asteroids pass close to the Earth with a low enough velocity that one of these probes could reach them. Heck, some are easier to reach in that sense than the Moon!

And that's where I think they will fail. They're hoping that the rocks that will be valuable are already in the "Near-Earth" and big enough and moving slow enough and ...

Kind of like hoping that a winning scratch lottery ticket is in your local store and in the game you're playing and within X tickets of the edge where the money you'll spend on them is X or greater.

It's their money and more space science won't hurt.
But I'd rather see them accomplish something visible.

Its the in-orbit/lunar infrastructure ... (4, Informative)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782879)

Does anyone know what the (plausible) ROI for this is?

5 year, 25 year, 100 year?

The real return will not be from delivering things to earth, rather it will be delivering things to orbit and the moon to further orbital and lunar construction and habitation. Lifting metals and waters from the earth to orbit or the moon is very expensive. Getting those resources "locally" (local in terms of gravity well not absolute distance) is the way to go and someone will get very rich doing so. The problem is that a profitable mining enterprise is optimistically many decades in the future, more likely something for the next century at our current pace.

Wouldn't a moon base be better for that? (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#39783069)

We already know where there is ice on the Moon.

Wouldn't it be easier to just set up on the Moon and process it there and then ship it to NASA if they want to pay for it?

But then you'd have a MOON BASE and the space station would look kind of redundant. Why not move the astronauts to the moon base and use the water there?

permanent human presence in space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782529)

Mining with human on the asteroids... I dooubt it... machine will do the jobs for less cost...

Re:permanent human presence in space (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782945)

The machines may be doing the mining themselves, but once things are underway there will probably still be maintenance and operations stationed in space not too far from the asteroids. The raw materials mined from the roids can be used elsewhere in space as well - such as a permanent lunar settlement.

More valuable if they keep it in space (5, Insightful)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782541)

The last article on asteroid mining said it wouldn't be profitable even if the asteroid was 20% gold. That was based on the ludicrous assumption that the material would be brought back to earth. Going to all the effort of capturing and mining an asteroid in space just to get a bunch of air and water seems silly until you look at just how ungodly expensive air and water are *in space*, after launch and storage costs. Producing life support materials in situ is the holy grail of space exploration.

Re:More valuable if they keep it in space (3, Interesting)

Travco (1872216) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782677)

"Producing life support materials in situ is the holy grail of space exploration"
Not to mention construction materials. This is what NASA should have been working on for the past 30 years instead of the ISS

Re:More valuable if they keep it in space (1)

theBraindonor (577245) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782967)

THIS!

This is exactly where they get the long term payoff! And parking everything in orbit around the moon is even smarter. The absolute worst thing they could do is bring resources down into our gravity well just so they can take them out at a later date.

Man-made Asteroid Human-Extinction event (2)

Quick Reply (688867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782549)

How ironic that the predicted Asteroid Human-Extinction event would be man made?

Re:Man-made Asteroid Human-Extinction event (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782717)

How ironic that the predicted Asteroid Human-Extinction event would be man made?

Yes, but how are they going to accomplish it by the end of the year?

Methinks the Mayans were overoptimistic about technology development. But then again "billionaire" probably sounded like a rather lot of money to them.

Strip it Bare, Leave it Behind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782565)

Attention Peasants! Your revolution is over. You belong to us. Now behave while we ruin the planet with strip mining, fracking and pollution. We will very shortly be leaving on our miles-long colony cruise ships and leave you to rot in the wreckage of Old Earth.

Earth first! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782859)

We'll destroy the rest of the planets later.

Re:Strip it Bare, Leave it Behind (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#39783031)

Isn't the plan to strip mine space and bring the resources to Earth?

Wait, what? (1)

Taibhsear (1286214) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782567)

This telescope will be used both to look for and observe known Near-Earth asteroids, and can also be pointed down to Earth for remote sensing operations.

"Remote sensing operations" being what exactly? /spideysense

Re:Wait, what? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782757)

you know, looking for hidden ruins, catching some boobs, a few terror-tits and that stuff. of course. what else?

"their plan looks solid" (4, Funny)

Tx (96709) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782577)

Solid as a rock?

IGMC

Re:"their plan looks solid" (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782695)

That's what their plan is
That's what they've got. Oh, mmmm.
The thrill is still hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot

Why not start with something simpler ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782609)

Why not start with "mining" all the spacecraft / satellite debris that is floating around in earth orbit? The debris is full of precious metals and alloys and is much more technologically simple.

Re:Why not start with something simpler ... (1)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782647)

Interesting idea, but there's not _that_ much of it, it's scattered and in a lot of different orbits, so would require a _lot_ of energy to get each bit.

Re:Why not start with something simpler ... (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782985)

Eventually we'll have to declutter our orbit and we might just find a way to recycle most of it, although I'm sure there's a lot that's just easier to nudge into the atmosphere to burn up. But like you said, the amount of material up there is insignificant from the perspective of reusing it for something is. Some of the low cost ways to get it includes nets, inflatables and lasers so you don't need to catch up to every little piece.

Gosh (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782687)

Amazing how many things are the "first step in establishing a permanent human presence in space".

You'd think by now we'd actually HAVE one.

Re:Gosh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39783115)

Well.... Isn't Earth in space already? And last time I checked it's chock-full of *gasp* humans!

Go figure.

FYI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782725)

We already have a permanent human presence in space. For the last 11 years or so people have been onboard ISS has be continuously. Before that, the MIR space station had a record of 10 years. If (I frankly don't know) the MIR and ISS missions overlapped we have been in space for more than 20 years. I'd say that qualifies as permanent presence.

and (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782733)

As long as they are willing to pay fro damages if an asteroids destroys some property, I have no problem and wish them luck.

Re:and (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39783003)

No worse than a rogue satellite causing damage.

Long term investments (3, Interesting)

netsavior (627338) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782763)

Everyone wondering how they could possibly make money on this forgets that in 2036 or 2040 there is a decent chance that the fattest multinational government contract ever awarded will go to whomever knows how to capture an Asteroid. AG5 or Apothis or some other yet undiscovered rock will need to be moved sometime in the future, we know this.

It actually is possible that a few billionaires actually do want to keep the human race from going extinct, as far-fetched as that sounds.

A new life awaits you in the off-world colonies! (4, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782775)

I really kind of like this. A group of rich guys with a bent towards science fiction are doing a proof of concept mission that is - quite honestly - to risky for a big organization like NASA.

This is such a phenomenally more interesting use of their money than a huge yacht or a private island or buying a baseball team. I say go for it.

FWIW, I believe the target asteroid size is 500T, which is the same order of magnitude (barely, factor of 7.5) as the one that re-entered and blew up with apparently no ground damage over the US west coast last night.

So that was the simulation, eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782777)

Let me know when they have the real world "escape via hyperspace" feature working.

Naysayers can go to hell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39782813)

Damn all 'where the profit' morons. These people have an idea for a better future, one that they are apparently willing to back with their own considerable wealth. And all you have to say is "the profit margin isn't high enough". That idiotic, selfish, immoral, inhumane attitude is huge factor in why the western world is currently in such a mess. Perhaps you could go lobby for the reintroduction of slavery. I understand that had a really nice ROI.

Old and busted: mining asteroids (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 2 years ago | (#39782917)

New hotness: taxing asteroids.
Them rich rocks gotta pay their fair share. I heard they're Dick Cheney fans, anyway, so to rubble with 'em.

Re:Old and busted: mining asteroids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39783025)

Occupy Ceres!

Greetings, Customer: (-1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 2 years ago | (#39783053)

we here at Planetary Resources are dedicated to squandering your preciously limited unrenewable fuel sources in the pursuit of delicious gold, silver, platinum and an element undiscovered yet by your race known as "the ichor." We may have said water and air, but given your planet is comprised almost entirely of water and air, this is now being recognized as a pointless greenwashing pitch and for it we apologize. you will receive air and water rations as to be determined by the overseers.

Tuesdays "public announcement" will commence the final stages of the invasion. Your planet in the coming years, as it transforms into a dark husk upon which you toil in our servitude, will service us perfectly for the collection of the aformentioned foods. The armada will grow strong, and our race will prosper.

END TRANSMISSION

Completely Illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39783087)

These people are attempting to declare ownership. Only a sovereign claim can provide the right of ownership. Sovereign claims are not permitted on objects in space. This enterprise is illegal.

Maybe the objective is not what we think? (1)

hmmm (115599) | more than 2 years ago | (#39783139)

I'm intrigued to see Diamandis involved, a guy who has dedicated a lot of effort to driving technological progress. It got me thinking that perhaps the objective here is less to actually create this technology themselves but perhaps to force the hand of governments and even some companies with large pockets.

The potential ROI for the first group (or country) who successfully builds a fleet of robotic miners could be..err.. astronomical. I imagine there's a number of smart people in government ministries around the world (China and Japan in particular, perhaps the US) who would not like to see this group get a head start on their nation. It could force these government's hand and force them to invest them in this technology, perhaps it might even spark a new space race.

If you were a billionaire interested in space, and unhappy with the cutbacks in funding of exploration, what better way to force governments to reverse course than by threatening to deprive these governments of the massive profits that may be available?

Only a fool would snicker (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39783145)

This could be a giant step towards getting humans out in to the universe. You want to solve problems on Earth? Well a whole lot of them will be solved by getting in to space and expanding our resource base.

Is reality finally catching up to science fiction? (1)

CosaNostra Pizza Inc (1299163) | more than 2 years ago | (#39783149)

Science fiction writers had envisioned we would already be at this stage in space commercialization by now. Since reality has been a far cry from fiction (and lags behind), I wondered if space commercialization would ever be realized in my lifetime. Cancellation of the shuttle (with prospects of a replacement uncertain) doesn't help...but, reading this article about asteroid mining brings me renewed hope.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>