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New Asteroid Mining Company Emerges

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the a-challenger-appears dept.

Space 148

coondoggie writes "A new company intends by 2015 to send a fleet of tiny satellites to mine passing asteroids for high-value metals. Deep Space Industries Inc.'s asteroid mining proposal begins in 2015, when the company plans to send out a squadron of 55lb cubesats, called Fireflies, that will explore near-Earth space for two to six months looking for target asteroids. The company's CEO said, 'Using resources harvested in space is the only way to afford permanent space development. More than 900 new asteroids that pass near Earth are discovered every year. They can be like the Iron Range of Minnesota was for the Detroit car industry last century — a key resource located near where it was needed. In this case, metals and fuel from asteroids can expand the in-space industries of this century. That is our strategy.'"

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148 comments

The funniest thing would be... (4, Interesting)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662453)

if after they made their own mine tailings, they noticed that there were already mine tailings there.

Re:The funniest thing would be... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662833)

if after they made their own mine tailings, they noticed that there were already mine tailings there.

Be even funnier if they find a lot of methane stored in these asteroids, under a layer of dust.

"hey, we could pipe oxygen up from Earth and run big space engines!!!"

Re:The funniest thing would be... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42663067)

It's funny, but such a situation could be considered plausible...

Which makes me wonder if any of these asteroid mining companies would have an exoarchaeologist on retainer with an NDA contract.

Other than finding a big rock made out of fairly pure platinum or some other rare-earth element, actually finding an exoartifact might be one of the most profitable things that could happen. (Particularly if it contains information or advanced tech to be reverse-engineered.) Well this SETI side-project wouldn't be too bad an idea if kept cheap and on the down-low, but it's only worth considering if you think the chance for a higher level space-faring civilization would do something like produce bracewell probes is greater than zero. (At least if I was space-faring civilization and left out any calling-cards, I'd put them off-planet and somewhere a little tricky to find them. Asteroid belts would be a perfect place. That way a lower level civilization would have to be technologically proficient and should understand just how significant such a thing is. Leaving them down on the life-bearing planet is just asking for them to be worshipped, smelted down, or smashed against some rock because the primitives don't have a clue what an SSD drive is - let alone it also has an encyclopedia stored on it which would help welcome them into the galactic federation or whatever.)

Re:The funniest thing would be... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42669473)

Which makes me wonder if any of these asteroid mining companies would have an exoarchaeologist on retainer with an NDA contract.

Exoarchaeology isn't a real thing. You have to have something to study before you can call yourself an expert at studying it.

Re:The funniest thing would be... (2)

mcneely.mike (927221) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663343)

No, the funniest thing would be if one of the crew was Jayne, and they met up with some Reavers.... and they could call this land--- this land.

Meh (4, Funny)

fellip_nectar (777092) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662455)

I bet you a hundred dollarpounds they get bought out by the Jupiter Mining Corporation

Re:Meh (3, Funny)

urbanriot (924981) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662495)

Or Weyland Industries

Re:Meh (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662673)

Or Union Aerospace Corporation.

Re:Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42662707)

Or band together, form some kind of Combine of like Ober Advancer Mercantiles

Re:Meh (1)

runeghost (2509522) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662771)

Or by Yoyodyne.

Re:Meh (1)

JustOK (667959) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662881)

Or Universal Exports

Re:Meh (2)

melikamp (631205) | about a year and a half ago | (#42665411)

All of the above and more will get absorbed by MomCorp (TM)

replying to undo misclicked mod (1)

deadzaphod (699097) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663013)

I really dislike the fact that we can't undo an unintentional mod here =-(

Re:Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42662927)

Or The Liandri Mining Corporation.

Re:Meh (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662851)

Bitcoins! Bitcoins! In the name of the Prophet! Bitcoins!

Re:Meh (1)

Somebody Is Using My (985418) | about a year and a half ago | (#42665745)

I was thinking Earth Company, or its ASTEX subsidiary...

Re:Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42668235)

I wouldn't be betting so quickly on JMC. I hear they have some right halfwits employed there. People-who-could-confuse-their-ear-for-their-mouth kinds of halfwit.

I dont see this working (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42662467)

55lbs cubesats, what can they carry back..

Re:I dont see this working (3, Informative)

dreamchaser (49529) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662571)

The cubesats are to explore, not mine. First you need to find likely targets. If you bothered reading the article you'd see they will be using slightly larger vehicles to bring back small payloads.

Re: I dont see this working (1)

minogully (1855264) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662573)

In space, you don't have to be as strong as you do on Earth to lift heavy things.

Re: I dont see this working (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42662779)

In space, you don't have to be as strong as you do on Earth to lift heavy things.

In space (you probably meant "in orbit") you have to be exactly as strong as on Earth to lift things. The benefit arises from not having to lift things against gravity at all when in orbit, because gravity is cancelled out by being in freefall.

Re: I dont see this working (4, Insightful)

tragedy (27079) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663069)

I'm fairly certain that, in microgravity, with my feet strapped down, I could take a 5000 kilogram dumbell sitting at my feet with my hands and lift it up over my head. I couldn't do it very quickly, due to inertia, and I would have to start working against my initial movements at about the halfway mark to stop it from yanking itself out of my hands (or yanking off my hands) at full extension.

Re: I dont see this working (3)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year and a half ago | (#42665039)

Tragedy has a much better grasp of "strength" than you seem to have. You must overcome inertia in space, but not gravity or friction. Hence, much less strength is required to move an object. Picking up a quarter ton on the moon is about as easy as lifting a hundred pounds on earth. With even smaller microgravities, you might pick up two or three tons. But, inertia might get you killed, unless you're experienced in those microgravities. Pick up a ton, without planning how you're going to stop that mass moving, and it may very well crash through your sunroof, inducing explosive decompression in all the occupants of your habitat.

Re:I dont see this working (2)

oxdas (2447598) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662611)

Nothing. If you read the article (I know, this is Slashdot), then you will discover that the first satelites are scouts. In 2016, they want to launch larger satellites to retrieve small samples. Ultimately, they want to build a 3-D printer in space, as well as create rocket fuel for space gas stations. As far as I could tell, the funding for this endeavor is a bit of a question mark.

Re:I dont see this working (3, Interesting)

smpoole7 (1467717) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662883)

> the funding for this endeavor is a bit of a question mark

Unless and until they discover an asteroid, in a favorable orbit, that has large deposits of rhodium, or palladium, or platinum, or gold. (Or even copper.)

That will bring in the speculative investors.

Once they demonstrate that they can bring these minerals back to earth at a profit, then they will have screaming investors climbing over one another to put up money for it.

I was arguing years ago that we ought to be doing this. I'm TIRED of the whiny, "only one Earth and we're running out of resources" bullcrap. If they can make this work -- and I give them an even 50/50 chance -- it'll be as revolutionary as the invention of the wheel.

Re:I dont see this working (3, Interesting)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year and a half ago | (#42665081)

50/50 chance? You're talking about the original investors and original staff, I take it.

Given that they are almost as likely to fail as they are to succeed, what happens when they go under? Someone buys up their assets, right? They will have left some valuable tools up there, and someone will want to claim them, maybe for pennies on the dollar. That someone will have a somewhat different plant, and succeed where the first team failed. Or, something like that.

Bottom line, for me, is that they are accumulating experience and knowledge in the attempt. We, mankind, will build on that, and eventually succeed.

Everything needed for exploration and colonization is already out there. All we need do is figure out how to use them. Success depends only on our initiative.

Two thumbs up for initiative!

Re:I dont see this working (1)

smpoole7 (1467717) | about a year and a half ago | (#42668093)

> 50/50 chance

I personally think (hope) the odds are better than that. It depends on how smart they are. (And by "they," I include Planetary Resources in that.) What's really interesting about their proposal is the use of small, inexpensive satellites and telescopes to do the initial searches.

Some skeptics point out that NASA will spend about a billion dollars just to bring a couple of ounces back to Earth. They conclude that this isn't even worth the try. My answer would be, first, well, NASA. The government. $400 hammers and toilet seats. You know. Second, for all of it's flaws, private enterprise, being profit-driven, has every incentive to find ways to do it cost-effectively. The government doesn't and never has.

> Bottom line, for me, is that they are accumulating experience and knowledge in the attempt

Bingo! You've got it. Even if these attempts fail, someone else will jump in and try a different angle.

Like I said: my intense irritation is with those who whine that we just need to make do with less, and return to a more pastoral lifestyle. Don't even bother to try. At least these people are trying. I give them two snaps for that.

Re:I dont see this working (3, Insightful)

myowntrueself (607117) | about a year and a half ago | (#42667563)

> the funding for this endeavor is a bit of a question mark

Unless and until they discover an asteroid, in a favorable orbit, that has large deposits of rhodium, or palladium, or platinum, or gold. (Or even copper.)

That will bring in the speculative investors.

Once they demonstrate that they can bring these minerals back to earth at a profit, then they will have screaming investors climbing over one another to put up money for it.

I was arguing years ago that we ought to be doing this. I'm TIRED of the whiny, "only one Earth and we're running out of resources" bullcrap. If they can make this work -- and I give them an even 50/50 chance -- it'll be as revolutionary as the invention of the wheel.

If it was gold the 'speculators' would be paying you a fuckton of cash just to forget you ever saw it and destroy all record of it. Or, failing that, pay very expensive hit men to get rid of the asteroid prospectors.

There could be enough gold come from asteroid mining to completely destroy its value. That would be hilarious and I'd love to see it happen, but the wealth of the gold cartels is, well, astronomical and they'd like to keep it that way.

Re:I dont see this working (1)

smpoole7 (1467717) | about a year and a half ago | (#42668135)

> There could be enough gold come from asteroid mining to completely destroy its value.

Of *ALL* key minerals, not just gold.

Recommended reading: "The Man Who Sold The Moon" by Robert Heinlein. Harriman(sp?) wasn't even interested in profits. He just wanted to go to the moon.

Your point about cartels is well-noted. For that matter, I've read that there are already enough diamonds on this planet to give everyone at least 1 carat each. I have no idea how accurate that figure is, but hey; diamonds are simply crystalline CARBON. One of the most common elements in the universe. The price is kept artificially high by a ... cartel. (The Debeers group.)

But I think it's inevitable. We can decide that our generation will colonize the asteroids, or leave it to the distant future when our great-grandkids have no choice but to do so, and under much greater economic difficulty. We're running out of copper and other important metals. Gold isn't just for jewelry anymore, it has very important industrial uses.

Re:I dont see this working (2)

bored_engineer (951004) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662745)

They plan two launches. The first, the firefly mentioned above is strictly for exploration. From one of the articles:

Then in 2016, Deep Space said it will begin launching 70-lb DragonFlies for round-trip visits that bring back samples. The DragonFly expeditions will take two to four years, depending on the target, and will return 60 to 150 lbs of asteroid materiel.

This is a joke. (5, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662543)

How much do you know about Asteroid Mining? Not much. And neither do these guys, because nobody has tried it before and there are still more unknowns than knowns. What I do know is that 2015, two years from now, is a totally and completely unrealistic goal. They would have to have surveys of potential candidates already done, launch windows nailed down, hardware completed and ready to go, support staff trained and ready, mineral recovery solution built, etc... You would be hard pressed to open a mine on Earth in just two years time, and Earth mining doesn't have astronomical launch costs. A 2015 timeline tells me that these guys are either insane or a scam.

Re:This is a joke. (5, Informative)

LordLucless (582312) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662597)

As usual, Slashdot summary is wrong. They're not starting mining in 2015, they're sending out their "scout" sats to find potential candidates. You'll find that information in the second sentence, neatly contradicting the first sentence.

Re:This is a joke. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42662699)

No, they're looking for funding for their "scout satellites" now, hence the ridiculous projections.

It's OK to be skeptical, especially when someone is telling you they intend to mine asteroids (which I'm sure they do). I'm not sure that they will within 20 years time.

Re:This is a joke. (5, Informative)

LordLucless (582312) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662777)

No, now you're being deliberately wrong. They plan to send out scouts (Fireflies) in 2015. In 2016 they plan to bring back very light samples (Dragonflies). They don't even give an estimated time to begin production mining (Harvesters).

Deep Space Industries asteroid mining proposal begins in 2015 when the company plans to send out a squadron of 55lb cubesats called Fireflies that will explore near-Earth space for two to six months looking for target asteroids

Then in 2016, Deep Space said it will begin launching 70-lb DragonFlies for round-trip visits that bring back samples. The DragonFly expeditions will take two to four years, depending on the target, and will return 60 to 150 lbs of asteroid materiel. ...

A much larger spacecraft known as a Harvestor-class machine could "return thousands of tons per year, producing water, propellant, metals, building materials and shielding for everything we do in space in decades to come.

Speaking of jokes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42665413)

Hmm... Firefly's a good design. But tell me, does the mining satellite, the thing itself, have purpose? I mean if it's not actively mining an asteroid, is it still an asteroid mining satellite?

An asteroid may have precious substances, but we could spend more resources by far trying to tap them. Does that seem right to you?

Re:Speaking of jokes... (2)

LordLucless (582312) | about a year and a half ago | (#42665885)

I mean if it's not actively mining an asteroid, is it still an asteroid mining satellite?

Is a car door really a car door if it has no involvement in the drive train? Mining is more than extraction.

An asteroid may have precious substances, but we could spend more resources by far trying to tap them. Does that seem right to you?

Yep. Because like most technological developments, it's an initial investment. Getting the first kilo of iron ore from a satellite will cost billions of dollars. Getting the next 5 million tonnes down will cost a fraction.

Re:This is a joke. (0)

jfengel (409917) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662635)

Strictly, they're only promising to begin the exploration by 2015. That gives them nearly three years, since it's early in 2013 and they have all of 2014 and 2015.

Even scaled back that far, it's incredibly ambitious. Not quite impossible, but I'd be stunned if they manage to achieve that in the given time frame. They'd have to hit the ground running and have everything on the development side go their way, and be able to make launches synch up with opportunities.

So I wouldn't quite go so far as to call it a scam, but it's certainly wildly optimistic and potential investors should demand to see the real plans rather than the marketing. And be prepared for it to slip by years (and have the funding to cover that). If they haven't got all that, then it's just hype.

Re:This is a joke. (3, Insightful)

cusco (717999) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663475)

I'm not sure 'wildly optimistic' is really valid. They're not planning to start mining in three years, they're going to launch a bunch of small, simple, slow, stupid spacecraft with a few sensors. (The summary says 'cubesat', which is a one liter 1.3 kilo cube, but it's wrong as usual.) These are probably less complex than the Mariner spacecraft, and the principles behind construction of the various components are well-understood. Yeah, it's rocket science, but we know a lot about building spacecraft now.

Re:This is a joke. (5, Interesting)

DanielRavenNest (107550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662637)

How much do you know about Asteroid Mining?

Quite a lot, actually. It's part of the space systems engineering textbook I'm writing

What I do know is that 2015, two years from now, is a totally and completely unrealistic goal.

That is not an unrealistic goal to launch prospector spacecraft. Coondoggie's article summary mangles what they intend to do, and you misread it further. Their actual website lists three stages: Prospecting craft to find the asteroids, assay missions to bring back ~20 kg samples, and only then trying to actually mine. This is a sensible plan.

In the mean time, I hope to start building prototype "seed factory" hardware this year. A seed factory is the minimal starter set of machines to start building *other* machines, which in turn becomes your industrial base. Think of it like a bootstrap compiler for hardware. Feed it plans for other machines, it starts making parts. I'm aiming for making 85% of the 2nd generation machines, because 100% is too hard a goal. The other 15% you just buy.

Re:This is a joke. (1)

PRMan (959735) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662801)

Machines building machines? How perverse!

Re:This is a joke. (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662843)

Yeah, and what are you gonna do when the thing gets hungry and starts looking for something a bit bigger than an asteroid?

Re:This is a joke. (1)

germansausage (682057) | about a year and a half ago | (#42666081)

Fly the Constellation down its throat and detonate it.

Aren't minerals concentrated by water? (1)

kawabago (551139) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662937)

Aren't minerals concentrated by water moving through rocks? Doesn't that mean there won't be minerals concentrated in space debris?

Re:Aren't minerals concentrated by water? (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663039)

Asteroids are concentrations of minerals.

Re:This is a joke. (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663011)

How would you do the actual mining? My best bet is controlled demolition on asteroids to turn them into rubble piles, then come back in a few years when the dust has cleared as it were, before feeding the bits into a solar furnace/centrifuge for refining/seperation.

Re:This is a joke. (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663289)

How much do you know about Asteroid Mining?

Quite a lot, actually. It's part of the space systems engineering textbook I'm writing

I'm quite curious. Do you know of any good websites or books that talk about it?

Re:This is a joke. (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663371)

Looks like a lot of time till something more than a sample comes down to earth, if ever. A lot should be put up there to have enough to be able to search, then have to find the ones that provides the materials to build more, and then keep building things up there to give continuity to the operation, to start thinking on bringing something down to earth, and probably that something should be more processed than raw rocks (not sure about what can be manufactured at 0g with that kind of materials that could make it profitable)

Re:This is a joke. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42663699)

Most likely, utter failure.
But, if it works, insanely profitable. It's like betting on "0" at roulette, only more so.
Why? Because the plan is not to bring materials back to Earth! Any material is insanely expensive if it has to be hoisted out of earth's gravity well. If you can provide the material, already in space, even materials that are cheap on earth are ridiculously valuable. Tin, copper, nickel, iron, aluminum, all are worth more in orbit than gold, platinum, or palladium, etc are on earth.

Re:This is a joke. (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663419)

Are "seed factories" even possible with current levels of tech? I thought we needed molecular manufacturing to build credible devices.

The way I see it, currently we lack the "pre-requisite" technology to do practical space exploitation like this. If we had molecular manufacturing, we could mass produce rocket components autonomously in giant automated factories on earth that can self replicate the parts used in themselves. We could build true von neuman probes and spacecraft that could go out and build real seed factories, etc to really do it.

Large space stations with thousands of inhabitants, etc would all be possible.

But step 0 is R&D in developing molecular manufacturing, which requires an enormous research effort. Right now, there's a few scientists poking around with simulations of a method to covalently bond carbon to other carbon on a surface. This should be where all the research dollars go.

Re:This is a joke. (0)

cupantae (1304123) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663599)

In the mean time, I hope to start building prototype "seed factory" hardware this year. A seed factory is the minimal starter set of machines to start building *other* machines, which in turn becomes your industrial base. Think of it like a bootstrap compiler for hardware. Feed it plans for other machines, it starts making parts. I'm aiming for making 85% of the 2nd generation machines, because 100% is too hard a goal. The other 15% you just buy.

This bit is a joke. An actual joke. There's literally zero chance that DanielRavenNest believes this.

Hilarious stuff. You're all way too gullible.

Re:This is a joke. (0)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663705)

How much do you know about Asteroid Mining?

Quite a lot, actually. It's part of the space systems engineering textbook I'm writing

How can you know 'a lot' about something that's never been done? Hell, we're not even 100% sure what asteroids are made of. It's like a celibate priest claiming he knows 'a lot' about relationships and sex because he's read all the books by other celibate priests and attended all the seminars run by other celibate priests - and then writing his own book about it. There's a huge difference between theoretical plans and real world experience.
 

That is not an unrealistic goal to launch prospector spacecraft. Coondoggie's article summary mangles what they intend to do, and you misread it further. Their actual website lists three stages: Prospecting craft to find the asteroids, assay missions to bring back ~20 kg samples, and only then trying to actually mine. This is a sensible plan.

Since they're planning on being ride-along payloads, that pretty much takes them out of the sensible plan category. The Fireflies are too small to have significant propulsion systems of their own, which means their entire house of cards relies on their being a launch available at just the right time, at just the right azimuth, etc... for the asteroid to be within reach of the (very small) additional delta-V the launch mechanism can impart.
 
And that's not even addressing the cost of recovery - even if all they had to do was pick up processed gold bars off the the surface of the asteroid, they'd go broke.
 
These guys may not be a scam, they may be honest and truly real believers - but they are badly misguided.

Re:This is a joke. (-1, Redundant)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662639)

How much do you know about Asteroid Mining? Not much. And neither do these guys, because nobody has tried it before and there are still more unknowns than knowns.

Ah, that sounds like a good reason for no one to ever try it.

Hey, Orville and Wilbur, dumbasses, YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO FLY, MORONS! NO ONE DOES! THERE ARE MORE UNKNOWNS THAN KNOWNS! GIVE UP!

Re:This is a joke. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42662915)

Grandparent wasn't saying they should give up, or that nobody should ever try. And you know it.

Strawman arguments are lies.

Re:This is a joke. (1)

bored_engineer (951004) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662717)

The firefly that the summary mentions is the survey craft. They intend to launch the dragonfly in 2016. Of course that extra year makes all the difference. :-)

Re:This is a joke. (2)

tanujt (1909206) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662753)

What's the worst that could happen? Another failed startup?

What's the best that could happen? A mitigating effort towards Earth's looming resource problems?

However shitty the odds of the latter happening, consequences of both are staggeringly different.
DON'T PANIC

Re:This is a joke. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#42668001)

What's the best that could happen? A mitigating effort towards Earth's looming resource problems?

There's no petroleum in an asteroid. Nor can their mining platforms bring back enough clean fresh water to make a significant difference. Other than that, we don't have any looming resource problems.

Don't listen to the Club Of Rome, or their philosophical descendants, they fail badly at math and economics. ("Currently uneconomical to recover" != "shortage".)

billions of USD is needed for space action (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42663711)

Unless they have over $10 billion in assets, I do not consider them truly serious. Mining is a capital intensive business. Earth has an entire surface to choose from, the ocean floor hasn't even been touched yet. Rockets, and equipment is seriously expensive. Gold is ~$50K USD per kilogram. That is 1 ton per Falcon 9 launch.

I was initially concerned about damage to the (2)

HPHatecraft (2748003) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662545)

Fireflies (the exploratory satellites), but then I remembered if there were any danger of a collision, they could simply make the jump to hyperspace [wikipedia.org] . Seems to work consistently well if I remember right...

Re:I was initially concerned about damage to the (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662681)

Or, if they make the same modifications as Serenity, they can pull a Crazy Ivan if there's a convenient atmosphere nearby.

Atari SA declares bankruptcy (1)

bugnuts (94678) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662563)

And now this... coincidence?

Anybody investing in this (-1, Troll)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662625)

deserves to lose their money.

Re:Anybody investing in this (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42662815)

People like you deserve to die. You bring down our whole species with your ignorance.

Evolution (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662667)

This [wordpress.com] is what will they grow into

Still Illegal (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42662675)

This is a violation of International treaties and amounts to conspiracy to commit theft.

This is a federal crime under US law.

Re:Still Illegal (2, Insightful)

runeghost (2509522) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662803)

This is a violation of International treaties and amounts to conspiracy to commit theft.

This is a federal crime under US law.

They're a corporation. You must not live in the U.S. or you'd know that laws don't apply to corporations unless they fail to pay their brib^H^H^H^H Freedom & Democracy Support Fees.

Re:Still Illegal (1)

Sabriel (134364) | about a year and a half ago | (#42665409)

Also, why is it a violation of international treaties to mine asteroids (if it is at all)? What morons would make a treaty that says 'nobody can mine asteroids'?

Re:Still Illegal (1)

scsirob (246572) | about a year and a half ago | (#42667131)

For starters, they do not own those asteroids. Who are they to take what isn't theirs?

Mining asteroids also risks changing their trajectory, which may endanger the Earth or other stellar bodies.

Re:Still Illegal (1)

oobayly (1056050) | about a year and a half ago | (#42668177)

Nobody owns fish on the high seas (outside the 200 mile EEZ), but it's still legal to catch them - the taking of fish (or minerals) doesn't require a claim of sovereignty.

Re:Still Illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42668893)

Try and stop us, beetchoes.

man saying something is impossible shouldn't interrupt man doing it.

Stephen Baxter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42662751)

Someone is reading 'Time" too much.

Where's Malenfant ?

"Deep space"?? Pfft!!! (0)

Sir or Madman (2818071) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662797)

Wake me up when they have a plan to mine beyond the heliopause. Yawn.

New Asteroid Mining COmpany (1)

Fry-kun (619632) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662899)

NAMCO? :)

Firefly (1)

tanujt (1909206) | about a year and a half ago | (#42662933)

It's going to work out fine until Deep Space Industries starts forming an Alliance.

Then Mal is going to flip the fuck out.

Seems like (1)

elfprince13 (1521333) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663049)

they're following a similar roadmap to Planetary Resources, but skipping the harvest-volatiles phase?

Hugely cool, 3d-printing in space a bonus (4, Informative)

Fubari (196373) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663053)

This is hugely cool, it gives me hope for our species' future. I hope they're wildly successful.

Also cool was this blurb near the end of the article on zero-g 3D Printing

Deep Space's construction activities will be aided by a patent-pending 3D printer called the MicroGravity Foundry, officials said. "The MicroGravity Foundry is the first 3D printer that creates high-density, high-strength metal components even in zero gravity," company co-founder and MicroGravity Foundry inventor Stephen Covey said in a statement. "Other metal 3D printers sinter powdered metal, which requires a gravity field and leaves a porous structure, or they use low-melting point metals with less strength."

Re:Hugely cool, 3d-printing in space a bonus (2)

the biologist (1659443) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663399)

I really get annoyed when people describe something they've thought of (or something they've found) as something they've invented. Nice idea Covey, let me know when it exists.

Re:Hugely cool, 3d-printing in space a bonus (3, Interesting)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year and a half ago | (#42666411)

I really get annoyed when people describe something they've thought of (or something they've found) as something they've invented.

Then be prepared to get bent: When I was 10 years old I independently invented masturbation. I tried to keep it secret for almost a year, but only while I studied the effects because I thought I'd be rich beyond dreams someday after I patented the process... I even let a few of my close friends in on the revolutionary discovery, contingent upon their swearing to not reveal the technique.

It was their own fault, but still you could imagine my parent's consternation: "Mom, Dad, I need $375 to file a patent... I figured out a new way to, um, touch... things that is really amazing! You're not going to believe this..."

Now, when I look back I'm not embarrassed, I'm angry that the information wasn't readily available.
The point is: Perhaps your annoyance is aimed in the wrong direction. I mean, either A) Everyone knows about 3D printing tech, and they're just describing for completeness, or B) They think they're Wanktomus Prime and can't wait to tell everyone about being the first wankers ever... Would you really be annoyed in either instance? Life's too short to be pissed off all the time; I suggest substituting humor in place of annoyance and sarcasm in place of outrage.

Re:Hugely cool, 3d-printing in space a bonus (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42663479)

Announcing vaporware gives you hope for the species? Grow the fuck up, chucklehead. Tell you what, bookmark this comment and read it again in 2015.

Re:Hugely cool, 3d-printing in space a bonus (1)

Fubari (196373) | about a year and a half ago | (#42665933)

Geez, Cynical Sam. Save some room for me at the compound; I'll bring bullets and beans.

Not that there isn't plenty of depressing stuff going on:
Political gridlock? Can't get enough of that.
US Debt ceiling? Nope, sky is the limit, keep printing money.
Oil? The hell with global warming, we have this swell fracking thing that will let us out-produce Saudi Arabia. Carbon footprints be damned. Come on, what could go wrong?
Oh, Global Warming is just too hard of a problem... we can't do anything about it (assuming it was real...).
(But hey, if you are worried about the environment, let me tell you about Clean Coal...)
Income disparity? Hmm... could be larger; what could go wrong?


Meanwhile I'll just savor some hope for a bright future (at least parts of it).
It pleases me to see people working on cool long term possibilities like asteroid mining.
Maybe this asteroid / space thing will work out, maybe not.
Maybe the Civilization Starter Kit [slashdot.org] will work out, maybe not.
Looks like Khan Academy" [slashdot.org] is doing some cool stuff (cool because I see massive education as growing the economic pie).

I see things like these and I think "cool future".
It pleases me that our species can conceive cool things.

I do kind of hope the space thing gets traction soon. If our civilization tanks (world-war III or whatever), then post-collapse it gets hard to see where the next civilization (if any) would find enough raw materials to get going. Oil kicked in during 1850 when somebody saw it oozing out of the ground. If our great-great grandparents had to start by drilling miles underwater in the gulf for oil, or maybe invent fracking to pull it off, damn... its hard to see how our current civilization ever could have evolved.
Because of that it is abundantly unclear to me our species will get a "do-over" if anything serious should go wrong.

Anyway, yeah. I'll check up on the asteroid miners in a few years. Given this successful proof of concept about landing an SUV on Mars [nasa.gov] and driving it around, yeah... chasing down a smaller rock just might work.

Re:Hugely cool, 3d-printing in space a bonus (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#42668045)

If they've actually developed a 3D printer with the capabilities described... But I can't even find a website for the company [that produces the printer], only blurbs related to this asteroid mining venture.

That alone raises a red flag.

Oh please! (1)

DarthBling (1733038) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663307)

I want to work for this company as their Material Defender. You know, just in case those robotic satellites malfunction and turn hostile.

Surprize. An other one (1)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663321)

>New Asteroid Mining Company Emerges
Geez how many are there now?

This is rediculous.

All we need is a BFR so that we can go back to the moon.
The moon is the first and only logical step towards anything outside earth.
Not Mars, not tiny meteors whizzing by at +10.000ms, that might be rich in this or that.

Well (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663363)

Try to think about this solution with a blank slate view for a moment. Don't assign qualitative values as to whether an approach is "good" or not.

Mining for resources ultimately comes down to (resources gained)/(labor + energy + fixed costs + materials).

There are very huge amounts of resources available deeper in the earth's crusts, in the oceans, in the wilds of undeveloped countries, etc. All of them require somewhat more of one of the variables in that equation than mines that are open today.

Consider the case of space mining. Labor requirements : enormous, because each piece of space-rated hardware must be assembled by hand because space stuff tends to use one-off designs and of the best possible quality. Energy : enormous. You have to provide incredible amounts of energy to get asteroids to a recovery location near the Earth. Fixed costs : enormous : you have to develop a bunch of new technology for this to even be possible. And materials : enormously expensive because the rocket equation demands that you throw away most of your spacecraft to even reach low earth orbit.

Versus opening a new mine somewhere on earth, or mining a little bit deeper.

Now, there is one advantage to space mining : no one has legal claims that can be enforced on any of those celestial bodies. In the future, when we have radically more advanced technology, it might be cheaper to send self-replicating robots out somewhere than to try to unleash those same robots onto land on earth that someone is willing to fight over. We don't have that kind of technology, yet, and are many decades from developing it.

One other nasty fact : high performance rocket engines need several nuclear weapons worth of highly enriched uranium as fuel. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_salt-water_rocket [wikipedia.org]

If you actually wanted to push a mountain of metals to near the earth in a reasonable amount of time, you'll want a very high performance engine. However, such an engine not only has weapons proliferation risks, once you get the asteroid under power you've got a weapon in itself.

Re:Well (1)

jxander (2605655) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663679)

Your missing the true end-game : Building things in space. Everything they have planned thus far is just foreplay.

Adjust your equation with the final step of moving those resources into LEO or beyond. How much extra energy do you expend to lift your moon base off and break free of the gravity well known as Earth? According to wikipedia [wikipedia.org] , it costs roughly $10,000 to lift one pound of material into space. Bring that into the equation, and space mining suddenly seems a lot more worthwhile

Re:Well (1)

arkenian (1560563) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663855)

I have to believe that it would be essentially impossible to get any sort of credit if your business plan included moving large rocks towards earth . . . given that it can't even be vaguely possible to get insurance for that sort of downside risk.

Re:Well (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#42665315)

Now, there is one advantage to space mining : no one has legal claims that can be enforced on any of those celestial bodies.

Actually, there is another advantage to space mining: It is IN SPACE.
Value of a kg of aluminum on Earth's surface: $3.
Value of a kg of aluminum in NEO: $10000.

Re:Well (1)

joh (27088) | about a year and a half ago | (#42667759)

Now, there is one advantage to space mining : no one has legal claims that can be enforced on any of those celestial bodies.

Actually, there is another advantage to space mining: It is IN SPACE.
Value of a kg of aluminum on Earth's surface: $3.
Value of a kg of aluminum in NEO: $10000.

Only if you can find a customer for that. And it may be that the customer doesn't want to buy raw aluminum, but fuel tanks and pressure vessels. OUTFITTED and tested fuel tanks and pressure vessels. These may be worth $10000/kg, but good luck producing them for this kind of money there. You'll need much more than raw metal and 3D printers for that, you'll need an actual aerospace factory in space.

Besides: There isn't much aluminum to be found on asteroids.

Re:Well (1)

halltk1983 (855209) | about a year and a half ago | (#42669497)

Where did the Earth's Aluminum come from? Remember: it's an element, not a naturally occurring alloy. That means that it all came from the same stellar dust cloud that made the earth, mars, and all the asteroids. Aluminum will be as common among asteroids. Just because we haven't seen it yet doesn't mean it's not there.

Homeworld? (1)

Grizzley9 (1407005) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663381)

Great now I want to dig out and play Homeworld again. Send out the miners to the local asteroid field and commence harvesting, cue the ethereal music. Forget building capital ships, building anything from material harvested from an asteroid would be pretty cool (except kinetic weapons).

Proof of Concept? (1)

GRAYS4ND (2814317) | about a year and a half ago | (#42663579)

I think it's more geared as a proof of concept. Amount of investment required to make this concept profitable is unjustified. It makes much better business-sense to keep torching the earth than spending billions to play Where's Waldo in space.

for just 10 payments of 19.99 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42663895)

A asteroid mining kit you get a hard hat,pick axe,shovel and plus are exclusive hint book, all for 19.99 plus free shipping

How to evaluate a space related venture... (1)

Blackjax (98754) | about a year and a half ago | (#42664767)

How to evaluate a space related venture...

Step 1: Evaluate how much of the projected funding requirements they have actually secured and have banked

Step 2: For those from step 1 who have all the funding already in hand, evaluate where they will get the additional funding they didn't project that they'd need, that they'll actually end up needing. Disregard the rest.

Step 3: For those from step 2 who have a very plausible source of additional funds, then begin to consider their business plan, the TRL of the tech they plan to use, and the audacity/coolness factor of their vision. Don't let those things distract you prior to steps 1 & 2

If you don't clearly see that the money angle is nailed down, no matter how great the idea sounds, they aren't worth treating as more than SciFi. The reason companies like SpaceX, Bigelow Aerospace, Stratolauncher, Sierra Nevada, Planetary Resources, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and a small number of others who seem to be incrementally bootstrapping their way up via less exciting but business saavy tactics deserve watching and being taken seriously, is that they all have a pretty clear source of money fueling what they are doing.

A venture like the one in this article might be worth watching, but we'll only know that when they release some info that indicates the funding picture is overwhelmingly plausible. I think I am not alone when I say I was disappointed with the recent Golden Spike announcement because they didn't announce the most critical part...that they had much of the funding in place.

Re:How to evaluate a space related venture... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42665473)

More realistically: Get yourself a dartboard, some darts, some blank paper, a magic marker and some thumbtacks...

The materials must be awfully precious, and awfully abundant, to defray all the costs and risks associated with doing this. Also, how do you recover the booty? How do you keep someone else from grabbing the craft as it comes down unless you luck out and it lands closer to your recovery team than to anyone else, your ships' chips better get the math right. Also, what if it lands outside the recovery area, and smashes a school, or a shopping mall or something?

Why not spend the time and effort figuring out better alternatives to rare substances that aren't as rare? MatSci underpins every revolution in technology from the paleolithic to today. Rather than trying to figure out where to get more molybdenum or more gallium, or more helium, etc., why not work on making those materials obsolete in the application you're trying to use it in. Or find a way to use so little that the supply on hand lasts forever?

Could this be done? Maybe. Can it be done economically? Certainly would be cool to watch, but I'm not sure if it'll get off the ground if only for financial reasons.

I really just don't get... (1)

Brad1138 (590148) | about a year and a half ago | (#42665269)

How this could possibly be cost effective? I mean even in foreseeable future, the cost would be so much more than what ever they could gather.

Re:I really just don't get... (1)

nu1x (992092) | about a year and a half ago | (#42665579)

This is cost effective for what they want to do, and that is building space things in space, from space-mined metals.

Do you think bringing up all the metals to space and then 3-d printing from them is cheaper ? It is debatable, but I think efficient in-place mining methods evolved to an efficiency-extreme will be cheaper than bringing the same tonnage of materials from a Earth gravity well.

Moon gravity well, otoh.. That may be the golden middle of convenient mining (you are still on a planet) + easy escape of gravity well.

Re:I really just don't get... (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year and a half ago | (#42666429)

How this could possibly be cost effective?

Simple: Consider the huge gravity-well tax on Earth mining efforts. Asteroids are relatively tax free.

Mineral Rights (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about a year and a half ago | (#42667951)

I am being serious here: what rights do they have to those minerals if by some miracle this actually 'gets off the ground'? Is international law really Finders Keepers? Hard to believe.

Regardless, I could see the very real scenario of them being underwritten by someone with very deep pockets (ahem-China-ahem) in exchange for exclusive use of the minerals.

Controlled descent? (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | about a year and a half ago | (#42668829)

How hard would it be to nudge an asteroid toward Earth, then control its descent to the surface, in a non-wiping-out-a-major-city sort of fashion? It would probably be a lot cheaper to bring an asteroid to Earth first and then mine it, rather than send robots up to do it.

.

Rogue Drones (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about a year and a half ago | (#42669129)

Just what we need, Rogue Drones.

Above Cloud Storage (1)

tonique (1176513) | about a year and a half ago | (#42669465)

I guess this has the potential to go over cloud storage.
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