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The Financial Future of Space Travel

samzenpus posted more than 8 years ago | from the no-one-way-tickets dept.

414

gurps_npc writes " This CNNMoney story discusses the financial future of space travel. In particular it gives some nice names and numbers, such as Bezos, Musk and 3554 Amun. 3554 Amun is an small metalic asteroid that crosses Earth's pass (not on collission course) and contains over 20 trillion US dollars worth of precious metal. It is a great fact to know when trying to explain to flat-earth types that don't understand why we waste money on space travel."

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+tagging beta (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833053)

I always knew the slashdot editors were into tagging

They should sue the makers of Brokeback Mountain -- they have major prior art on having massive amounts of male on male anal sex with Cowboy Neal for years now.

selling precious medals impacts their price (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833055)

If you have that much precious medals, they only remain precious as long as you don't try to sell too much of it. Otherwise, supply exceeds demand and the price falls.

To some extent it is only theoretical value.

Re:selling precious medals impacts their price (1)

andrewuoft (624574) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833061)

Great, so the rich get richer because not every company can afford to goto space (talk about your barriers to entry, or should I say orbit).

Re:selling precious medals impacts their price (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833125)

I hate to say this and support the righties on the issue, but the east india company and others in the early ages of european exploration and establishment of global trade routes faced the same issues. This is how stock came to be, because the risks involved in mounting expeditions to god knows what "savage land" was considered just as risky then as space is now.

The prevelance of pirates and relative lawlessness of foreign lands meant there was a good chance of your ship never returning, and ships were a big deal back then, much more expensive in real currency to build than they are now. (this is supposedly the origin of the phrase "my ship came in")

Anyway, they will push into space the same way companies launched in earlier days which involved huge risk, by spreading it among many investors in the form of stocks.

On the other hand, should we colonize mars they would quickly outstrip earth in ability to harvest asteriods as the lower gravity there would make the playing field truly unequal.

Re:selling precious medals impacts their price (1)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833214)

Ooh, I wanna be a space pirate!

Can I name my ship "Serenity"?

Re:selling precious medals impacts their price (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833138)

You ever see the poor do anything interesting or useful for humanity?

why, yes (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833177)

here's one

gandhi owned a loincloth and a pair of glasses when he kicked off

how about tesla? living-starving-in a cold water flat at the end when the feds ripped off his notes

gw carver? turned down 100gs a year in the 1800s to keep working on his ag patents for the good of the planet?

Let's turn it around, how many incredibly rich guys actually got there without being total jerks or without being born into it, ie, big nothings?

Re:why, yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833193)

Well, sure, there are anecdotes and examples galore, but my point stands, though: you don't work for Gandhi (who wielded immense political power which is equivalent to wealth by any reasonable measure) or Tesla (who was crazy, not poor). You work for someone who is wealthy enough to pay you. If we're going to visit other worlds -- and possibly save this one from an asteroid collision -- we're not going to do it by chanting archaeo-leftist slogans and moaning about somebody else getting richer.

Nietzsche said it best. Man is a thing that shall be surpassed. What have you done to surpass him?

Re:why, yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833284)

"Well, sure, there are anecdotes and examples galore"--ya, that was my point, there ARE a ton of examples of where poor people did some pretty amazing stuff. And a lot more who were perfectly content with enough to get by on, and not much more. Einstein? Was he ever all that well off?

and since when were they "chanting archaeo-leftist slogans and moaning about somebody else getting richer" And when exactly did I do that or advocate that?

Wouldn't it be easier to admit you posted a stupid and just get over it? Concede a point? It doesn't hurt any...this is a freeking bulletin board and you posted Ac anyway...

  Wealth has little to do with worth as a human being. The accumulation of it though can become a destructive obsession.

And I'd like to see it, name some really rich dudes (we'll class really rich as billionaires in todays dollars, adjusted for time) who weren't or aren't more or less jerk offs.

Now, I can think of a small handful, but not too many, and even those might be controversial to the max, hmm, say henry ford. Pretty good innovator, smart enough business wise to get the car on the road, decent enough to price it so that his workers (the masses guy)could afford one, wanted to be ecological about it and use ethanol for fuel and plastics for the body made from indistrial hemp, etc.(he lost on the last two but tried anyway) But,he did some other stuff, too, kinda turned into a fascist as well. See, it's hard.. It's easier to come up with the very poor or middle class folks who were coolguys *consistently*.

Human beings seem to hit a threshold after which they lose touch with reality and humane-ness. Some seek solace in philanthropy, but in a lot of cases it appears to be a guilty conscious and tax dodges as much as anything else, borg of gates for instance, mellon, rockefeller, heck, al capone.

Re:why, yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833347)

And a lot more who were perfectly content with enough to get by on, and not much more. Einstein? Was he ever all that well off?

Like both you and me, Einstein (and the other guys you mentioned) was materially better off than 99.999% of all human beings who have ever walked the earth. ...and since when were they "chanting archaeo-leftist slogans and moaning about somebody else getting richer" And when exactly did I do that or advocate that?

Well, you're the one who trotted out the old "rich get richer" cliche in a thread about space exploration. I merely responded to point out that if we ever get off this rock, it won't be through the efforts of the masses. (Unless, that is, I get to tax the middle class into oblivion to support my pet scientific pursuits... a notion I'm becoming less and less comfortable with over time.)

If it's going to be done, it'll be done by wealthy, ambitious people who are -- yes, in some peoples' view -- jerks. (That's mostly a property of a large social surface area, not of a large bank balance.)

Re:why, yes (1)

all_the_names_are_ta (957291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833379)

When you're comparing the super rich vs the poor, there is a far greater pool of poor people to draw from.

Furthermore, the acts of the rich stand out far more than the acts of the poor thanks to the scope of their influence. Case in point would be Bill Gates. On the one hand there's his huge philanthropic donations, on the other there is MS. MS isn't really that evil (compare it with SCO) but it stands out due to its size and market dominance.

I think that you can find good and bad in everyone, it's just that you're focussing on the virtues of the poor, and the evils of the rich.

For example, Einstein was an awful husband. But you don't mention that. Gates donated billions to wipe out childhood diseases. But, no, he's from MS he's eeeevilll. In fact he's had a social conscience pretty much all the way along (most of his early political donations were to left leaning causes).

Anyway, back to your post:

"And a lot more who were perfectly content with enough to get by on, and not much more."

What's so great about being content with enough to get by on? Why is this an admirable trait? How do you know these people actually were content and weren't just failures?

Your post seems to imply there's something virtuous about being poor. I have no idea why anyone could accept that. At the least, having money gives you the resources to do something about what you care about. How many people can fund research like Bill Gates?

"And I'd like to see it, name some really rich dudes (we'll class really rich as billionaires in todays dollars, adjusted for time) who weren't or aren't more or less jerk offs."

Warren Buffett - he's donated a few billion to charity, is one of the world's richest men, and still lives in the same, small house he's owned for years.

Re:selling precious medals impacts their price (1)

dfgchgfxrjtdhgh.jjhv (951946) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833187)

you realise its the poor that do all the actual work?

the rich just cream off the profits from & take the credit for the labour of the poor.

Re:selling precious medals impacts their price (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833238)

&ltShrug> You get "credit" when you do something unique, and you profit from making yourself hard to replace. Nothing can ever change that. We might as well deal with it.

Re:selling precious medals impacts their price (1)

dfgchgfxrjtdhgh.jjhv (951946) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833259)

i think you miss my point.

if this asteroid gets mined, who'll be doing the actual mining?

who'll be going up into space, risking their life?

who'll be building the equipment, spacecraft, etc?

it wont be the fat cat boss that gets the majority of the cash from it.

Re:selling precious medals impacts their price (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833275)

Robots will do the grunt work, I'd imagine. Or convicts.

Re:selling precious medals impacts their price (1)

BeanThere (28381) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833352)

I see your point, but OTOH, in a "free" labor market, nobody is forced to do that work are they? If that person doing the mining didn't want to risk their life in space they could find a job elsewhere, in theory.

The price for such labor will no doubt be set by the laws of supply and demand; they'll find the price point at which somebody skilled enough will be willing to do it. The price probably won't be all that high.

Re:selling precious medals impacts their price (1)

Newander (255463) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833371)

in a "free" labor market, nobody is forced to do that work are they? If that person doing the mining didn't want to risk their life in space they could find a job elsewhere, in theory.


In theory, sure. In practice, I like to eat.

Re:selling precious medals impacts their price (1)

BeanThere (28381) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833382)

Yup, hence all my qualifiers, like "in theory" and putting "free" in quotes :) (I'm sure the garbagemen who collect my garbage for a low wage are also "free" "in theory" to find better work :/)

Re:selling precious medals impacts their price (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833140)

No, everyone gets richer. Suddenly there is more gold, silver, and copper available so the price goes down and everyone can have cheaper electrical and electronic devices. Steel and heavy metals become cheaper. The people selling the metals from the new source gain more money than without them, although at a lower price than when the rare metals were more rare. The people building stuff can spend less, but they'll be selling at a lower price because their competitors also have cheaper raw materials. Customers pay less and have more money for other things, or can afford more of the cheaper stuff.

And the heavy metals include fissionables, so electrical power for manufacturing and consumer use also gets cheaper.

Re:selling precious medals impacts their price (1)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833217)

You've obviously never studied economy (though admitedly, I haven't either), so I think it only fair to point out the obvious:

Millions of people would lose their jobs.

Re:selling precious medals impacts their price (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833356)

Millions of people would lose their jobs.

Which of course is almost never a bad thing, from a long-term historical perspective. Of what value is a job as a stable hand?

Re:selling precious medals impacts their price (1)

BeanThere (28381) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833373)

The GP does have a point though, in theory. Finding a more efficient way to produce something or obtain raw materials generates overall more wealth (or rather, wealth potential) within society. Economics is not a zero-sum game (for the rich to get richer the poor don't need to get poorer, since we can all make new "stuff"). In theory those jobs lost could be put to work creating something else, which could make other products cheaper in turn (increased labor supply in other markets), or making something new like a cure for cancer or cheap TV shows or furniture. Of course reality doesn't always allow this for individuals, particularly those who have spent their entire life in a now-obsolete industry.

One other 'angle' here though is that a single entity owning a supply of precious metals that outstrips the rest of the planet's supply would allow that entity to control prices. Traditional mining is expensive. They could surely set the price point at just below the level necessary to keep mines profitable, leaving little benefit for society at large but still putting millions out of work. (This doesn't even assume price fixing, yet even in, say, the oil industry with in theory many suppliers we still have artificially controlled pricing.)

Why do the poor set the speed? (1)

TheBismarck (802029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833230)

It's going to be a sad day for humanity when exploration and progress are hindered because some sweatshop in India can't keep up. Companies weren't born rich, they became rich because they didn't sit on their arses all day, complaining "Why do the rich keep getting richer? Life suck. Boo hoo hoo". It's the rich that send rockets into space - they should be the ones to claim the profits - the last thing society needs is a generation dependent on welfare hand-outs, simply because the rich have too much money and the poor needs to catch up before any work is done.

gah - brain fart! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833084)

Sorry, metal, not medal. Brain fart.

Re:gah - brain fart! (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833153)

Oh! I thought you were talking about the Olympics.

eek (1)

psycho chic (958251) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833059)

hey, maybe these people have a point. perhaps someday mars will be a vacation spot, and not just in "total recall". and hey, i sure wouldnt mind getting my hand on all that precious metal floating out there, except that it would COMPLETELY drop the value of world currency. Especially if we found more of it. And a sudden drop in the value of the worlds currency would not be good for average joe. the person, not the tv show (what do u people take me for?)

Re:eek (3, Interesting)

NalosLayor (958307) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833082)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_standard [wikipedia.org] note the last line of the third paragraph: "The gold standard is no longer used in any nation, having been replaced completely by fiat currency." "Sweden abandoned the gold standard in 1929, the US in 1933, and other nations were, to one degree or another, forced off the gold standard." So, in summary: "1933 called, and they want to redeem their dollars."

Re:eek (1)

psycho chic (958251) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833115)

perhaps i should explain in short form, since its almost 1am over here gold is traded on the stock market (1 bar gold = $XXX) now, either big companies would revert to trading in gold or would sell their gold on the stock market, bringing the price of gold down because there is so much of it. a bar gold = $XX making small traders like myself lose lots due to a sudden decline,and removing business from the very companies who did it (great plan for them, eh?) now, if they trade amoungst themselves in gold rather then in cash they maintain their wealth longer and prevent competition (who could afford to play with the big boys then?). but if they do that, its a gradual decrease in the value of our currency. am i making sense? like i said, its 1am....and my bed is calling but this stupid computer is keeping me here.

Re:eek (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833149)

... and since you know about this new source of gold, make sure you sell before the price drops. Finding the right time is left as an exercise for the reader.

Re:eek:ality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833308)

yes, they went to a credit, military might and oil based congame standard.

Amd, BTW, it will be collapsing within this decade, inevitable now.

This is real economics, you can't keep printing up IOUs and have it work forever. When it gets to the point you have to point guns at people to get them to keep taking your IOUs it's already headed down.

Gold is still valuable today, like it was thousands of years ago. Until we have atomic rearranger replicators (not soon), or this pie in the sky asteroid mining gets ridiculous cheap (not soon), gold will always be pretty valuable stuff. Central bankers are just paper snakeoil salesman, hucksters on a grand scale, and it's such a great con of course all areas went for it, that's what ruthless and powerful people do. It's a way for governments to control their people through taxes tied to social engineering schemes and for the already wealthy to stay there.

Re:eek (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833097)

not really. Worldwide currency is no longer based on precious metals.

Granted it would murder the precious metal markets, but we already have synthetic flawless diamonds breaking into the diamond trade, and since theyre trying to engineer these diamonds to be used in place of silicon, by the time theyre done (e.g. able to produce 16 inch platters of diamond) the mined gem trades will be thoroughly obsolete.

$20 trillion ... so what (1)

arrrrg (902404) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833064)

I bet there are more than $100 quadrillion dollars of precious metals in the earth ... the problem is that most of this stuff is too expensive and difficult to get at. Same deal here, at least until we get a space elevator going. We need damn cheap travel to make it worth going to space to get IRON of all things ... for now, it's what, $20,000 per pound going up, and mining equipment / transports back down are heavy.

Re:$20 trillion ... so what (1)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833120)

$100 quadrillion... fair enough. But I think it would be more accurate to describe the $20 trillion as not only more concentrated than almost any source still accessible on earth, but where there are issues regarding getting to it in the first place, by the time you are able to get there actually refining it would be a minor issue and there are a few things like disposing of the waste that are no issue at all.
So, more accurate to say that it is $20 trillion that could be feasibly recovered. Personally that is worth far more than $100 quadrillion unreachable dollars. Not to mention all the tech we would develop on the way.

Expense and difficulties ... (2, Interesting)

b0r1s (170449) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833128)

Expense and difficult problems pave the way for high tech research and funding.

Just like war: the people who benefit most are in the high tech fields.

Re:$20 trillion ... so what (2, Insightful)

patio11 (857072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833148)

Exactly. All you need to do is get to the asteroid, set up an operation in orbit capable of actually extracting the minerals from all the cruft (oh, sure, $1000 an oz. for platinum sounds like a real moneymaker until you start calculating the cost of shuttle runs to get the 1 tonne of ore that ounce is buried in), and come back with the payload... preferably with your workers still mostly alive.

Ahh, well, at least the existence of this "gold mine in the skies" gives me a good reason to say "Great, so private enterprise can fund space exploration now" and stop pouring billions of tax dollars into NASA, the world's most inefficient R&D slush-fund.

Re:$20 trillion ... so what (2, Funny)

Jason1729 (561790) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833200)

Hey we found one of those flat earth types...and the issue went way over his head.

Re:$20 trillion ... so what (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833393)

Why send the shuttle on "runs" to bring back ore?
Why not build a processing facility in orbit. Chances are, extraction would work better in 0G anyway. We could more than likely build an orbital manufacturing plant as well, to better take advantage of our newly found raw materials without having to incure the launch co$t penalty. ...And I'm sure we can come up with a system to safely drop cargo to earth from orbit. The first thing that comes to my mind is to launch multiple cargo re-entry modules on one rocket (not a shuttle) for use in returning the precious metals (not the ore) ...Or we could build the re-enty modules in space using the orbiting manufacturing plant.
Launching the shuttle simply to return raw ore would be a big waste.

Re:$20 trillion ... so what (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833399)

"...the world's most inefficient R&D slush-fund."

Please. I think you're severely underestimating the current administration.

Space will paid for through public/private (2, Interesting)

RedHatLinux (453603) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833068)

scheme. The government will front the money, and we'll have privatization of risk, but when the money starts to get made, we'll hear about how we need to keep government out. Kind of like today, where companies rail against government interference on the Internet and the utilities, which wouldn't exist without government action.

Seriously, without government action, the south would have no electric power, the Internet would not be here, and people in the boondocks would never have mail service, because the Free Market wouldnt support it.

On that note, remember, Free Market economics is like Marxist economics, a few designed system with strengths and weaknesses, not some divine proscription.

Re:Space will paid for through public/private (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833202)

In addtion, without government action millions and millions of people would still be alive today.

Centralized power is a baddddddddddddddddd thing. Very bad. It will always end up in disaster. Its just the nature of things.

There is an aspect of the Free-Market that sets it apart from all others: freedom. No government intervention in what should be personal matters.

Re:Space will paid for through public/private (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833310)

And others would still be alive.

And even if centralized power is bad, there is no solution. If you decentralize it, eventually somebodys going to come along and start concentrating it again. Centralized power may be bad. but its also inevitable.

Re:Space will paid for through public/private (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833215)

The government will front the money, and we'll have privatization of risk, but when the money starts to get made, we'll hear about how we need to keep government out.

Isn't that pretty much the point? Government helps set up the infrastructure and foundation for private enterprise to prosper. Once private enterprise has got self-sustaining economic activity in a particular field, government can then focus its resources on the next budding field.

Get rid of the bean counters (1)

skayell (921119) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833071)

3554 Amun is an small metalic asteroid that crosses Earth's pass (not on collission course) and contains over 20 trillion US dollars worth of precious metal. It is a great fact to know when trying to explain to flat-earth types that don't understand why we waste money on space travel. We should continue exploration not only for the monetary return on investment (ROI), but rather BECAUSE IT'S THERE!

Re:Get rid of the bean counters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833112)

. We should continue exploration not only for the monetary return on investment (ROI), but rather BECAUSE IT'S THERE!

So going in to space is like mountain climbing?

Re:Get rid of the bean counters (1)

patio11 (857072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833164)

No. One is a phenomenally expensive, incredibly dangerous hobby with no reward other than the psycological thrill for a few individuals who actually get to see the awe-inspiring view from the top (if they survive the trip), justified mainly out of machismo and a desire to plant the flag on a more remote location than a flag has ever been planted before. The other involves ropes.

Re:Get rid of the bean counters (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833423)

Please specify a major field of human endeavor and achievement that is not, at least partly, motivated by "machismo".

And if you think that space travel is "phenomenally expensive", I think you haven't seen the numbers on agriculture subsidies.

Re:Get rid of the bean counters (5, Interesting)

CaptainCarrot (84625) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833173)

We should continue exploration not only for the monetary return on investment (ROI), but rather BECAUSE IT'S THERE!

That's the idealistic response, but this is the kind of thing that will get NASA out of the space business and get people into it who know how to turn a profit on it. In the long run, this is what can make space travel widely accessible, not a government agency.

Re:Get rid of the bean counters (1)

cyber-vandal (148830) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833409)

Government agencies have made roads, sending mail and (in properly run countries) public transport widely available. Just because its government doesn't mean it automatically sucks. Public transport over here in the UK is run by private companies and its a joke compared to the well-run publicly owned systems in most of mainland Europe. Government isn't automatically the wrong idea; no human would ever have left the Earth if it was left up to the short-sighted corporate world.

Re:Get rid of the bean counters (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833418)

"no human would ever have left the Earth if it was left up to the short-sighted corporate world"

I don't necessarily think that's a good example. To a very good approximation, nobody has in fact left the Earth.

(You can take that two ways...either the insignificant number of people who have left the earth's gravity behind is a rounding error, or by virtue of the fact that they CAME BACK, nobody has left the Earth.)

Re:Get rid of the bean counters (1)

mikeswi (658619) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833300)

"We should continue exploration not only for the monetary return on investment (ROI), but rather BECAUSE IT'S THERE!"

Ideally, yes. But we've been trying to do it that way for 50 years and it hasn't worked.

It's been 36 years since we first went to the moon. Clearly the technology exists to get us there and back. So why are there no colonies four decades later? Because the government is in charge of space travel. There is no one up there to send soft money, votes or bribes back down. No one lives there, so there are no pork barrel projects to fund. Unless it has something to do with tax money, campaign money or votes, the Congress isn't interested in it.

Humans have always migrated along trade routes toward new or better economic markets, not because the King or Emporer wanted to see what was on the other side of the mountain range. If there's something there to be bought or sold, they'll go. The Western hemisphere was rediscovered by Europeans only because Spain wanted to find a cheaper/quicker way to get cargo to/from India.

NASA needs to be abolished and its engineers hired out to companies that have an actual reason to send people up there. The most dangerous place you can be is in between a corporation and something that can make them a profit. Colonies, refineries, shipyards and factories will start springing up all over the solar system, once companies realize there's profit up there.

Re:Get rid of the bean counters (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833325)

It's been 36 years since we first went to the moon. Clearly the technology exists to get us there and back.

To be precise: the technology existed. The experience of the men who built and operated the Saturn rockets has been lost in large part, and while a new system for getting to the moon can be built again, I wouldn't quite say that the technology exists now.

-jcr

Owning an asteroid (1)

arrrrg (902404) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833073)

FTFA: whoever owns Amun could become 450 times as wealthy as Bill Gates . And exactly does one come to own an asteroid? Is planing a flag good enough? If so, I'm gonna start launching "ME" flags at all the nearest celestial bodies.

Re:Owning an asteroid (3, Funny)

rah1420 (234198) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833145)

I'm gonna start launching "ME" flags at all the nearest celestial bodies.

And as soon as you do, you can expect a visit from SCO's lawyers. [slashdot.org]

Re:Owning an asteroid (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833315)

I was thinking the same thing as i read that post..

if SCO was smart they would wait till he got it back to earth then show the violation of the claim, they are sneeky little basters like that

Re:Owning an asteroid (4, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833196)

And exactly does one come to own an asteroid? Is planing a flag good enough?

Space property rights are a very murky and ambiguous area, but one which should get resolved if we want to have any hope of expanding out there permanently. An article by Sam Dinkin in the Space Review on Property rights and space commercialization [thespacereview.com] has a fairly nice overview of the issues. A quote:

Space property rights will probably not spark a space transportation boom that will rival the railroad boom, the airplane boom, or the automobile boom. But there will be no boom if there are no property rights. Leaving the regulatory regime the same is a recipe for continued sclerosis.

If we do nothing, space will look a lot more like Antarctica than Alaska. Without property rights there will not be adequate investment and space resources will be underutilized. Establishing property rights in space will cost millions, not billions, and can be done decades ahead of any commercialization or colonization. It's time to set the stage to break out of the exploration mode of Columbus and get on with establishing the regulatory regime to lay the foundation for the next Plymouth Rock.

Re:Owning an asteroid (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833342)

And exactly does one come to own an asteroid?

Pretty much the same way as happened with homesteading or mining claims. If you get to the asteroid first, and are capable of killing anyone who tries to take it away from you, I for one would say "it's yours".

Eventually though, the pioneers give way to the settlers, and the settlers, practicing the social division of labor, will establish an organization with more weaponry than anyone else in the area, which will enforce property ownership.

We may have a period of space colonization that generates a lot of entertainment and literature, just like the American West of the late 1800's.

-jcr

Spain and the New World (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833075)

So far, I've seen a lot of negative comments about it destroying the Earth's economy. Sure, the short term effects may include major upheaval, but consider this: the gold Spain brought back from the New World ignited centuries of economic growth and propelled Europe into the dominant group of nations on the planet.

In the long run, more resources is good for everyone.

Re:Spain and the New World (1)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833100)

Well, yes, if everybody means the same Europeans that it helped. Latin America is still paying for the exploitation.

And in slightly more related grounds, the wealth also destroyed Spain in the end, leading to an economy of bankers and people living the rich life on nothing but credit. There is a reason Spain isn't exactly on the forefront of the world economy anymore. In a very real way, the only people to benefit from all that gold in more than the short term were the British. They used the wealth they got to develop their own economy and make the big steps in technology that made them a world power.

Re:Spain and the New World (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833182)

Oo..

>>he wealth also destroyed Spain in the end, leading to an economy of bankers and people living the rich life on nothing but credit.

this accurately describes the US. Frightening but not unexpected.

Re:Spain and the New World (1)

happyemoticon (543015) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833199)

Well, yes, if everybody means the same Europeans that it helped. Latin America is still paying for the exploitation.

Just like the Martians, living in their reservations deep underneath Mars' crust after trading all of their land away for a single bead.

Re:Spain and the New World (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833141)

the gold Spain brought back from the New World ignited centuries of economic growth and propelled Europe into the dominant group of nations on the planet.

It was actually more like: the gold Spain brought back from the new world created a major glut that significantly devalued the price of gold, and the resulting inflation ended up devastating Spain's economy.

Since gold had little if any actual intrinsic value in those times (today at least we can plate electrical connectors with it), acquiring more of it had just the same effect as printing more paper money today: it created inflation, not any new real wealth.

Re:Spain and the New World (1)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833212)

Since gold had little if any actual intrinsic value in those times (today at least we can plate electrical connectors with it), acquiring more of it had just the same effect as printing more paper money today: it created inflation, not any new real wealth.

Sadly, most people can't comprehend that.

And it better not hit the earth (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833085)

2km of heavy metals. That would be at least as bad as the KT impact that wiped out the dinosaurs.

The discouraging thing is that we probably could, today, build automated spacecraft that could reach the asteroid and set off nuclear bombs to change the orbit. It would be profitable to nudge the thing into earth orbit. And if somebody screws up, we lose the planet.

Re:And it better not hit the earth (3, Funny)

kclittle (625128) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833124)

Oh, com'on, where's your greedy, capitalist spirit? What's a slipped decimal point or two in your thrust calculations compared to $20 TRILLION dollars? Be a man, take some risk!

(I am joking...:-)

Re:And it better not hit the earth (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833150)

Oh it's worse than that. Even if it does not crash it could still wreak havoc on tidal forces and ocean currents and turn the ecosystem upside down.

That said.. what about the impact of launching rockets with ore from this asteroid continuously? is that not "thrust"? that would change its orbit. I suggest the government make sure, especially with earth crossers, that at least 10 independent teams of engineers and physicists be used to thoroughly check any plans for reduction/mining of asteroids with regard to that problem.

Re:And it better not hit the earth (3, Interesting)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833256)

Oh it's worse than that. Even if it does not crash it could still wreak havoc on tidal forces and ocean currents and turn the ecosystem upside down.

Bullshit. You'd need a micrometer to measure its tidal effect.

Moon: mass = 7x10e22 kg, distance= 360,000 km
Asteroid: mass about 2x10e13 kg, distance (say) 100 km

ratio of gravitational forces:m1/m2* (r1/r2)e2 = roughly 1/270.

.. what about the impact of launching rockets with ore from this asteroid continuously? is that not "thrust"? that would change its orbit.

No. Rockets "push against" their exhaust, not what they launch from. However, if they used a mass-driver to accelerate the payloads, the asteroid would be pushed back. But it's a simple calculation.

Re:And it better not hit the earth (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833417)

Given how thoroughly you missed the mark on all counts, I suggest that in the future you get at least 10 independent teams of engineers and physicists to thoroughly check any plans... that you make.

Re:And it better not hit the earth (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833158)

So aim for the Moon and mine it there.

Re:And it better not hit the earth (1)

asdfrewq (887186) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833258)

2km of heavy metals. That would be at least as bad as the KT impact that wiped out the dinosaurs.

That's nothing! I once went on a roadtrip with a Slipknot fan. After 500km of heavy metal, I was praying for a meteor to strike me down.

$20 Trillion?!?! (3, Funny)

ChrisGilliard (913445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833087)

We might actually be able to pay off the national debt!!!

Re:$20 Trillion?!?! (1)

HermanAB (661181) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833174)

Why would you want to pay off the national debt? One man's debt is another man's investment.

Sounds disrupful to the economy.... (1)

ShyGuy91284 (701108) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833088)

Depending on how valuble each amount of metal is (are we talking 5 tons of pure silver, or 5 pounds of platinum?), this sounds like the kind of stuff that could destabilize economies.....

Re:Sounds disrupful to the economy.... (2, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833162)

Cobalt, Platinum family metals, Iron and Nickel.

"There are three key things to know about 3554 Amun: First, its orbit crosses that of Earth; second, it's the smallest M-class (metal-bearing) asteroid yet discovered; and finally, it contains (at today's prices) roughly $8 trillion worth of iron and nickel, $6 trillion of cobalt, and $6 trillion of platinumlike metals." - FTFA

"3554 Amun is an M-type Aten asteroid (meaning it crosses Earth's orbit) and a Venus-crosser. It was discovered on 4 March 1986 by Carolyn and Eugene Shoemaker at Mount Palomar Observatory."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3554_Amun [wikipedia.org]

Re:Sounds disrupful to the economy.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833297)

Yeah, it'll be like when Spain imported all that gold from the New World! Oh, wait... we stopped using precious metals to back our currency a long time ago. Welcome to the 21st century.

a better idea.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833089)

close NASA, shutdown everysingle zany corporation which is hellbent on flying to space and back. Take all that would-be capital and invest it in research for a transmogrifier here on EARth. I bet with such a device you could make the meaning of a trillion dollars completely abstract

Get tha truck! (1)

garrett714 (841216) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833131)

contains over 20 trillion US dollars worth of precious metal

MA, PA, GIT THA TRUCK! Der's gold in 'em 'ere asteroids!

astroid question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833157)

Does this astroid possess naquida?

Why go to space (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833163)

There's a simpler reason to go to space.

Get our eggs out of this nest at the bottom of a gravity well.

20 trillion us dollars, huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833186)

That's 20 trillion inelastic US dollars of formerly precious metals.

Plus 5, Troll) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833206)

Ballots. You could I've never seen and financial lubricatio4n. You

The Two Fallacies: Ore grade and interest rates (1)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833207)

People who look to asteroid mining of metals for terrestrial use miss two fundamental factors:

  1. Ore grade just isn't that good compared to what you find on earth. Extracting platinum from a solid block of nickel amalgam is really energy intensive, and the other "stony" asteroids have not gone through the hydrothermal concentration of metals of the terrestrial deposits.
  2. The time it takes for a piece of capital equipment to return any materials to earth from an asteroid is enormous compared to the delivery of lunar mass to earth orbit. Since any mass in earth orbit is worth hundreds of dollars a pound and the time is so short for delivery, it makes a lot more sense to use lunar material in earth orbit than it does to use asteroidal material on the earth's surface.

Re:The Two Fallacies: Ore grade and interest rates (1)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833340)

1. Ore grade just isn't that good compared to what you find on earth. Extracting platinum from a solid block of nickel amalgam is really energy intensive, and the other "stony" asteroids have not gone through the hydrothermal concentration of metals of the terrestrial deposits.

True, it's energy intensive, but solar furnaces are available 24x7. It's just a big bit of bent aluminum foil- *really* lightweight to pack. Several thousand degrees... (surface temperature of the sun). Costs very little. And platinum is very expensive (it's used for catalytic converters for cars, and cars are popular, so at a few hundred dollars a gram, so it doesn't take many tonnes to turn a profit.)

2. The time it takes for a piece of capital equipment to return any materials to earth from an asteroid is enormous compared to the delivery of lunar mass to earth orbit. Since any mass in earth orbit is worth hundreds of dollars a pound and the time is so short for delivery, it makes a lot more sense to use lunar material in earth orbit than it does to use asteroidal material on the earth's surface.

Depends. The delta-v to return stuff from say, Phobos or Deimos is much less than that needed from the moon though. And it's not entirely true that mass in earth orbit is worth hundreds of dollars, if you deliver stuff from asteroids/moons; delivery can be much cheaper than that.

Re:The Two Fallacies: Ore grade and interest rates (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833378)

Extracting platinum from a solid block of nickel amalgam is really energy intensive,

Sure, but there's also quite a lot of energy available at an orbit of 1 AU. Half of a silvered-mylar balloon supported by a very light framework can concentrate enough sunlight to melt the asteroid. If you want to smelt metals out of the asteroid with lower temperatures, you can just bag it and pump in carbon monoxide, which will pull the oxygen off the metal ores.

If you want to get the metals to the earth at a low cost, you form it into shapes that have a great deal of surface area, and use the pressure of sunlight to slow their orbital velocity to a very low speed before they hit the atmosphere. If you dropped a 100 meter diameter disc of .1mm-thick gold foil into the atmosphere, it probably wouldn't even melt on the way down. The fiery re-entry we're used to seeing when spacecraft enter the atmosphere is mostly due to their tiny surface area to the energy they have to shed.

At any rate, I agree that the greatest value of metals in asteroids isn't the potential for getting them back to earth, it's for using them in space.

-jcr

She's a gusher (1)

KFury (19522) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833231)

The day astronomers discover an asteroid with oil reserves is the day the US diverts half its military budget to the 'peaceful exploration of space'.

Re:She's a gusher (2, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833261)

The day astronomers discover an asteroid with oil reserves is the day the US diverts half its military budget to the 'peaceful exploration of space'.

FYI, the moon Titan [wikipedia.org] is pretty much covered in "oil reserves."

Re:She's a gusher (1)

dfjghsk (850954) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833336)

your own link contradicts you:

It has long been believed that Titanian lakes or even seas of methane might exist on the surface. However, while many of the surface features could be explained as the products of flowing liquids, no conclusive evidence has yet been found for the presence of liquids on Titan's surface at the present time.

When the Cassini probe arrived in the Saturnian system, it was hoped that hydrocarbon lakes or oceans might be detectable by reflected sunlight from the surface of any liquid bodies, but no specular reflections were observed.

The findings of the January 14, 2005 landing on Titan by the Huygens probe do not show any open areas of liquid ...

Re:She's a gusher (2, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833348)

your own link contradicts you:

I might be misreading it, but I'm under the impression that while its still uncertain whether or not there's liquid hydrocarbons on the surface, there's almost certainly hydrocarbons in Titan's thick atmosphere.

Is methane good enough? (2, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833263)

The day astronomers discover an asteroid with oil reserves is the day the US diverts half its military budget to the 'peaceful exploration of space'.

Because Jupiter and Saturn have heaps of methane (many times the mass of the Earth) and Neptune and Uranus are practically made of the stuff.

Re:She's a gusher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833279)

Yeah and prove that maybe i do see Aliens.

More Gold... Yay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833234)

Yah, what the world needs now is for us to spend 10 trillion dollars that could be used to help the underprivileged, on a space trip to collect 20 trillion dollars worth of shiny metal, none of which will be spent to help the underpriveleged. Tell me, how exactly does this increase in 'wealth' help anyone? IT"S JUST A BUNCH OF ROCKS PEOPLE!!! WE NEED INFRASTRUCTURE, NOT MORE ROCKS!!!

This economic rationalization is so much more offensive than any scientific one yet discussed.

Lost In Space, and What is IT worth? (1)

EternityInterface (898741) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833235)

The Pres I Dent Just forgot about EARTH

Available jobs at private spaceflight companies (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833237)

A number of private spaceflight firms mentioned in the article are looking for people to hire. These companies are looking for folks with expertise in a variety of areas, from web design, to aerospace/mechanical engineering, to programming. Here's a few links (courtesy of RLV News [rlvnews.com] , listed roughly in order of available resources), with descriptions of what the company does:
 
* Bigelow Aerospace: [bigelowaerospace.com] Inflatable space station modules for orbital research and tourism. Despite being inflatable, their modules are better at withstanding space debris than the ISS, as they're made of a material twice as strong as kevlar. Out of all the private spaceflight firms, they probably have the most resources.
* SpaceX: [spacex.com] Orbital rockets which are drastically cheaper than the competition, with plans for building manned orbital rockets. They should be launching their first rocket next month.
* Scaled Composites: [scaled.com] Burt Rutan's company and winner of the X Prize. They're currently working on building SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic.
* SpaceDev: [spacedev.com] They build microsatellites and propulsion systems.
* Blue Origin: [blueorigin.com] Suborbital vehicle company started by Amazon.com's CEO, Jeff Bezos. Author Neal Stephenson also works for them, hoping for the "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become a minor character in a Robert Heinlein novel." [slashdot.org]
* Rocketplane Limited: [rocketplanelimited.com] Suborbital spaceplanes
* Masten Space Systems: [masten-space.com] Suborbital launch vehicles.
* TGV Rockets: [tgv-rockets.com] Suborbital launch

                       

Yup... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833239)

BUSINE$$ as usual.

Lets just capture valuable astroids, and add all this MASS to the Earth.

Why not?

Look at all the Money to be made.

Who gives a crap what happens to the Earth over time from all this added mass.

Re:Yup... (1)

AlphaBlade (629798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833343)

It's a conspiracy by the people selling diet foods, I tell you! No one ever suspects them!

Re:Yup... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833424)

That's got to be one of the most feeble trolls I've seen in quite some while. The Earth weighs apprx 6x10^21 tons. Say they bring down a billion tons of material. Do the math.

Will it really be worth $20 trillion? (1)

artifex2004 (766107) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833299)

If you suddenly flood the market with all these extra resources, it will be entirely a buyers' market, and other sellers and the countries who rely on them heavily will start collapsing.

What is the earth passing anyway? (0)

xylix (447915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833305)

3554 Amun is an small metalic asteroid that crosses Earth's pass

hmmm.... I am just not up on all the current trends and stuff... What is this pass of which you speak? Is it like a hall pass to go to the bathroom we had in school? "This pass is good for the earth to take one rotation outside of its normal path"? Or is it pass as in 'pass a ball to a team mate'. In which case, who the hell is the earth playing with.. and what is the game? Playing "my global warming can beat your global warming" with Mars perhaps? Or is it a pass as in some kind of nounification of 'pass a kidney stone'... or 'pass gas'. Does the earth leave little turds in its wake that this asteroid is going to happen upon?

From the article: " it contains (at today's prices) roughly $8 trillion worth of iron and nickel, $6 trillion of cobalt, and $6 trillion of platinumlike metals. In other words, whoever owns Amun could become 450 times as wealthy as Bill Gates. "

What exactly is "platinumline" anyway? Honey I love you so much, here is a platinumlike ring with a diamondlike stone which will perfectly accentuate your femalelike hand. Some years ago Platinum was the name of the theme used for the Mac OS 8 and 9 GUI. We all know that Windows tried to copy the mac experience, but there is one platinumlike that is of far less value (to me anyway) than the real thing.

62000 miles (1)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833312)

I know this has been mentioned before, but exactly what sort of speeds are those space elevators expected to maintain?

100 mph? Well, just under two years transit on freight wouldn't be too bad, I guess.

10 mph?

That would take real long-term planning to do much with.

Maybe I should go hit google before I get all cynical.

Maybe 3554 Amun could be the counterweight. Oh, wait, somebody's thought of that one before. Sorry.

One thing to worry about is what would happen if it snapped? Would it wrap around the earth like yarn? Would the counterweight be launched in some unpredictable path (away from the earth, at any rate)?

Sounds like a toy my son would like to play with.

Re:62000 miles (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833337)

100 mph? Well, just under two years transit on freight wouldn't be too bad, I guess.



If anything, the space elevator is going to take stuff to a place in geosynchronous orbit (~30000 km, iirc), but of course it could be possible to leave early.


After that, it's rockets all the way, and they go a lot faster than 100 mph.

Re:62000 miles (2, Informative)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833388)

I found the wikipedia entry, and it looks like they are thinking in terms of 200kph at low altitudes, and centrifugal forces would indeed induce rocket speeds beyond geosynchronous.

Lengthening the cable enough to remove need of counterweight is mentioned as a possible way to launch things out of earth orbit.

Rocket speeds tangential to the cable? I'm sure they've thought that one through, though.
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