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Scifi / Fantasy News > Ben Bova defends science fiction; asteroid mining

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message 1: by Mark (new)

Mark Catalfano (cattfish) "How many times have you seen a news story about some new discovery or invention that starts with the words, "It may seem like science fiction ..."?

That phrase gets under my skin. It assumes that science fiction is wild, way-out stuff that has no relationship to reality.

Actually, the truth is just the opposite. Science fiction is about the realities we may face in the future."


"lots of what I've written as fiction has actually become reality. We did have a space race in the 1960s, and it did end with Americans landing on the moon before the Russians could. We do have digital books, virtual reality technology, missile defense systems. And we will eventually see solar-power satellites beaming electrical power to Earth, stem-cell therapy and human cloning."


"A couple of weeks ago news headlines announced that filmmaker James Cameron and Google co-founder Larry Page have joined a company called Planetary Resources, which aims to mine resources from asteroids. "It may sound like science fiction ..." the news stories all began.

Yeah. Right.

Asteroids are chunks of rock and metal floating in space. A single iron-nickel type of asteroid, no bigger than a Little League baseball field, contains more high-grade iron ore than the world's steel industry uses in five years.

Among the "impurities" in such an asteroid are hundreds of tons of gold, silver and platinum."

"Existing rocket technology is probably too expensive to make asteroid mining profitable, except for the precious metals.

But what happens to the price of gold if space missions start returning hundreds of tons of the stuff to Earth?"

Entire article here

message 2: by Warren (new)

Warren | 1556 comments Interesting.Thanks.
The one thing I can never figure out about off world mining.
How do you get it to Earth? If you just push it in this direction then
it'll burn up in the atmosphere. The fuel requirement for slowing the ore makes all but the most precious minerals way to expensive.
I'd be interested in even a theoretical solution to that problem.

Mel (booksandsundry) (booksandsundry) | 137 comments Warren wrote: "Interesting.Thanks.
The one thing I can never figure out about off world mining.
How do you get it to Earth? If you just push it in this direction then
it'll burn up in the atmosphere. The fuel req..."

I think a lot of future space travel and mining will be dependant on it becoming considerably cheaper and functional easier to do. There are a lot ideas out there but the money for research isn't around like it once was. Personally I think a space elevator will be involved.

I thin when it comes to space mining there are a lot of repercussions involved, environmentally especially. Both from the perspective of what we're importing as well as considering if it'll enable the continued pollution of the planet.

The effect on economies is also a big question. Who controls the market could be the middle east all over again.

I love how he describes sci-fi in the article BTW.

message 4: by Mark (last edited May 29, 2012 06:57PM) (new)

Mark Catalfano (cattfish) The way I understand it, the first step would be to go for asteroids rich in water in order to make more rocket fuel, thus cheapening the eventual return to tug home a big metal one later


message 5: by Liudvikas (new)

Liudvikas (liudvikast) | 20 comments Simple, you don't get it back to earth, some things might have a profit margin for bringing them down, but in most cases there's no profit in it. Of course the opposite is true too, bringing it up is highly expensive. If we are to explore the rest of our solar system we can't bring everything up. Going after water alone would make exploring much simpler. It can be used for crew to drink, it could also be made into fuel as well as oxygen.

message 6: by Chris (new)

Chris (mrwednesday) | 23 comments I agree that much of the resources we find in our solar system would be useful up in space, but by the time we have the technology to conduct large mining operations on asteroids or other bodies my guess is we might have a more functional system for bringing those resources to earth (such as a space elevator, for example).

We might have some sort of base/colony on Mars by then, too, in which case the resources would be well used for transport to/from Mars and for use on the red planet.

message 7: by Victor (new)

Victor | 2 comments space elevator...awesome,till the aliens attack

message 8: by Alterjess (new)

Alterjess | 319 comments Interesting perspective, but when I say "that sounds like science-fiction" I mean "YAY I LOVE LIVING IN THE FUTURE" not "that sounds like something wild with no relation to reality."

I mean, technically any technology we don't have yet is science-fiction. ..for now.

And I want a space elevator.

message 9: by Skip (new)

Skip | 517 comments Trust me, if we find a gold nugget the size of a baseball diamond, someone will find a way to get it to earth. And Cattfish is right - mining water would provide you all the rocket fuel you need to get home.

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