As I sit here waiting on a fairly long freight train nearby a RR crossing, with box cars and tank cars and coal or ore cars – I am thinking about how pursuing and using all these resources are decimating our planet, how we are going to need another planet for us and to use before long, even if we get our act together ecologically.
I was in a discussion with my brother concerning his need to put his masters degree in astro-physics on hold for an undermentioned amount of time for financial reasons. I allowed as how the pursuit of such a course of study was much easier when the country IE Washington and Wall Street were all aflutter on beating the Soviets to space. And once the Soviets stopped being a concern space-wise or any otherwise, this money and motivation instantly vanished.
In the communication he gave me an interesting link. He also reminded me that the Chinese have a fully functioning rover on the moon now. You can bet your life that a moon landing is not far off and rest assured that the Chinese missions will not be just a There and Back Again thing. Their presence will be an extended one and with a purpose. And I need not wonder if their reasoning could be similar to the link I gave above. An effort to explore with intent to mine asteroids and such.
At Planetary Resources, our mission is to prospect and mine asteroids to address one of the paramount problems faced on Earth and beyond: resource scarcity. We are laser focused on developing the tools to grow the economy beyond Earth: radiation tolerant embedded systems, deep space communications and remote sensing capabilities, autonomous navigation, and integrated propulsion on the smallest, most cost-effective platforms possible. With our first launch scheduled for next year, our work towards asteroid mining is in-progress.
I have to admit when I first heard of this awhile back, I was skeptical and thought it a bit silly. But now that I think about it just makes sense from a long term, as well as a short term, point of view. For all sorts of reasons, from resource depletion to ecological, humanity has to get serious about space exploration with the intent to colonize. To do this will require immense resources and new technology which is only really available in space. Technologies to the propulsion of craft capable of interstellar travel that can only really be developed in space, using materials that may not be available on earth in sufficient quantities and/or processed here on earth but could easily be processed in space.
Space has a number of advantages from an engineering point of view. No gravity to deal with. An immense thermal well for heat and cold. Physical and sound pollution is no longer a problem I remember even reading somewhere where the mining and processing of material on the planet Mercury was considered. The solar side is hot enough to smelt anything and the dark side cold enough to well …you get the picture. And the propulsion systems needed can only really be developed and tested in space without the possibility of destroying vast areas of countryside if and when they initially fail.
There is plenty of historical precedent for it as well. After all, North America was discovered and populated essentially for resources that Europe wanted. And this brings me to another point. Since we are unlikely to eliminate or even change the attitudes of these rich sociopathic SOBs who make everybody’s life hell – genocide being frowned upon and such – what we need to do is convince them there is money to be made out there, just like the early explorers did with the new world. By investing in space mining and exploration, they can get rich, rich, rich. Meanwhile all kinds of other possibilities become available since space miners and their employers need the same things they do here. Food, sex, entertainment ….
We are not going to rid ourselves of them so why not put them to good use.