Asteroid, mine

By Phil Plait | May 9, 2012 10:45 am

I write a sporadically monthly column for Blastr, the science/science fiction web news portal for the SyFy channel. My latest is about asteroid mining — the company Planetary Resources announced recently they have big plans to Go Where No Mine Has Gone before, and I give it the once over.

As I said when I wrote about this earlier, I’m enthusiastic about it, but I’d like to see details. But I’ll say that the first few steps the company wants to take make a great deal of sense to me.

And hey, if you speak French — je ne pas parles merci bleh bleh PeeWee — the French newspaper 20 Minutes has an interview with me about all this as well. I think I come off sounding really smart, because I can’t understand a word of the interview.

More of my Blastr articles are listed below, too. I seem to have a predilection for destruction. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll write about unicorns and rainbows next.

Oh, wait.

Related posts:

Blastr: In which I vaporize the Moon
Blastr: Invasion Earth!
Blastr: So, you wanna blow up the Earth?
Blastr: My Favorite TV Scientists
Blastr: Other than that, Spock, how was the movie?
Blastr: I Was A Zombie For Science
Big budget movies that got their science right
Master of Blastr

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Humor, Piece of mind, Space

Comments (8)

  1. LawnBoy

    Speaking of your asteroid, how would you feel if the asteroid they started mining was the one named after you?

  2. lepton

    For space raw material depot, I wish we have the nuclear space gun.

    Of course, I am also happy to see any derivative benefit from this Asteroid mining operation.

  3. MikeW

    You do come off sounding smart in that interview, especially with those radical ideas for fixing the Greek economy, and curing cancer.

  4. Chris

    One thing I was wondering about is how much water is really out there. I’d expect Kuiper belt objects to have a lot of water ice, but I’d think any Near Earth Asteroids or those in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter would be as dry as the moon (excluding the pole which doesn’t see the sun). Over billions of years most of their volatiles have probably left. Now there could be water locked deep inside, but somehow it almost seems easier to get the metals out!

  5. Yes, like Edgar Allan Poe, you sound much better in French than in English.

  6. SLC

    Here’s a take on the subject of asteroid mining by Bob Park. Of course, I suspect that there will be some in these parts who will opine that Prof. Park doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    There was a front-page article by Joel Achenbach in the Washington Post last week about Planetary Resources, the world’s first asteroid mining business, started by space visionary Peter Diamandis and his colleague Eric Anderson. Deep-pocket investors are said to be hyperventilating. Why wouldn’t they? Untold thousands of asteroids are whizzing around the Sun right now and they’re free. Just leave your business card on an asteroid and it’s yours. But, although asteroids are free, “whizzing” is not. What are these guys thinking? You must chase asteroids down to extract stuff like platinum and diamonds, if there is any, and haul it to Earth. Meanwhile the price of rocket fuel is up and tiny errors in trajectory could lead to huge damage suits or start wars. But why bother? Some of the best asteroids are already here; Earth has been collecting them for eons. Just look for craters and start digging. Consider the Chicxulub asteroid buried beneath the Yucatn Peninsula. It got rid of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, clearing the way for the evolution of Homo sapiens. Mining the Chicxulub asteroid should keep Planetary Resources busy for centuries. Asteroids already have a really bad rap, but I think Chicxulub may be seen as evidence that God is a businessman.

  7. puppygod

    Well, I’m sorry, but unfortunately he does appear to not know what he’s talking about. He misses the point in a quite grand way. Platinum and diamonds? Did anyone even mentioned diamonds? Also note that he conveniently skipped volatiles. Chase asteroids? So what? Just look at missions like Hayabusa and others – it is doable (dunno whether economically viable in the long run, butt certainly doable). Price of rocket fuel is up? Did I mention that he skipped volatiles that can be made into rocket fuel already up there and sold for high price? Oops. Tiny error in trajectory can cause wars? We are sending stuff into space since 1957, we are sending it up in huge quantities and tons upon tons of this stuff is falling back onto good ol’ Earth every year, some totally uncontrollably. Despite that I’m yet to hear about war caused by falling rocket stage demolishing somebody’s garden. His arguments are mostly far off the point, and that Chicxclub part is completely non sequitur. What does impact from 65 millions ago that smashed (probably) c-type asteroid over half of this planet have in common with plan of extracting volatiles and (maybe, later, if cost of operation is not prohibitive) precious and rare materials from asteroids that are already at the top of gravity well? Unless he thinks that handpicking tektites for micrograms of iridium are highly profitable enterprise, it does not compute.

  8. To do this we will need low cost heavy lift and manned missions. This can be done in a much more low cost fashion than realized:

    Bob Clark


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