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RE: Re: RE: starship-design: Depressing news


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Lindberg [mailto:lindberg@olywa.net]
> Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 1998 10:13 AM
> To: L. Parker
> Subject: RE: Re: RE: starship-design: Depressing news
>         Part of the reason "rare metals" are valuable is because they're
> rare.  If far-sighted mining companies start bringing home monster piles
> platinum-group and other rare metals, said materials will drop in price as
> the supply rises.  This is ok if you have high startup costs and low
> operation costs (like a sports stadium, for example), but less ok if there
> is a constant source of vital, big-ticket expenses, such as getting
> supplies and people to orbit and sending the mined material back to earth
> so it can be used, not to mention the actual interception and mining of a
> near asteriod. While a consortium of companies could concievably recover
> their development costs with one big find, keeping the profit margin high
> enough to satisfy stockholders would be difficult, and failing that,
> backing out of an unprofitable space venture in one piece could be a
> business indeed.

The short and long term effects to market prices of single finds of even
large magnitudes aren't serious. However, the price of other metals that we
can expect to produce in large quantities is a matter of concern.
Fortunately, the market itself provides an answer. Typically, when a new
metal or alloy first becomes available or becomes available in quantities
sufficient to lower its price, the effect is short term. Within a few years,
the lower price creates increased demand thereby shoring up the price of the
metal, albeit at a lower level. Overall, however, the profitability of the
commodity is much higher because the increased demand more than makes up for
the lower cost.

If this weren't true, no one would ever get into the mining business
anywhere, much less in space. Space however presents a unique opportunity.
One of the biggest problems with human development of space is access to
space for both personnel and supplies. Everything must be sent up from the
bottom of Earth's gravity well at enormous expense. The access to plentiful
materials in orbit will eventually create demand for manufacturing in orbit
so that those supplies don't have to be sent up to orbit in the first
place - further increasing demand for raw materials in both quantity and

Its sort of a self fulfilling prophecy, but in order to make it work, it has
to start somewhere.

>         On the other hand, private enterprise certainly could get to space
> in an ultra-(cheap, safe, etc.) way, esp. compared to gov't.  The problem
> with private enterprise is that they need a motivation other than a spirit
> of adventure or beuraucratic inertia (nasa) to put men and money into
> space.

Like I said, commercial concerns are motivated by profit. If they can see a
potential for income in orbital operations, they will get there. More and
more people are coming to understand the potentials involved, so many that
it is only a matter of time now. I am no longer really very concerned with
what happens with NASA or any of the other national space agencies, except
insofar a they provide the basic technologies to make this possible.

Lee Parker

                                                      (o o)

Long experience has taught me not to believe in the limitations indicated
by purely theoretical considerations. These - as we well know - are based
on insufficient knowledge of all the relevant factors."

Guglielmo Marconi