[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

starship-design: Mining asteroids

A rebuttal to your rebuttal regarding asteriod mining.
L. Parker wrote:
> Taking your points in order:
> 1) The idea of free enterprise leading the way into space is unrealistic.
> Utilizing space resources is obviously going to be expensive; getting the
> necessary capital together will be very difficult.
> Actually, for the last several years there has been more money made from the
> private commercial space sector than from government funded projects. Even
> NASA has noticed this and made the comment that the trend seems
> "irreversible". It is government led development that is inherently
> expensive because of the inevitable bureaucracy that develops in such
> programs. If you take two identical programs and hand one to private
> industry with incentive to make a profit and one to NASA under cost plus,
> there is an almost threefold difference in cost.
        With the exception of government contracts, most of  the money
which has beenmade privately has been entirely from communications
satellites. I thinkyou would agree with me that launching a 3 ton
communications satellite
is a much different proposition from launching a several hundred
(thousand?) ton mining operation. As well as boosting it to redezvous
with an asteroid and returning. Gathering enough money for such a
venture, even given its enormous profit potential, is going to be very
difficult. The novelty of the venture, as well as the prospect that it
could fail utterly (spaceflight is risky buisness) will scare away
investors. A final nail in the coffin of commercial space mining is the
extended R&D period which must occur before anything even leaves the
ground.  The design, construction, and assembly will take several months
at least, during which the shareholders money will be tied up in a
high-risk, non liquid venture for which the price of failure may well be
their entire investment. In simpler terms, there may be no way to fund
this kind of thing privately due to the amount of money needed, no
matter how attractive on paper.
	Also keep in in mind that asteriod mining by private companies will
require a great deal of government and perhaps super-government
supervision.  The reason for this is that asteriods make fairly handy
weapons of mass destruction.  The ability to mine them and the ability
to change their orbits are related skills. Human nature being what it
is, it is foolhardy to open asteriod mining to all comers. (admittedly
enforcment will be difficult)  Certain Hong Kongese companies have
strong links to Chinese organized crime rackets, which could gain
control of an asteroid and hold someone (us) for ransom.  The Chinese
communists themselves have only about six ICBMs (most of their arsenal
is in IRBMs) and would probably like to expand their capablilties in
that regard.  The threat posed by dictators hiring an asteriod for the
weekend is also something to consider.
	Admittedly, the above paragraph was alarmist, but my point remains
Asteriod mining poses a definite strategic risk.  Managing that risk, as
well as the risk of natural collisions, should put some governing agency
up in space well ahead of the mining crews.
Nels Lindberg