The founders of the Silicon Valley startup, Planetary Resources, have announced plans for mining asteroids for valuable metals. Peter Diamandis, Eric Anderson and investors including director James Cameron and Google CEO Larry Page are behind this venture.

I’m trying to be positive here. Perhaps these fellows should visit some earthly mines and see what it takes to break actual rock and extract the value from it.

Earth bound ore bodies near the surface are commonly the result of concentration by hydrothermal flows. In the absence of water-based geothermal concentration processes, or recrystallization of PGM’s in magma chambers, the reality of economically viable ore bodies in asteroids is an open question. A lot of survey work needs to be done to answer this question.

Oh, and one more thing. When you blast rock on a largish planet like earth, the fragments fall back to the ground. This won’t happen on an itty bitty asteroid.

The talk about recovering water from asteroids to subsequently crack and make propellant is a large challenge all by itself.

I predict that civilization will slump back to a 19th century Dickensian-style world of robber barons and sharecroppers before any hardware gets to an asteroid.  Children will ask “Momma, what’s an iPad?” as they walk from their rundown subdivision to a quonset where they strip insulation from wire for copper to barter for food. It’s all so clear now …

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