How Will the Next Space Age Unfold?


The rocket payload doesn’t really apply here. You’re not putting something in space, your bringing it back. In theory, you can just drop part of a raw asteroid into Earth’s gravity and let it fall in some unpopulated safe zone. It doesn’t need an expensive reentry vehicle. Of course the issue is safety, it’s probably unacceptable to just drop it. Maybe it needs some minimal reentry vehicle to guide the asteroid fragments to the proper landing zone. That should be much easier/cheaper than getting living people down safely to a launch pad.

I wouldn’t think you would be doing this with iron, and I doubt you would find a large enough block of high purity gold or platinum to send down, but there may be options in between. The point is, the refining doesn’t need to happen in space, all you need is a way to cut apart the asteroids. And of course you need a way to detect which ones have more valuable material content. Bonus points for doing this using an automated system so that the mining ship doesn’t require a crew.


That’ll blast things into tons of pieces and make them land all over the place.


The last thing you want to be doing is intentionally lobbing rocks at Earth. The infrastructure required to get asteroids to Earth safely would most likely vastly outweigh the benefits of the program.

Just mine them in space and send the good shit back down in capsules, preferably processed on site if possible.


Two words.
O’Neill Cylinders

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Guys, read beyond the first two sentences.

Dragon can deorbit 3 metric tons. The Shuttle massed 2,000 tons and could deorbit 14 tons (plus the 2,000 tons of the Shuttle vehicle itself). Let’s say that we can build an upscaled X-37 (an unmanned shuttle) to deorbit 50 tons for a reasonable price.

Values are in millions of dollars.


Note that deorbiting silver would be a complete waste.

If you can find 50 tons of Platinum, extract it in space and dorbit it, you’re looking at $1.7 billion for pure metal. Adjust depending on your ability to refine the stuff in space. Then there’s the price adjustment that would take place when a bunch of new metal is introduced, with more expected from future mining.

By the way, 50 metric tons of gold has a volume of 2.6 cubic meters.

Won’t happen. Without purpose. Too expensive.


Yeah the only real large scale reason for space mining is establishing habitats on other worlds/big orbital colonies and for those to happen there would need to be some sort of an extraordinary event to drive all of it.

It’s more or less borderline sci-fi territory right now.


Yes, but he was talking about deorbiting raw, unprocessed asteroid. Unless you find an asteroid that’s especially rich in any of those materials there’s little point in deorbiting unprocessed rock


I was taking exception to Alkan’s comment and your use of the phase “lobbing rocks”. Perhaps you were just emphasizing “rocks”, while I picked up on the “lobbing” thing, which seemed to support Alkan’s comments. I considered the whole thing dismissive of the full set of points that MrAwesome was making.

If you say so. I have no idea what will be possible once people start in on this. I know that sending down pure material would be the most magical, science-fiction result, but I don’t know what the guys who have to actually pay the bills and organize all the work are going to choose to do. Asteroid mining might end up being the worst thing to ever happen to Earth, with the mining companies buying up chunks of desert so they can throw whole asteroids into it and then mine the impact sites (similar to ThornEel’s scenario).


How would the development of a Space Elevator be justified in a world where access to space becomes inexpensive.

I imagine it would still come down to costs of getting things in to orbit, but a Space Elevator could also make it easier to get material back to the surface?

On a side note, in the Infinity Universe, do space elevators make any practical sense, or how do you feel they could make sense? If you do approach this subject, perhaps a new thread is required.

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Infinity Universe makes no sense, you have half a dozen planets capable of supporting 20+ billion people for centuries, instead three corporations are fighting over half a dozen factories that produce next to no resources. There is plenty to go around.

Also, sticking a heat shield and some parachutes on an asteroid seems like the best option for space mining for me.


Didn’t you just describe the situation here on earth though?

Edit: The earth is capable of supporting all those who live upon it, yet we still fight for control of various resources etc.

I think the issue would be a bit more complex than “there’s plenty to go around”


Efficient devices do make sense. Especially if you have high demand. Mass drivers, active support structures or other efficient or high throughput transport systems. Even with cheap and relatively easy access to energy, an efficient system can make more use of said energy.

With enough population you can have huge demands for anything one might use. As for the Infinity:Universe. The conflict can be believable as long as it’s a “relative” small brawl in an otherwise large civilisation and such stuff is generally accepted to happen every now and then. Many reasons could be stated. Some more cliche than others. I think immaterial reasons are more believable though.
As for having a space elevator somewhere … that place needs to have something in high concentration there or most of that stuff needs to already have been extracted from easier to reach places in the system OR the system has many of those and other heavy infrastructure. A lone space elevator in an otherwise quite sparely built over system though I don’t find that believable.
It’s a game though and you could explain it as a prototype or prestige object or something.

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I’m not really saying that any of this is a good investment of capital. I’m just not sure landing entire asteroids on Earth (safely) is any more or less practical than refining asteroids into pure metals from space. What I am saying is that there are likely other options. Maybe some of them are options no one has considered yet.


It’s the huge disparity of scale that gets to me Hutch, about the equivalent of the population of Liechtenstein fighting over resources of the whole Earth, plus a handful of other planets.


I definitely understand the comparison. However, what of the technological limitations of the people in Liechtenstein, is such a small population capable of operating within an economy that can utilize the full resources of the earth?

I tend to see technological limitations as the barriers rather than the raw abundance of resources. Which is why I can imagine a number of large interstellar corporations fighting over the “easier” planetary systems to settle or mine. Expand that now to political or ideological aims between the factions, overpopulation, logistics and distribution issues in the core worlds, and I can see opportunity for a little conflict.


The IBS system is not being exploited properly to justify the conflict, assuming the current ‘factories’ on the surface ~0.00000001% of the earth-like planet is being utilized, plus there are additional planets. There is so much available resources that the conflict is hard to swallow.


The reason the BFR works for mining is that unlike capsules, you don’t actually have to build something and throw it away when you’re done. It seems kinda silly to launch the capsules on board of what is basically a giant capsule, and land things with those capsules. Capsules are expensive. The BFR can take 50 metric tons down at a time, which, for precious metals, is an extreme volume.

A single high output near earth asteroid could have enough precious metals to flood the market. A scientific prospecting mission could be one of the better things we do with our money for funding basic science.


We can. But we will not because what we lack is Manpower, some resources but surely not technology.
In a scenario where suddenly all population of earth vanishes except for Liechtenstein the limiting factor to reclaim earth would be the regrowth of the population.

I disagree. The only thing I could reasonably believe is if the interstellar magic drive has some form of weird limitation that can be optimized by making it better and thus allowing for further expansion. Corporation that do not have that technology have to duke it out to make a profit or fight for “financial” survival. It’s weird though because it’s something you may be able to easily steal and if it does not exist there’s no conflict because the outer reaches have not been exploited yet.
The Sol system could support unimaginable high numbers of people with near current technology.

As said. Immaterial motives are relatable to people even if they can’t relate to a world of unimaginable scale.
Immaterial things like artificial scarcity and the fight of some corporations to break the SpaceOPEC. Much more interesting than the chewed trough “fighting for survival” or “fight for the fittest” trope.

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You see the factories sit on the very rare sources of unobtanium, IBS system is one of the rare systems that has this resource that is used to make hyperdrives.
Not every planet has a source of it but every one of these planets becomes strategically important if you want to take and hold the planets that do have this material on them.

There ya go I just applied Babylon 5’s Quantium-40 to IBS so it makes sense.

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It’s inconsistent, the factories are spread around each planet and on different planets, hinting at some sort of uniform distribution of unobtanium, which wouldn’t be a normal case with real deposits.

Also and more importantly the competition for unobtanium is not being communicated to the player properly. There should be visual and design ques all over, glowing patches of land, floating rocks, huge mining pits, mines and factories that look like they are processing huge amounts of unobtanium, stations that look like they are performing a stage in the unobtanium process.

None of this is present, the bases are generic, the stations are generic, land is generic, there is nothing to hint at this system being special in any way. The player is as likely to guess there is unobtanium on the planet as he’s likely to guess that the inhabitants of the IBS universe build their factories/mines on the sacred coordinates given in their bible.

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