18. January 2006 · Comments Off on The Nightingale Tells His Fairy Tale · Categories: Science!

On the heals of the successful Stardust mission, Leah Hoffmann at Forbes is dreaming of mining outer space:

Theoretically, mining and collecting solar energy in space for use on earth hold tremendous potential. Solar energy can, of course, be gathered on earth, but only about half of the sun’s radiation ever makes it to the earth’s surface–the rest is either absorbed by the atmosphere or reflected back by clouds. As for mining, a 1999 study published in Science magazine calculated that the asteroid Eros contains precious metals–aluminum, gold, silver and zinc, among others–worth at least $20 trillion at current market prices.


As for mining, it may happen someday–but no time soon. No one can estimate how much it would cost to burrow into the riches of Eros, or to bring those riches home. And even if they did bring them home, such a dramatic influx of metals onto the marketplace could drive down commodity prices to the point where mining didn’t make economic sense. “The rates of return just aren’t there, and it could take another 100 years before they are,” says Charles Oman, a senior research engineer at MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

First, of course, we must figure out a safe and inexpensive way to get into orbit.

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