Volatiles for propulsion and life support only scratch the surface of what we might extract once viable mining communities begin tapping the asteroids. Metals like platinum remind us how readily available some resources will be in space as opposed to trying to dig them out from the depths of our planet. Centauri Dreams regular Alex Tolley continues to explore these matters in today’s essay, which looks at how companies will turn a profit and what kinds of targets most justify early efforts. Key to our hopes for asteroid mining is reducing the costs of getting payloads into space. That’s a driver for an infrastructure whose demands may well produce the propulsion solutions we’ll need as we push outside the Solar System.
by Alex Tolley
“There’s gold in them thar hills” – M. F. Stephenson
In 1848, James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill, on the American River, in foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. The California gold rush ensued. Science fiction stories have been replete with such miners eking out a living in the asteroid belt, hoping for that lucky strike and the discovery of the gold asteroid. While gold is no longer used to back the ...