Make a start. Make a start. Well, I’ve caught up with my chores. All the distractions and alarums and excursions have kept me from writing. Well, what can you do? Life is like that.
But what to write about? I’m looking for something upbeat. I don’t want to talk about the crime epidemic or the 2024 race or even transgender pushback. I’ve expended enough venom on those to last me awhile. I’d rather think about something fun.
So, how about asteroid mining?
Until recently talk of this was restricted to science fiction fans. Heinlein had asteroid miners in his juvenile novel “The Rolling Stones” and it was a staple of many writers in the last century. But now it’s going from fiction to fact as NASA is talking about sending a mission to an asteroid that is believed to be composed almost entirely of metal. There’s a mission to send an unmanned mission to reach Psyche 16 in 2026.
Psyche 16 is a small world with a diameter of 140 miles. Its mass has been estimated at 2.29 ×1019 kg. That’s about 0.0004% of the Earth’s mass. But that’s an enormous mass.
Now visiting Psyche 16 is a far cry from actually mining gold and platinum from this worldlet and getting it to Earth where it has value. But it’s a start. The actual mechanism for recovering the metals that make up Psyche 16 is an interesting problem. Depending on how fast it is going relative to Earth, changing its orbit has the potential to be a human existence-ending event for planet Earth. Remember, the dinosaurs allegedly bit the dust because a fair-sized asteroid crashed into Earth sixty some odd million years ago. So, diverting large asteroids should be something done with the utmost of careful planning and the least amount of change to our space environment.
The two choices I come up with are moving it into a stable orbit close to Earth or crashing it into the Moon. Overall, I favor the Moon idea. Maybe I’ve been influenced by Heinlein’s story, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.” In that tale the Moon colonists uses a rail gun to boost payloads to escape the Moon’s gravity and splash down in the oceans of Earth. I’m sure that much more careful thought would need to be done to ensure that this kind of logistical method is possible but I’m guessing from a risk perspective where an extinction event is one of the risks it would probably be preferred to leaving that big rock moving close to Earth.
In the article someone did a back of the envelope calculation and came up with $10,000 quadrillion as the value of the metals in Psyche 16. Of course, why it would be expressed that way instead of as $10 quintillion is unclear to me. But they bring up the point that this would wreck the Earth’s economy by destabilizing the value of gold and other metals. Well, this seems like a silly statement. Extracting even something as valuable as platinum from the Moon and bringing it back to Earth will not be economical unless the price of that metal increases by orders of magnitude.
Digging gold and platinum out of the Earth is the economical choice and will be for the foreseeable future. But if someday there is a need for metals that can no longer be found on Earth, then maybe asteroid mining might become a thing,
So, wasn’t that more fun than talking about trannies again? Feel free to comment on my moon crash option. I assure you I haven’t thought through this option much at all so we can dissect it as an occasion for fun. Have at it.