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The Financial Future of Space Travel 414

gurps_npc writes " This CNNMoney story discusses the financial future of space travel. In particular it gives some nice names and numbers, such as Bezos, Musk and 3554 Amun. 3554 Amun is an small metalic asteroid that crosses Earth's pass (not on collission course) and contains over 20 trillion US dollars worth of precious metal. It is a great fact to know when trying to explain to flat-earth types that don't understand why we waste money on space travel."
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The Financial Future of Space Travel

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  • by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @03:05AM (#14833162)
    Cobalt, Platinum family metals, Iron and Nickel.

    "There are three key things to know about 3554 Amun: First, its orbit crosses that of Earth; second, it's the smallest M-class (metal-bearing) asteroid yet discovered; and finally, it contains (at today's prices) roughly $8 trillion worth of iron and nickel, $6 trillion of cobalt, and $6 trillion of platinumlike metals." - FTFA

    "3554 Amun is an M-type Aten asteroid (meaning it crosses Earth's orbit) and a Venus-crosser. It was discovered on 4 March 1986 by Carolyn and Eugene Shoemaker at Mount Palomar Observatory." []
  • why, yes (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 02, 2006 @03:10AM (#14833177)
    here's one

    gandhi owned a loincloth and a pair of glasses when he kicked off

    how about tesla? living-starving-in a cold water flat at the end when the feds ripped off his notes

    gw carver? turned down 100gs a year in the 1800s to keep working on his ag patents for the good of the planet?

    Let's turn it around, how many incredibly rich guys actually got there without being total jerks or without being born into it, ie, big nothings?
  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @03:18AM (#14833196) Journal
    And exactly does one come to own an asteroid? Is planing a flag good enough?

    Space property rights are a very murky and ambiguous area, but one which should get resolved if we want to have any hope of expanding out there permanently. An article by Sam Dinkin in the Space Review on Property rights and space commercialization [] has a fairly nice overview of the issues. A quote:

    Space property rights will probably not spark a space transportation boom that will rival the railroad boom, the airplane boom, or the automobile boom. But there will be no boom if there are no property rights. Leaving the regulatory regime the same is a recipe for continued sclerosis.

    If we do nothing, space will look a lot more like Antarctica than Alaska. Without property rights there will not be adequate investment and space resources will be underutilized. Establishing property rights in space will cost millions, not billions, and can be done decades ahead of any commercialization or colonization. It's time to set the stage to break out of the exploration mode of Columbus and get on with establishing the regulatory regime to lay the foundation for the next Plymouth Rock.
  • Re:She's a gusher (Score:3, Informative)

    by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @03:47AM (#14833261) Journal
    The day astronomers discover an asteroid with oil reserves is the day the US diverts half its military budget to the 'peaceful exploration of space'.

    FYI, the moon Titan [] is pretty much covered in "oil reserves."
  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @03:48AM (#14833263) Homepage Journal
    The day astronomers discover an asteroid with oil reserves is the day the US diverts half its military budget to the 'peaceful exploration of space'.

    Because Jupiter and Saturn have heaps of methane (many times the mass of the Earth) and Neptune and Uranus are practically made of the stuff.

  • Re:She's a gusher (Score:3, Informative)

    by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @04:29AM (#14833348) Journal
    your own link contradicts you:

    I might be misreading it, but I'm under the impression that while its still uncertain whether or not there's liquid hydrocarbons on the surface, there's almost certainly hydrocarbons in Titan's thick atmosphere.
  • Re:62000 miles (Score:2, Informative)

    by Joseph_Daniel_Zukige ( 807773 ) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @04:45AM (#14833388) Homepage Journal
    I found the wikipedia entry, and it looks like they are thinking in terms of 200kph at low altitudes, and centrifugal forces would indeed induce rocket speeds beyond geosynchronous.

    Lengthening the cable enough to remove need of counterweight is mentioned as a possible way to launch things out of earth orbit.

    Rocket speeds tangential to the cable? I'm sure they've thought that one through, though.
  • by eshefer ( 12336 ) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @06:03AM (#14833533) Homepage Journal
    "The Apollo era was heroic, but beating the Soviets to the moon never provided a compelling economic reason to return. (We didn't even get Teflon or Tang as spinoffs--both were invented before 1960.)"

    I may be nitpicking here, but the premiss is plain WRONG.

      America's leadership in the semiconductor industry in general and the CPU industry in perticular is direct result of the space race and the arms race. I prefare the former rather then the latter. The challange of making apollos on-board computer directly influenced the development of ICs, and later the CPU. intel would'nt have been if it were not for apollo (or at least would have come much later).
  • Energy. (Score:3, Informative)

    by aug24 ( 38229 ) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @07:01AM (#14833626) Homepage
    There's a lot missing in this equation as presented.

    The asteroid, small as it is on the scale of things, weighs a lot. A real lot.

    This means that changing the delta-V to get the metals to Earth will require a lot of energy. We may well be able to do that with the Sun one day. However, there is also the gravitational field energy to be considered. Merging the gravity wells will release an awful lot of energy, which will then need to be soaked up somehow, or we'll make carbon emission worries look like wondering vaguely if you left the gas on.

    In short we'd better build that space elevator and a portable solar sail before we even think about mining asteroids on a grand scale.


Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard