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back to article 'Asteroid mining company' makes classic hypegasm debut today

A group of wealthy advertising and software kingpins have allied themselves with celebrity auteur James Cameron and prominent "new space" business figures to launch a business focused on mining asteroids for precious resources. As is common with Silicon Valley new-tech business launches, hypegasm media management techniques are …

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Coat

Hollywoods already rubbing it's hands together

well there's an accident waiting to be turned into a movie

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Re: Hollywoods already rubbing it's hands together

Weyland-Yutani

"Building Better Worlds"

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Re: Hollywoods already rubbing it's hands together

@Bill - Beat me to it. I was going to point out the irony of the guy who made Aliens founding Weyland-Yutani.

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yes, this has no chance of backfiring

1. Land on unstable object passing by planet

2. Destabilise it

3. ?????

4. Profit!*

*assuming there is anybody left to profit from

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Pint

Re: Aliens

While we're on the subject, it may be worth mentioning Prometheus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MhQe8V8IXc

We are never going to find a decent monster out there if we don't start looking, right?

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Mushroom

Re: yes, this has no chance of backfiring

Yup.

Even if they don't go as far as dropping a large mass of ore on us, just extracting significant mass from very-near-earth asteroids will change their orbital paths beyond our ability to reliably predict, and give us a bunch more potential collision events to monitor.

I would suggest that the risk of adding more potential impacts is itself an environmental argument that ought to outweigh the environmental arguments that focus on the pollution due to terrestrial mining.

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Re: yes, this has no chance of backfiring

You missed out:

5. Make future attempts at this much more likely to be successful and to show that this is possible and can be profitable, thus massively increasing the chances of us profitably mining asteroids and producing fuel in Space in the future.

I think it reasonable to think that with all that expertise on board both in existing Space operations and in building and running hugely profitable enterprises, that sums have been done and this is at the least, plausibly viable.

This is a necessary step to using the vast resources available in Space. So the question to everyone is essentially, do you want us to use the vast resources available in Space. It's their money, they're starting programs that can massively benefit humanity in the future. The programs even raise the profile of science and create highly technical jobs also. We should be happy about this.

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Re: yes, this has no chance of backfiring

Platinum... riiiight.

They are definitely not after those other rare minerals, that enable them to make their toys.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/04/24/rare_earth_ipad_apple_china/

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Happy

Lots of money to be made?

Anyone thinking of investing might want to listen to this first:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAotLlISkaM

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Re: Lots of money to be made?

:-) That's a great tune! Well... I guess it's like the Gold Rush... once the hype's in place and everybody wants to get up there, it's the people selling the provisions and infrastructure that'll make the real money. That's what their play is aimed at achieving, right?

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Angel

Cash flow positive

The company is already cash flow positive, and is not looking for more investors at this time.

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I'd be surprised if at least one space-ready nation hasnt already through of this idea of capturing near earth objects and putting them into lunar orbit to later be used like stones in a slingshot to launch at their enemies. There's enough people around the world skilled enough to write the software needed to calculate how quickly something would have to be travelling when leaving lunar orbit in order to achieve a strike that hits at least in the right country, if not in the right city or postcode.

They could then chalk it up to an unfortunate natural disaster.

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Never get away with it

It'd be too obvious while you were setting it up; no one who knows about it is going to let it slide, for the same reason everybody agreed back in our parents' day that FOBS was taking it just that extra little bit too far for comfort. (Which is, for those who might be wondering, why Kim Jong-un's favorite new toy has everyone so worried.)

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Trollface

Larry Page will BWAHAHA from on high while admiring the exceedingly decorative crater of Oracle Headquarters.

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Plan for world domination

The difference between shipping "precious" (only until availability increases and prices drop) metals to Earth from asteroids and bombing the planet from orbit is not much more than where the delivery comes down - and how fast.

Success is not being at the top of the food chain, it's being at the top of the gravity well.

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Re: Plan for world domination

Thus, King of the Mountain?

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IT Angle

Red Dwarf

hopping from rock to rock - meeting space chicks and running away from noodly appendages. A space cowboy's life for me.

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Re: Red Dwarf

Just keep Rimmer away from the drive plate... I would definately take a penguin puppet onboard though!

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Slightly different take on this...

... from the Bad Astronomer here: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2012/04/24/breaking-private-company-does-indeed-plan-to-mine-asteroids-and-i-think-they-can-do-it/

I think both articles make reasonable points. It's a high risk venture but, hype aside, they do seem to have a fairly careful step by step outline plan starting with something that is perfectly feasible right now. And the track record of these people suggests that they are happy with the concept of putting a lot of money into "because it is there" type projects that won't return much for a long time, if at all. Question is whether even the large amount of money they can marshall will be large enough...

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Go

Re: Slightly different take on this...

A venture can be high risk. For example one of the billionaires on the stage with his own money in (Simonyi, I think) said that he would not recommend his neighbor mortgage his home for this venture. But for those currently invested it's little risk at all for two reasons: 1) They wouldn't miss the money if it failed and 2) It is not possible for this venture to fail with this much money behind it.

Some of the biggest problems a venture can have is running out of investor money or patience before you get the cheddar, or there not being any cheddar. The first can't happen because these guys are so loaded, and the second is just not possible because the cheddar is ALL THAT IS outside of Earth - worlds beyond imagining, wealth beyond the dreams of Midas. And maybe all the Earth too, if you think about it...

Government interference can be a problem for a little guy who's just looking to build a nuclear reactor. But not for guys with an aggregate $100+ billion. For a single billion you can run for President and pack both houses of Congress too.

NASA estimates $2.6 billion for the first asteroid capture mission, $1B for each after. All told it will probably cost $10B to become self-sustaining with fuel factories selling their output on orbit - and 20 years for those costs to mount up and offsetting revenues to come in. They're cash-flow positive now, and there's no reason to expect they'll ever be $2B in the hole, which is no big deal for this group.

Yeah, it's going to happen.

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It's great Sci-Fi and would be super-cool, but it seems several orders of magnitude from being economically viable even if the tech was not a barrier.

So it'll probably IPO for $100bn.

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at least they are trying

Better than spending more than 5x as much on a bunch of people running in circles and splashing around in pools.

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Re: at least they are trying

Better how exactly?

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Re: at least they are trying

Simply because, if no one had ever dreamed of living in a mud hut, we would still be living in caves. Even when the first huts collapsed when it rained, which they probably did, they managed eventually to get it right.

"That is what we call progress"

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Moon Zero Two

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064691/

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John Carmack in?

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Bring it on

the challenge is there, so climb that mountain is what i say.

i liked the idea someone mentioned about changing the trajectory (sorry on spelling - is that right?) to bomb the earth, not to bomb the earth obviously, but if we could bring the comets into orbit we could have 'lots' of temporary moons, mine them, and then once we are done, send them on there way (with all our crap too maybe..), see this could be the start of something REALLY special, or alternativly instead of crap, put people on it, a mini colony maybe, and send it on its way... its a great way of spreading our seed around the universe...!

(copy right me... 2012)

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Boffin

New Scientist article

New Scientist published an article this week on the Earth occasionally having temporary extra moons. And one of them could be nudged into a close enough orbit to mine :

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21428611.000-rich-seams-of-earths-secret-moons.html

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FAIL

Hey...why not?

We've already fucked large portions of the Earth with mining...why not start anew somewhere else?

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Joke

Earth First!

We'll Strip-mine the other planets later.

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Devil

Re: Hey...why not?

You still get the green freaks protesting no matter what, although getting rid of them would be easy.... a couple of thrusters to spin the rock up a bit and they'll fly right off

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Re: Hey...why not?

@Itsnotme - you are trolling, right? You can't really hold such a stupid thought to be true ... can you?

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Re: Hey...why not?

> Mining a barren hunk of atmosphereless, lifeless rock is one of the most environmentally

> friendly things anyone could possibly do.

Because the environmental costs of getting equipment there and getting extracted resources back are zero, of course.

As for "bas[ing] a fair proportion of our heavy industry" in Space Industrial Park: pretty much all of "heavy industry" consumes vast amounts of resources - things like oxygen and water - as part of industrial processes. J Random Asteroid is unlikely to have enough water to move "a fair proportion" of those processes there, even if it were somehow economical to build the facilities in the first place. Those processes are also typically designed to work in Earth-like conditions, with, y'know, an atmosphere and around 1g of gravity.

If we can re-engineer those processes to use far fewer resources and still be economical ON A FRIGGIN' SPACE ROCK, then they'll probably still be economical here.

I've never understood the "space is full of tasty resources" argument. 1) It is not "full" of resources; they're very thinly spread out, which means it's expensive (in many ways) to get them. And 2) the Earth is still loaded with resources that just aren't economical - yet - to extract. If demand for those resources ever reaches the point where it is economical, it'll very likely be far more economical to extract them here than to go comparison shopping elsewhere in the solar system.

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Re: Hey...why not?

No, getting stuff up there & back is not free to start off with, but it's a snowballing process.

(Making some assumptions that these things are available "up there")

First, you find water - almost certainly asteroid(s) made largely of ice.

Second, use solar power to crack the water into it's components (already possible and would be considerably more efficient in space). Now you have fuel already in orbit as well as water, which in itself is pretty useful in the food chain and something to breathe.

Use that fuel to search for more ice.

Eventually you will have enough fuel to not only explore space but to also allow for a round-trip to earth.

Use those free round-trips to lift stuff to build and stock an in-orbit hydroponics site - you don't need to lift the water anymore because it's already up there. Now you can start growing food.

Once food production is underway you no longer need to lift that into orbit either.

Next, start to look for stuff you can use to build more craft (hopefully you're now finding ice quite easily as you've refined the process over the years).

Use your "free" round-trips to lift stuff into orbit for refining and manufacturing of the ore you find "up there". N.B. at this stage you should no longer need to lift food, water or fuel into space.

Anyway, you get the idea. Eventually you'll hardly need to lift anything into orbit for infrastructure purposes, it'll all be self-sustaining (at least until you run out of asteroids).

It'll probably take 50-100 years to get that far, but it will give us a great platform to start thinking about colonies on Mars and ultimately (perhaps) even escaping our solar system.

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WTF?

Dismissive, any??

"All in all, Planetary Resources don't really seem to be bringing anything very new to the table: their ideas have been around for a long time, nothing in the way of actual new technology is on offer, and only a modicum of genuine space-tech expertise. The main strengths of Diamandis, Anderson and the company's other celebrity backers lie really in promotion and hype rather than space hardware or resource mining. "

So just to spell it out clearly, you believe this is all hype and no end product, why don't you just say it plainly? Let's be clear here, saying these people's strengths isn't space hardware and resource mining is trivially true because no-one has the sort of expertise beyond low-earth orbit. The point is to develop that expertise. Saying their ideas are old and they don't bring any new technology to the table is missing the point - they are now at the point where old visions CAN be brought to reality with new technologies, and they are in the position to be able to invest in technology and coordinate existing tech resources to make their vision happen.

Sure, they're bigging up their vision but that doesn't make it just hype. And as far as I can make out, they're putting (a lot of) their own money into this venture so they are at least "eating their own dog food" as the yanks say.

This is a hugely difficult and complex enterprise, and chances are it will be over budget, over deadline and underwhelming in results. But it's a first step that needs to be taken if we want to really conquer space not just sniff around the edges. Sitting on the sidelines being smug isn't helpful.

I wish them the best in this venture even if neither they nor I ever get to see any concrete results in our lifetimes

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Happy

Re: why don't you just say it plainly?

You did note the name at the top right? This IS plainly written, just with a bit more detail than usual. Frankly given that the "burn them down with facts and a caustic 'tude" is his bread and butter article, I think the new guys with all the hype did pretty well -- there are still a few buildings standing after Lewis finished.

Truthfully, Lewis's warnings are all prudent - this is high risk in new territory. I do think he missed one thing though, something someone else commented on the thread in yesterday's El Reg article. There is something new in this endeavor: a shot, albeit a small one, at consistency of planning and execution. Yes the ideas are all old and have been argued to death using Socratic and Platonic techniques. But because of that lack of consistency, I don't think you can accurately say anyone has ever tried to execute them before. And sometimes, no matter how intuitively obvious it is that heavy things fall faster than light things, strange things happen when you conduct the actual experiment.

Oh and, if they figure out a way for me to invest a monthly Benjamin to the project, I will.

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Re: Dismissive, any??

Totally agree. This sounds a LOT more interesting than ISS, base on the Moon or flying people to Mars. Or any of the crud that the meat-in-space parts of NASA has to dream up to justify its existence.

(I have much more respect for the automated-only parts of NASA . Like survey probes, sats and telescopes).

Sure, it is quite likely to fail, and I wouldn't _invest_ in it. Donate? Maybe. But these guys are likely smart enough to know that and have enough cash at hand to take a wild stab at getting us out of our current space rut. And it won't be run by politicians behooved to aerospace lobbyists.

Hats off, gentlemen. Even if it never makes it off the ground.

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Urine recycling?

They should send Bear Grylls to the ISS. He'd fit right in!

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Squids in Space?

Are they also going to be using super intelligent squid to pilot the rockets? (Stephen Baxter ref.)

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Anonymous Coward

So....

... Some real life Manic Miners on the anniversary of the ZX Spectrum :)

Altogether now....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7khL9Ms4ow

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Boffin

"the crew of the International Space Station, famously...

"...must drink their own recycled urine"

Right, because on Earth all urine is neatly stored away and never re-enters the water cycle to be drunk again...

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Happy

Space is going commercial!

That should speed things up - I hope to see it in my lifetime. Saying that - it might be a bit scary steering an asteroid towards the moon - if things go wrong it might end up falling on my house FFS

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As an Asimov fan, I say "Yeah!"

I want a pet siliconey!

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errr....but what about the moon ??

I thought it was known that the moon has water on it - so why go to the bother of capturing asteroid(s) when the moon is just a short distance away, and we know where the water is....so its not a wild goose chase....

Once they have the infrastructure in place on the moon, then they can capture asteroids, and crashland them near to the moon-factories.

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Re: errr....but what about the moon ??

Yeah, fucking with the moon seems a really good idea. It's not like its exact position and trajectory has any effect on life on earth or anything

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Facepalm

Re: fucking with the moon

"Yeah, fucking with the moon seems a really good idea. It's not like its exact position and trajectory has any effect on life on earth or anything"

You can't be serious. PLEASE tell me you are not serious. You cannot actually have so little grasp of science and scale that you think human activity of any kind on the moon (let alone a little mining) is going to alter the Moon's mass or trajectory. Can you?

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Re: errr....but what about the moon ??

@ Wild Bill - the precautionary principle can be taken too far, you know. Just as long as they don't have any nuclear waste dumps that can explode and blow the Moon out of orbit at ridiculously high speeds, we'll be fine.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: errr....but what about the moon ??

Ala Space 1999 you mean? :)

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