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How hard is it to mine an asteroid?

Planetary Resources is a company that intends to try, and this article at the New Scientist asks some questions about how they might go about it and what problems they might encounter.

Problem 1: The technology for most of this hasn’t been invented yet.

Solution: Lots of money, lots of time, and lots of people working on the problem.

Problem 2: Bringing the asteroid closer to Earth to make it more economically feasible.  Problems with this include overcoming the Sun’s gravitational control, getting the parking trajectory right (assuming they’re going to park it around the Earth), not hitting anything with it.

Solution: Er… lots of money, lots of time, and lots of people working on the problem?

Problem 3: Not floating off into space when you try to dig your shovel into the asteroid.  A problem due to very low gravity and lots of spinning!

Solution: Bolt everything down.  Including the people.  And find a way to mine an entire asteroid from one location.  This sounds like it’s going to involve, you guessed it, lots of money, time, and people working on the problem.

It’s going to take some time to be in a position where we can actively mine asteroids, I think.  It’s also going to involve an awful lot of very intelligent people.  Far from the “space grunt” image that many science fiction novels portray for asteroid miners.

The Author

Nicola Higgins is a 30-something martial artist who runs two Brownie packs and works full time. She somehow still finds time to write.

Her favourite genres are near-future and alternate world science fiction and fantasy.

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