Asteroid Mining Still Just Science Fiction


Jackie Hartsough
Staff Writer

A new company called Planetary Resources just announced their plan to extract valuable resources from asteroids and return them to Earth. This endeavor is called asteroid mining. They are going to send ships into space to drill into asteroids.

Anyone else reminded of “Armageddon?” Will Bruce Willis be joining the team? I actually looked at who the various advisers are, but disappointingly he was not one of them.

You know who was on that list? James Cameron. Now, you know he just wants to make a movie about it. Oh wait, I think he already did. Okay, they aren’t going to be mining Unobtainium from an inhabited planet, but it’s a similar idea. They plan to extract large quantities of platinum from some of these asteroids. The very wealthy investors in this project expect it will be worth the billions they are putting into space. Let’s just say I’m glad there will not be any Na’vi getting in their way.

If Planetary Resources is successful in their endeavor, it will actually be much different than either “Armageddon” or “Avatar.” They don’t plan to send any humans into space. Instead, they plan to launch a line of unmanned spacecrafts called the Arkyd Series. So don’t worry James Cameron, there’s still room for a new movie involving asteroids hurtling through space in your future. Would that be science fiction? A documentary? Can it be a drama if there aren’t actually any people?

In all seriousness, when did science fiction become real life? Now it’s just science? I realize the asteroids in question aren’t about to destroy Earth, and they aren’t inhabited by extraterrestrials, but they are still in outer space. The final frontier. Part of me wonders if this is just a bunch of extremely rich guys and scientists mourning the end of NASA’s shuttle program trying to build their own version of “Star Trek.”

From listening to the Planetary Resources press conference, it sounds as if they have come up with an amazing plan that will make them rich and supply the world with necessary resources. The scientists in charge of the project claim that their new spacecrafts (which they plan to launch in two years) will be relatively low in cost and enable further exploration of the solar system. They say that the commercial nature of their company will allow them to do this cheaper and more efficiently than NASA.

That all sounds great, but there are no guarantees it will work. They say themselves that it is a huge risk and that they are likely fail many times. Nobody has done this before. Nobody has even tried this before. They want to be first.

Is this even realistic? It is their money and their time, but are they wasting it? By their own admission, no actual mining is likely to occur for another decade. They have a plan, but it won’t be a reality for quite some time. What do you expect? It took James Cameron 12 years just to make a movie about mining in space; you can bet it won’t take any less time to actually do it. So for now, what sounds like science fiction is still science fiction.

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