The more news I read these days, the more I am convinced that there isn’t much difference between science fiction and reality. That might be what a friend recently called chronocentrism, but I’m always astonished at how often this happens.
Exhibit A: asteroid mining.
The asteroids that inhabit our part of the universe are, apparently, often either full of precious metals or water. For some investors, it makes sense to invest in exploratory technology that locates and drills asteroids for platinum and water.
To say that this is an idea that will come to fruition in the distant future is rather an underestimation. First there’s the actual landing on an asteroid; pulling it into orbit around the moon in order for us to even begin to mine it; then the mining itself. According to Mr. Anderson, the investors have about $50 billion together, so they can actually afford to dream big.
On the other hand, I’d like to see exactly when and how this is going to turn profitable. It’s possible that by the time this technology is developed we’ll be desperate for the minerals that the asteroids might yield. On the other hand, if we’re capable of mining an asteroid, one assumes we will also be marginally better at dealing with problems closer to earth.
Then again… we’ve put men on the moon and scoped out black holes at the center of our galaxy, and we still haven’t found anything to deal with the flu I’m about to suffer through.
Edit: PopSci has a nice article here that attempts to explain why this idea isn’t as far-fetched as it seems. The overall tone is still rather… optimistic for something of this sort of gargantuan proportions, and I’m still not seeing any firm numbers. What does interest me is that this focuses our technology efforts into the realm of the interplanetary. We’ll be making an investment towards the future, where we’ll hopefully have the technology to travel and affect what’s in our immediate neighborhood. Whether that’s worth our time and money right now… that’s another question.