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Thread: Asteroid may be worth 10,000 quadrillion dollars

  1. #1

    Asteroid may be worth 10,000 quadrillion dollars

    Regarding the statements made at the end of the article (specifically, the ones to which I have added bold emphasis): unless and until we start "tak[ing] advantage of the value" (by "bring[ing] any of this material back and using it for industry," for example), humanity is never going to establish any kind of enduring presence in space.

    All the talk about permanent bases on the Moon or manned missions to Mars is just talk. Even if we do those things, it won't last unless and until we start getting more economic value out of it than we put into it. (That's why the Apollo program didn't result in anything lasting - once the political purpose of beating the commies to the Moon had been served, there was no longer any incentive to continue doing it.)

    Mining the asteroids is certainly not yet within our capabilities. But sooner or later, it (and other such activities) is going to have to be done. Otherwise, the idea of humanity traveling beyond the confines of Earth on anything other than temporary excursions will never be more than a pleasant pipe-dream and the subject of science fiction stories ...

    Hubble telescope gives closer look at rare asteroid worth $10,000,000,000,000,000,000
    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/hubble-...0-quadrillion/
    Sophie Lewis (28 October 2020)

    There's an extremely rare metallic asteroid lurking between Mars and Jupiter, and it's worth more than the entire global economy. Now, the Hubble Space Telescope has given us a closer look at the object, which is worth an estimated $10,000 quadrillion.

    A new study this week in The Planetary Science Journal delves deeper than ever before into the mysteries of the asteroid 16 Psyche, one of the most massive objects in the solar system's main asteroid belt orbiting between Mars and Jupiter, about 230 million miles from Earth. It measures about 140 miles in diameter - roughly the size of Massachusetts.

    Most asteroids are made of rocks or ice. But 16 Psyche is dense and mostly made of metal, possibly the leftover core of a planet that never succeeded in forming - a so-called "protoplanet," which had its core exposed following hit-and-run collisions that removed the body of its mantle.


    The study marks the first ultraviolet (UV) observations of the celestial object. New data reveals the asteroid may be made entirely of iron and nickel - found in the dense cores of planets.

    [...]

    Metal asteroids are rare, so Psyche provides researchers with an exciting opportunity to study the inside of a planet. In 2022, NASA plans to launch the unmanned spacecraft Psyche on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to study the asteroid in an attempt to understand its history and that of similar objects - the first time a mission will visit a body made entirely of metal.

    The orbiter is set to arrive at the asteroid in January 2026 to study it for nearly two years. The mission's leader at Arizona State University estimates that the iron alone on today's market would be worth $10,000 quadrillion - that's a one followed by 19 zeroes.

    [...]

    Researchers told CBS News in 2017, when the mission was confirmed, that they don't plan to take advantage of the value of the asteroid's composition.

    "We're going to learn about planetary formation, but we are not going to be trying to bring any of this material back and using it for industry," Carol Polanskey, project scientist for the Psyche mission, said at the time.


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  3. #2
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    Last edited by Voluntarist; 11-18-2020 at 02:37 PM.
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  4. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Voluntarist View Post
    $10,000 Quadrillion is what you could get for the iron/nickel IF you could get it to earth. On Earth iron goes for $.04 a pound (ballpark). Nickle goes for just under $7.00 per pound. The cost of transporting the iron and nickel from the asteroid belt to the Earth system would be far more than what the material is worth. Even transporting the material to the Moon requires that you first get one or more transport vehicles off the surface of the Earth and out to the Asteroid Belt before you can use them to bring anything back.

    There might be materials that are more rare and expensive for which an economic case could be made for mining and transport back to Earth.; but not iron and nickel, or even gold.

    The most reasonable economic case that could be made would be for using ores found in the Asteroid Belt to build space infrastructure (habitat and other structures) in the general vicinity of the Asteroid Belt - which would require assembling and operating smelters and manufacturing facilities in space. But most of that manufacturing infrastructure would have to built on Earth and transported out to where the ore is; and the cost of getting off the surface of the planet to even low Earth orbit is measured in THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS PER POUND.
    Depends on the fuel you use and there are more rare metals in there possibly because its believed to be basically a core of a planet. It wouldn't be a bad thing to develop technologies to do it either. One day we might want to be able to divert an extinction level event asteroid from hitting earth. Project Orion could have been able to do it or something similar.

  5. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Voluntarist View Post
    $10,000 Quadrillion is what you could get for the iron/nickel IF you could get it to earth. On Earth iron goes for $.04 a pound (ballpark). Nickle goes for just under $7.00 per pound. The cost of transporting the iron and nickel from the asteroid belt to the Earth system would be far more than what the material is worth. Even transporting the material to the Moon requires that you first get one or more transport vehicles off the surface of the Earth and out to the Asteroid Belt before you can use them to bring anything back.

    There might be materials that are more rare and expensive for which an economic case could be made for mining and transport back to Earth.; but not iron and nickel, or even gold.

    The most reasonable economic case that could be made would be for using ores found in the Asteroid Belt to build space infrastructure (habitat and other structures) in the general vicinity of the Asteroid Belt - which would require assembling and operating smelters and manufacturing facilities in space. But most of that manufacturing infrastructure would have to built on Earth and transported out to where the ore is; and the cost of getting off the surface of the planet to even low Earth orbit is measured in THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS PER POUND.
    All of which is what I meant when I said, "Mining the asteroids is certainly not yet within our capabilities." Trying to interpret the $10,000 quadrillion figure as anything other than "there's a whole honkin' lotta useful stuff out there" is futile at present.

    Traveling across the Atlantic & Pacific Oceans was once an extremely expensive proposition, but not so much anymore, relatively speaking. Economies of scale, technological advancement and other factors will mitigate the expenses.

    The point I was getting at was not specifically that we should "bring any of this material back [to Earth]" - that is merely how it was phrased in the quote from the article, It is that the "feel good" justifications for space exploration/colonization that are so often offered by space "boosterism" simply won't cut it by themselves. We have to get something for our trouble that will make it economically "worth it" (and, yes, even humble iron/nickel cores will be some part of that).
    Last edited by Occam's Banana; 10-29-2020 at 01:44 PM.

  6. #5
    Regarding the statements made at the end of the article (specifically, the ones to which I have added bold emphasis): unless and until we start "tak[ing] advantage of the value" (by "bring[ing] any of this material back and using it for industry," for example), humanity is never going to establish any kind of enduring presence in space.
    I'm pretty sure the Van Allen Belt was put there specifically to prevent that

    Fwiw, I think all the talk about mining asteroids is just cover for sending probes to inspect asteroids determined to be possible threats to the planet, like Apophis. As Voluntarist points out, there is little to no business case for actually mining asteroids in the relatively near term, especially in light of current depopulation agendas where such materials wouldn't even be needed.
    Last edited by devil21; 10-30-2020 at 01:30 PM.
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  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by devil21 View Post
    I'm pretty sure the Van Allen Belt was put there specifically to prevent that
    You could say the same thing about the atmosphere ... or the gravity well ... or etc. ...

    Quote Originally Posted by devil21 View Post
    Fwiw, I think all the talk about mining asteroids is just cover for sending probes to inspect asteroids determined to be possible threats to the planet, like Apophis.
    No one talked about mining asteroids except me. In fact, the sources cited in the article explicitly disavowed it as a motive.

    Quote Originally Posted by devil21 View Post
    As Voluntarist points out, there is little to no business case for actually mining asteroids in the relatively near term [...]
    Of course there isn't. No one said otherwise.

    Permanent human colonization of space will be a long term project - very long term.

    My only point is that it won't happen at all unless and until the economics involved make sense.

    As wonderful as they may be, "feel good" dreams fueled by Star Trek and the like - or exclamations of "because science!" - are not sufficient.

  8. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Occam's Banana View Post
    Most asteroids are made of rocks or ice. But 16 Psyche is dense and mostly made of metal, possibly the leftover core of a planet that never succeeded in forming - a so-called "protoplanet," which had its core exposed following hit-and-run collisions that removed the body of its mantle.
    Supply and demand. For humans living in space the water asteroids would probably be of more value.
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  9. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by occam's banana
    No one talked about mining asteroids except me. In fact, the sources cited in the article explicitly disavowed it as a motive.
    There's been plenty of talk of mining asteroids. I've read multiple articles about it while skipping past many others. Perhaps not this thread in particular but definitely it's a topic generally.

    Of course there isn't. No one said otherwise.

    Permanent human colonization of space will be a long term project - very long term.

    My only point is that it won't happen at all unless and until the economics involved make sense.

    As wonderful as they may be, "feel good" dreams fueled by Star Trek and the like - or exclamations of "because science!" - are not sufficient.
    That's also my point but for a different reason. None of it is actually about visiting asteroids except for the reason I posited. Talk of whether any of it is economically viable or not is misdirection imo. I assume you've seen the recent news about OSIRIS-REx and Bennu...
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