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Government NASA Space Science Technology

Earth-buzzing Asteroid Would Be Worth $195B If We Could Catch It 265

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'll-give-it-to-you-for-$99B dept.
coondoggie writes "The asteroid NASA says is about the half the size of a football field that will blow past Earth on Feb 15 could be worth up to $195 billion in metals and propellant. That's what the scientists at Deep Space Industries, a company that wants to mine these flashing hunks of space materials, thinks the asteroid known as 2012 DA14 is worth — if they could catch it."
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Earth-buzzing Asteroid Would Be Worth $195B If We Could Catch It

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @03:51AM (#42880855)

    Re-position the Planet. We could catch it full in the face. How much would it be worth then?

  • by rts008 (812749) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @03:51AM (#42880859) Journal

    I'm sure that's the same thought my neighbors dog has while it is chasing the cars passing by.

    • by Goffee71 (628501)
      That's one of biggest misuses of the would "could" in marketing history. I'm sure your dog would come out richer, their claim with no basis on observed or measurable reality is a (cool, admittedly), wild-ass guess. At least we know what's in a car.
  • by gTsiros (205624) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @03:59AM (#42880901)

    The US? The world? An individual?

    • by corbettw (214229) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `wttebroc'> on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:16AM (#42881007) Journal

      Whoever can land on it. Possession being 9/10s of the law and all that.

      • by rocket rancher (447670) <themovingfinger@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:04AM (#42881863)

        Whoever can land on it. Possession being 9/10s of the law and all that.

        Heh -- you are almost right. It's the person who can defend a claim that owns it, not the first person to make the claim. I sincerely hope Deep Space Industries does live up to their potential by profiting from asteroid mining. But their success is contingent upon them being able to defend their claims of ownership, and they really haven't addressed how they are going to do that, yet. Be interesting see what their defense is. Claim-jumping is just as real a threat now as it was in California in 1849. Who will Deep Space Industries appeal to when a rival lands on their rock and reprograms all their mining bots -- Starfleet, perhaps? (I kid, I kid, but I think you see my point.)

        • by corbettw (214229)

          Good point. As someone once observed, you don't own a piece of terrain until a 19-year old with a gun stands there and says you own it.

    • by Zouden (232738) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:26AM (#42881099)

      The outer space treaty says that nations can't "claim ownership" of space bodies and they can't use them for weapons testing. But AFAIK that doesn't prohibit commercial exploitation of an asteroid. Whoever can catch it and start mining it has a pretty good claim to it. Who's going to stop them? And for what purpose?

      A legal battle would arise if another company tried mining the same asteroid. They'd need to set up a way of staking a claim. But we're not nearly at that stage yet.

      • by rossdee (243626)

        Did the US Senate ratify the outer space treaty?
        How many spaceships has the UN got to enforce the provisions of this treaty?

        • by Zouden (232738) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:52AM (#42881245)

          Yes it's ratified, and how is the number of spaceships relevant to the question of mining rights?

        • by isorox (205688) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @05:22AM (#42881393) Homepage Journal

          Did the US Senate ratify the outer space treaty?
          How many spaceships has the UN got to enforce the provisions of this treaty?

          They could just rent space on a Russian rocket. Sound famillier?

        • by TheCarp (96830)

          And how quickly would they decide to unratify that treaty, or just plain ignore it, if there was any reason to whatsoever? When has having signed a treaty or other niggling bs like that stopped them before?

          Treaties are for countries that have to worry about sanctions or invasion.

          • Canceling a treaty is not the same thing as ignoring or breaking a treaty. There's usually provisions for giving notice that you're not going to abide by the restrictions anymore, and therefore won't insist others abide by them, either.

      • The outer space treaty says that nations can't "claim ownership" of space bodies and they can't use them for weapons testing. But AFAIK that doesn't prohibit commercial exploitation of an asteroid. Whoever can catch it and start mining it has a pretty good

        That'll go out the window as soon as the first superpower develops a serious capability to assert and enforce ownership of objects in space

        • by Zouden (232738) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:55AM (#42881259)

          Of course, but that superpower would also need the desire to enforce ownership. There's just no incentive when they can just encourage Chinese or US mining companies to do the dirty work.

        • by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @05:10AM (#42881343) Homepage Journal

          If you catch an asteroid, right then you gain the power you need to demand anything you want of any nation.

          'Cause if you can catch it, you can drop it.

      • Why would anyone stop them? Just wait until they try to bring any of it back down to Earth (*), and then take it off them by force.

        (*) or anywhere else they would want to send the metals. Basically, metals are useless if they stay on the asteroid, and they can only become valuable if they are brought to some location where there are (or will be) people. Take the stuff off them wherever that is.

      • The outer space treaty says that nations can't "claim ownership" of space bodies and they can't use them for weapons testing. But AFAIK that doesn't prohibit commercial exploitation of an asteroid

        But many (all?) launching nations have laws that any meteorites, space-craft, or space debris belongs to the government. Which would include any metals you return from space. And even if you drop them into international waters, and you don't get to them first, normal salvage rules probably apply. So you'll need a large landing/crashing area in a desert which you own mineral rights to, in a country that doesn't regulate the trade in meteorites.

        A legal battle would arise if another company tried mining the same asteroid.

        Legal? Damn you had me all excited there for a moment.

        • The outer space treaty says that nations can't "claim ownership" of space bodies and they can't use them for weapons testing. But AFAIK that doesn't prohibit commercial exploitation of an asteroid

          But many (all?) launching nations have laws that any meteorites, space-craft, or space debris belongs to the government. Which would include any metals you return from space. And even if you drop them into international waters, and you don't get to them first, normal salvage rules probably apply. So you'll need a large landing/crashing area in a desert which you own mineral rights to, in a country that doesn't regulate the trade in meteorites.

          In a world where record companies have been buying laws, it seems unlikely that any company capable of engaging in space mining wouldn't quickly be able to get the laws changed to something more up to date. Only in this instance, it would actually be a positive change to allow actual free enterprise.

          • "...And even though, prospective investor, both national and international law is currently wildly ambiguous, we are fully prepared to use your money to challenge both the US government and the UN itself if necessary to... ahem... sir... I couldn't help but notice that you've stopped signing that cheque... hand cramp? Maybe? Little cramp in your hand?... Oh, are you gonna walk it off... okay, okay then... Will we just wait here then?... Yeah, we'll just wait here... I'm sure he'll be back soon... Sir?... Si

          • by dywolf (2673597)

            they need the money first you dont buy the law and then make tons of money...you make the money and then buy the law.

    • by jitterman (987991)
      That might depend upon your definition of "billion"
  • Supply & demand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dingen (958134) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @03:59AM (#42880905)

    But... if $195B worth of metals would be added to the market, wouldn't the value of metals drop because of supply & demand, resulting in a much less profitable asteroid?

    • Re:Supply & demand (Score:4, Interesting)

      by corbettw (214229) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `wttebroc'> on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:17AM (#42881023) Journal

      The global economy is worth almost $70 trillion dollars; a sudden influx of 0.27% of that amount would have negligible impact on the value of goods and services.

      • by fatphil (181876)
        What's the global economy of *stuff* worth, though? I think the last figure I saw showed that 95% of the "global economy" was in fact just the value of bets about the future value or change of value of things that themselves might or not be *stuff*, rather than actually being *stuff*. In which case, the impact of this new *stuff* would be 20 times higher.

        However, their premise is totally bogus, it seems to ignore even the most basic economic principles, such at laws of supply and demand. I don't know why I
      • by Respawner (607254)
        Because markets behave rationally ?
        The prospect of a sudden influx of rare earth materials or fuels couldn't drive down the commodity pricing ? Even if this prospect seems baseless right now (cost of recovering the materials seems rather high) it could still have an effect on pricing.

        Besides that, OP was wrong to (didn't RTFA I guess), unless you want to "land" the astroid on earth, the $195B isn't added directly on the market, rather it decreases the amount of materials needed to be send into space @
      • Re:Supply & demand (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jonadab (583620) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @05:27AM (#42881419) Homepage Journal
        It is, however, possible to flood the market for particular commodities. A few centuries ago, for example, Spain mishandled their newfound wealth from Central America and flooded the European gold market. OPEC has repeatedly been held together because the country with the largest production has consistently and deliberately reduced their production to compensate whenever other member nations produce too much in a given year. If they had not done so, the market would have been saturated and the commodity price of crude oil would have dropped significantly.

        An asteroid made of mostly iron, to have any impact on the commodity market for iron or steel, would have to be worth a good deal more than $139 billion. An asteroid containing significant amounts of some less common material (e.g., rare earth metals) could potentially have an impact on the commodity prices of those -- if it were economic to capture and mine the thing, which of course it's not, at our current level of technology.

        In fact, however, this asteroid probably doesn't contain anywhere near $139 billion worth of metals at commodity prices. (It's only about the size of a football field, and they don't yet know precisely what it's made of.) The article talks about how much its materials would be worth in orbit, which is mostly a function of how expensive it is to get things up there from the surface. For example, they're imagining it might contain water, which could be used as reaction mass for spacecraft. On the surface, water is one of the cheapest materials there is. (Air is even cheaper.) But it costs money to lift it out of Earth's gravity well.

        They're dreaming, though. Without sci-fi technology (e.g., a tractor beam), capturing (let alone mining) a passing asteroid would be a ridiculously expensive (and also dangerous) operation, and all the equipment and personnel needed to do it would have to be lifted to orbit from the surface.
      • by jamesh (87723)

        The global economy is worth almost $70 trillion dollars; a sudden influx of 0.27% of that amount would have negligible impact on the value of goods and services.

        The realised possibility of mining asteroids might have an impact though. Eventually.

    • by dintech (998802)
      Just release it to the market slowly, like the OPEC do.
    • Re:Supply & demand (Score:5, Insightful)

      by taiwanjohn (103839) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:53AM (#42881249)

      Different market. They're talking about the value of these materials in orbit, not here on earth.

      • There isn't a market in orbit - so the actual value of these materials (currently and for the foreseeable future) is zero.

    • Re:Supply & demand (Score:4, Insightful)

      by thegarbz (1787294) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:59AM (#42881287)

      America is sitting on 3 trillion barrels of oil. What keeps the economy in check is that it still needs to be mined and extracted.

      Same with this asteroid. It wouldn't be a sudden dump of $195bn onto the market. Just like the 175tcf of gas that have suddenly been discovered in Australia haven't made a dent in the economy, instead it's just changed the share price of a handful of company.

    • Even worse ... that $195B is based on potential cost to get the equivalent water and minerals into space

      There is currently no demand for it for water for fuel or mineral for in-space construction ... so it has a theoretical $195B avoided supply cost and actual $0B demand value ...

      Current value on that basis = $0 !

      • Given the existence of options markets, you could probably assign a market value to parking the thing in some convenient orbit for later use... It wouldn't necessarily be a terribly high market value; but, if you could find an orbit stable enough, the value of an option to exploit some slice of the asteroid at your leisure over the next several decades probably wouldn't be zero...

        Without a good parking orbit, and some rather sci-fi hardware already in place to park it, the whole issue is moot, of course.

        • Re:Supply & demand (Score:5, Informative)

          by jkflying (2190798) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @06:18AM (#42881645)

          If we could stick into the Earth-Moon L4/L5 points it could sit there for a few million years without any sci-fi hardware. The difficulty is getting it there in the first place.

          I think the reason there isn't any demand for orbital construction is because there isn't enough materials. If we could get that sorted, the construction opportunities will follow.

    • by Lazarian (906722)
      I think the 195 billion number is an estimate based on the value of a quantity of metal that has been launched into earth orbit. I'm not sure what the price per pound of iron is to launch it on a rocket to LEO, but up there it's worth a lot more than sitting down here.
      • by fatphil (181876)
        So, what's the value of the sun?

        Do such statements even *make sense*?
        • by Lazarian (906722)
          If it were looked at as "how much would it cost to launch by rocket that amount of metals and raw materials where it could be utilized in orbit?", then that statement would be put into perspective. The asteroid is about half the size of a football field. On Earth, the amount of metal ore in that wouldn't be worth a fraction as much. But taking into consideration how much energy and resources would be required to put that much material into orbit if we had to take it off the planet, it would be that expensiv
    • FTFA:

      Still, according to DSI experts, if 2012 DA14 contains 5% recoverable water, that alone -- in space as rocket fuel -- might be worth as much as $65 billion. If 10% of its mass It could mass which could range from as little as 16,000 tons or as much as one million tons -- is easily recovered iron, nickel and other metals, that could be worth -- in space as building material -- an additional $130 billion.

      Which ignores that there is no market for raw metal "in space as a building material". And sadly, after 50 fucking years in space, there's still not even a market for propellant in space. The only current market might be to supply the ISS with water, (two tonnes per astronaut per year perhaps) but it's unlikely that they would trust asteroid-water unless they control the purification process.

      So there's science value as the first sample return of its kind. There's maybe a few million per year for water

      • by jkflying (2190798)

        If the materials were a little cheaper, we might want to consider doing our construction up there. Particularly now that we're getting all the CNC/3D printing tech up and running.

    • by LingNoi (1066278)

      It's important to note that the plan seems to be to never send the materials back to earth..

      Still, according to DSI experts, if 2012 DA14 contains 5% recoverable water, that alone -- in space as rocket fuel -- might be worth as much as $65 billion. If 10% of its mass It could mass which could range from as little as 16,000 tons or as much as one million tons -- is easily recovered iron, nickel and other metals, that could be worth -- in space as building material -- an additional $130 billion.

    • less people would get rich, however it would still be worth a lot to humans as a group.
  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @03:59AM (#42880907) Homepage

    It seems to me that the biggest bottleneck in making a ROI for something like this isn't even so much the logistics of getting up there, mining it, and bringing it back down gracefully. It's the fuel consumption. Short of nuke power, we haven't got anything approaching the energy requirements to make this efficient.

    I haven't looked into Deep Space Industries all that much or what their business plan is, but what I understand seems kind of pie in the sky and unrealistic. Mining operations are huge capital investments. So would be the infrastructure necessary to bring the materials down here once they're harvested, and getting the equipment up there.

    Granted, you'd not have to worry about the ecological impact mining on the planet causes or the associated government regulation, but short of establishing a fairly large extraplanet base where most operations, including smelting, occur, with massive space mining ships like what you'd see in science fiction movies, I can't imagine this being profitable anytime soon... Don't get me wrong, but how are these guys NOT some sort of "dotcom company" selling vaporware?

    • by Mitreya (579078)

      It seems to me that the biggest bottleneck in making a ROI for something like this isn't even so much the logistics of getting up there, mining it, and bringing it back down gracefully. It's the fuel consumption.

      I think the ability to monetize the asteroid would be a serious concern too.

      a. How many years would it take to materialize a sale for $195B worth or raw materials?
      b. Wouldn't the price of these materials fall as you sell them in large amounts?

      • by AK Marc (707885)

        Wouldn't the price of these materials fall as you sell them in large amounts?

        Nope. Most mines close with the materials selling for more than when they opened. When you take long enough to sell it off, the price will go up by the time you are done, even if it's only imaginary as inflation happens. Often it's worth even more in real dollars by the time you are done selling it.

    • by sFurbo (1361249) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:24AM (#42881081)
      It seems their plan is not to bring the materials to Earth, but to use them to build things in space, where things are much more valuable (is it something like 10.000$ per kg to launch a satellite?). IIRC, the first part of their scheme is simply to extract water and other volatiles, which can be used for propellants. The required investment would be much smaller than for producing objects, and the cost in orbit is still at least what it costs to launch it on a rocket.
    • by ae1294 (1547521) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:28AM (#42881109) Journal

      It's space so there is no vapor...

    • Step 1 in making this profitable would be building a space elevator. Step 2 is relatively easy.
    • by LingNoi (1066278)

      The value quoted in the article is based upon the assumption that you'd be using the materials in space due to the expensive price of launching stuff so bringing it back down to earth isn't a factor. It could potentially be a game changer if they can work out how to construct satellites in space as well as other things.

    • I haven't looked into Deep Space Industries all that much or what their business plan is,

      Mostly they've come out with hype.

      Mostly.

    • Also add the fuel to change the trajectory of the asteroid - or its mined constituents - from buzzing past earth to something resembling orbiting Earth in a fairly useful orbit, from where the materials may be put to further use. Just because that large rock is broken down into microscopic smithereens, does not mean it will stand still in space (relative to Earth or any other chosen reference point) - you still need to apply the necessary F to make it change its path/velocity.
  • NASA said.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:01AM (#42880911)

    "The impact of a 50-meter asteroid is not cataclysmic--unless you happen to be underneath it, NASA said."

    I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this statement.

  • by Mitreya (579078) <mitreya@gmail.LAPLACEcom minus math_god> on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:01AM (#42880913)
    Wouldn't material influx on that level affect the market and depress the cost?
    For example, an asteroid made of gold would be worth a lot of money, but the price of gold may fall worldwide if we do catch one.
    • Wouldn't material influx on that level affect the market and depress the cost?
        For example, an asteroid made of gold would be worth a lot of money, but the price of gold may fall worldwide if we do catch one.

      Thats where the gold cartels come in. And very expensive hit men to take out prospective 'entrepreneurs' before they even try to catch one.

    • by sumdumass (711423)

      No, because it wouldn't be in the regular market. The space mining plans seem to involve collecting, refining and leave the materials in space to be used to build other things. The materials wouldn't be competing with the like materials in the open market, it would be competing with taking like materials into space.

  • The article is big on using "if", "might be", "could range". So that $195B will represent the most wishful of optimistic estimates. We need to get the technology for better assessment of the composition of asteroids when they're still a distance away before trying to figure out how to harvest them when they're nearby.

    • by sFurbo (1361249)

      We need to get the technology for better assessment of the composition of asteroids when they're still a distance away before trying to figure out how to harvest them when they're nearby.

      Which seems to be the two first points on DSI's agenda: Build small space-based telescopes to scout for interesting asteroids, and build slightly larger retrieving vehicles to bring back samples from the most interesting ones.

  • Meh (Score:4, Funny)

    by srussia (884021) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:15AM (#42880997)
    Just mint a $195B coin!
  • by epine (68316) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:16AM (#42881011)

    The Greenland ice sheet would be worth nearly as much if we could snare it, tow it, and deliver it to the Middle East in pristine condition, held with minimal expense for the long term, and without leaving an ocean sized dent among when it's finally depleted by the immodest swimming pools of Saudi Arabia.

    Half the shit rotting in your basement could become liquid gold if you had a time machine and a forwarding address to eBay future. Only problem is that they will return payment in a priceless commodity you haven't got the first clue how to use. If you're clever, you might be able to wangle out of them all the remaining Bitcoin blocks.

    "Primordial human, what do you want that for? Are you an archaeologist, or what? Well, you'll just have to time your deliveries more precisely. The grand curator's office hours are October–November, Monday and Tuesday, 13:00 to 14:00, no exceptions."

    The real reason a supermodel isn't going to sleep with you is not because you're boring and ugly and proud of your Costco luxury goods—it's because you're living the wrong life, with the wrong crowd, on the wrong spiral arm of the social graph.

    It's there, you're here, and never the twain shall meet.

  • The moon is probably valuated many zillion dollars, give the tidal effects and romance industry that it fuels. Who's up to catching it?
    • by cffrost (885375)

      The moon is probably valuated many zillion dollars, give the tidal effects and romance industry that it fuels. Who's up to catching it?

      I saw this on The Straight Dope recently: What's the moon worth? [straightdope.com]

      Cecil Adams also estimated its "theoretical value" at "countless zillions," but currently "not worth jack."

  • I suspect that if this asteroid were to land gently in a valley somewhere, and we were to exploit all of it's resources conventionally, we'd find considerably less mineral wealth. The $195B figure is probably about saving the cost of launching comparable amounts of metals and water, minus the cost of developing infrastructure to mine in space. Mining in space is going to be about building in space, folks. The only thing we'll be sending back home is beams of space-generated power and research data. We'll sp
  • by Grayhand (2610049) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:31AM (#42881123)
    I thought they meant that's how much we could save if we dropped it on North Korea
  • Won't be the last time it passes close, and anyway maybe could be easier to capture another asteroid. Not sure about cost, is not like is feasible to put in orbit that amount of minerals taking them from here.

    In the other hand, if this or another captured asteroid is "catched" by the right city in the right place, then it could worth more than $195B... in damages.

  • by BlueCoder (223005) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @04:46AM (#42881209)

    The idea just struck me. If aliens didn't possess cloaking technology.. An asteroid such as this would make great cover to closely observe a species advanced enough to detect planets around other stars. You could even deploy small probes the size of a softball to fall to earth or into orbit.

    • The idea just struck me. If aliens didn't possess cloaking technology.. An asteroid such as this would make great cover to closely observe a species advanced enough to detect planets around other stars. You could even deploy small probes the size of a softball to fall to earth or into orbit.

      heh, this idea already struck somebody -- David Brin. Check out his latest novel, Existence.

  • Could not resist, sorry.

    CC.

  • You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man :)
  • You go to all the trouble of catching the asteroid, mining it and it turns out to be Veldspar... Either that or some Goons turn up and steal it from your hauler when you try and take it home.
  • What luck! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:40AM (#42882107) Homepage

    And a project to capture and safely retrieving the asteroid could be as cheap as $200B.

    • by onyxruby (118189)

      That would be an incredible deal actually to gain a market edge. How many countless billions have been invested into space programs before this with very costly lessons learned? For a 2.5% loss you gain insight into an entirely knew market in a very complex environment. That means the next time you do this your almost certainly making a profit off of the lessons learned from the first time. I live in Minnesota where we have a great deal of mining in the northern part of the state.

      There was recently talk abo

  • "We're gonna need a bigger boat."
  • There are lots of smartass comments on this article already so I'd like to (for once) start an interesting discussion.

    How WOULD you "catch" an asteroid? We'd basically have to find a way to drop it into some Earth orbit, right? Then as we're mining it, we'd have to adjust its speed according to the mass we're removing from it in order to keep it in orbit. Wouldn't mining in and of itself be a different issue? I don't know much about mining, but it seems like we depend on our environment quite a bit
  • I didn't know asteroids were self-propelled so that if you catch them, you can steal all their propellant, lol. Anyway, AT CURRENT MARKET VALUE, it's worth that much. Guess what happened to the price of gold when some guy found several kilograms of gold coins out in a field in the UK? The price dropped. Guess what happens when you throw 100 pounds of platinum (or whatever) on the market from an asteroid? The price goes down in a hurry.
  • by way2trivial (601132) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:18AM (#42882967) Homepage Journal

    I'm told it's returning at some point?

    I imagine something useful come come of it... and for that matter, why aren't we soft landing an instrument package on the face of haileys comet?

  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:46AM (#42883309)

    If this is such a good idea, then why doesn't Deep Space Industries raise the capital and do it? It is always interesting how people (usually business leaders) cry out for smaller government, but want the government to fund their business endeavors. It's quite simple really. The estimate from Deep Space Industries is that there is about $195B worth of resources to be mined from the asteroid. Depending on what they want for a ROI, say 40%, if they can do mine it for less than $139B then they should do it. If not, then it doesn't make business sense to do it and they should move on.

    When there is a for-profit venture, the government shouldn't be footing the bill. That is the role of the private sector. The government should get involved when research is necessary for the benefit of citizens but the ROI isn't there to encourage the private sector to act (ie. develop inexpensive vaccines) or to provide infrastructure (ie. if you want hydrogen powered cars, somebody has to build hydrogen delivery systems across the country).

    If Deep Space Industries thinks this is a good idea, then they should be able to convince any number of venture capitalists to fund it instead of taxpayers. Of course, venture capitalists have to be repaid, where taxpayers usually are not.

  • by An Ominous Cow Erred (28892) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @10:44AM (#42884009)

    You could capture it with a minimum of propellant fairly easily. Reorienting its orbit relative to Earth doesn't take much of a push if you do it far enough away (which is why when you do course corrections on a spacecraft, you make the big ones early on, and make small, fine-tuning ones when you get closer to your target).

    Then you can get most of your delta-v by aerobraking it in Earth's upper atmosphere, aiming it just deep enough to slow it down to just barely below Earth's escape velocity. You'd save a vast amount of propellant and make an amazing light show for anyone watching. =)

    Then you give it one more nudge at apogee (probably the most expensive part of the endeavor) to circularize its orbit enough that it doesn't hit the atmosphere again (which is important). After that last high-thrust burn you could then further circularize the orbit with low-thrust, high-efficiency electric thrusters.

    Given enough time and a nuclear reactor, this could all be done using reaction mass acquired on-site, so you wouldn't have to actually haul the propellant to the asteroid, and only take just enough to get your reactor and fuel-manufacturing plant to it.

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