Space and Technology Review: Asteroid Detection and Mining

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Millions of rocky objects orbit near Earth. Scientists have identified thousands of asteroids, but there are many that are still unaccounted for that could threaten regional or global disaster. Finding these asteroids may prevent a destructive impact—and may also prove a key resource to future space exploration.

This post explores our mission to find dangerous (and resource-rich) asteroids, and reviews the recent US law passed on asteroid mining that some speculate could result in a new trillion-dollar market for the space industry.

This is Part 3 of our Space GGC Series focused on important issues facing us now:

Part 1: Our Home Among the Stars
Part 2: The Race to the Moon and Mars
Part 3: Asteroid Detection and Mining
Part 4: Finding Extraterrestrial Life

The following information was curated from excerpts of previously published Singularity Hub articles on space exploration. Though this series isn't intended to be all-inclusive, we hope collecting a few key developments and insights in one place will deliver a broader view on the field. Special thanks to Jason Dorrier and Sarah Scoles for their works quoted here.


Arizona's mile-wide meteor crater was formed by a 45 meter impactor--the blast could have taken out an urban area the size of Kansas city.

Arizona's mile-wide meteor crater was formed by a 45 meter impactor—the blast could have taken out an urban area the size of Kansas City.

Shining Light on the Problem

“Asteroids are a real and potentially existential threat. But if we find them early enough, they’re fairly easy to deflect. With years or decades, instead of months or days, a small nudge is all you need to make them miss Earth.

Scientists have only cataloged about 10,000 or 1% of all near-Earth asteroids. It's estimated we've mapped about 90% of the biggest, extinction-level threats. But 10% are missing in action, and we know nothing of the million or so smaller but still immensely destructive asteroids that could take out an area the size of a state or city.

At the current pace, it would take a thousand years to find them all.

Part of the problem is that the telescopes on the ground or in Earth orbit have a limited view. And asteroids are the color of charcoal. The proverbial needle in a haystack—only the needle is black, the hay is black, and the stack is the size of the inner solar system.

There’s a relatively straightforward solution, however. Station a telescope near the orbit of Venus to expand its view, turn away from the glare of the sun, and look in the infrared, where the heat of an otherwise dark asteroid makes it easier to spot.

This is precisely the strategy behind B612's $450-million Sentinel telescope. The project is well underway and boasts a talented roster of deep space mission veterans. Ball Aerospace, the firm behind the Kepler Space Telescope and the optics in the James Webb Space Telescope (among other projects including Hubble), will build Sentinel.

Provided all goes to plan, Sentinel will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in 2018. The telescope will assume a Venus-like orbit and, looking back to Earth orbit, make repeated infrared observations of the sky in search of moving objects. The data will be sent to Earth, compiled in a public database, and used to calculate asteroid orbits.

According to B612, Sentinel could find over 20,000 new asteroids in its first month—more than all those found in the 30 years we’ve been looking. Over its 6.5-year mission (and it could be longer), the team believes they'll discover and catalog 90% of all asteroids bigger than 140 meters and many smaller asteroids down to 30 meters.”


asteroid-detection-9

NEOCam. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Things Are Looking Rocky

“On September 29, 2015 NASA announced it was ending its connection to Sentinel.

 

NASA said that in light of the mission’s shortcomings, the agency needs the money for its own projects. And luckily for planetary safety—and knowledge of near-Earth objects (NEOs) in general, even if they aren’t civilization-crushers—those projects include NEO discovery and tracking. Such pursuits are, in fact, a law. In 2005, Congress mandated that NASA locate 90 percent of all near-Earth objects 140+ meters across by 2020.

With Sentinel not going quite as planned, and its promise remaining unfulfilled—perhaps not forever, but for its original timeline—what telescopes are tracking down and then continuing to track asteroids?

[In addition to NASA's ground-based asteroid-tracking telescopes], NEOCam is a proposed 50-centimeter-wide infrared telescope that would live in space, between Earth and the Sun, and would look for the heat signatures of asteroids. It aims to fulfill the congressional edict on 140-meter asteroids. It will work for four years and (hopefully) discover 67 percent of those large-ish asteroids, size them up, determine their chemistry, and map their rotation and orbits.

NEOCam hasn’t begun yet, but right around the time NASA announced they were defunding Sentinel, they announced that this mission had been selected as a finalist for the Discovery program, slated for potential launch by 2021. Over the next year, scientists will make more concrete plans for how it will work and how much it will cost. NEOCam would likely discover 10 times more NEOs than we know of now total.

The existing ground-based telescopes are great. We wouldn’t know of any asteroids at all without them (beyond the ones that actually hit Earth—telling us without a doubt about their existence). But to find the remaining asteroids, a space telescope is key. Sentinel may not make it, but the new NASA NEOCam could. And if both of them come to pass, we might climb over that 90 percent mark to get an A-grade on asteroid detection (and in protecting ourselves from future calamities).”


NASA snapped this close-up image of near-Earth asteroid Eros in 2000. (Credit: NASA/JHUAPL)

NASA snapped this close-up image of near-Earth asteroid Eros in 2000. (Credit: NASA/JHUAPL)

Asteroid Finders Keepers

“On November 24, President Obama signed the “US Commercial Space Law Competitiveness Act” into law. Among other things (like that the government should not pester SpaceX), it states that any US citizen who takes a chip off an old block of asteroid then owns that chip.

The law also applies to other celestial bodies blessed with “resources,” like the Moon and every other planet and lower-case moon because “resources” is a vague word. The US citizen—or, more likely, a group of citizens who are part of a company, like Planetary Resources, Inc., or Deep Space Industries—can then “possess, own, transport, use, [or] sell” the resource.

The leaders of the two asteroid-mining frontrunners, who hope to extract things like precious metals and water from space rocks, spoke excitedly of the development.

And their joyousness makes sense: Without this law, they wouldn’t make money if they ventured to a space rock and mined its titanium. They wouldn’t own that metal, so they couldn’t sell it. Now they can. And that’s key if this new breed of space business is going to make it.

Both companies primarily plan to use their space resources to build more space stuff, like habitats for future astronauts, solar-power arrays, and rocket fuel. They hope to create a solar system in which they can sell the parts to make (or in the case of Deep Space Industries, ready-made) off-Earth hotels, orbital research stations, and deep-space rockets—from right in space. Some inside the industry speculate it’s a “trillion-dollar market.”

But whether that market will materialize—and whether it’s actually legal, even with this law—remains an open question.

The international Outer Space Treaty, made in 1967, prohibits any nation from claiming “sovereign territory” in space. And, when the president signed the bill, he clarified that a given asteroid can never be your asteroid—a piece of it can be your piece, if you remove that piece from the larger rock and if that piece counts as a “resource.”

In other words, you can’t own an asteroid: That would be illegal according to both the new and old laws—but you can own a valuable part of one, once it’s not part of the asteroid. It’s a little confusing (and perhaps outright contradictory). And the international community doesn’t necessarily see the law as fair: Right now, US citizens are the only people allowed to do the owning, while the previous agreement about space property ruled across the globe.”

That wraps up Space and Technology Review Part 3. Read Part 1 and Part 2, and stay tuned for Part 4.


Banner image credit: Shutterstock.com

Megan North

Megan North

Megan is director of Content Marketing for Singularity University. Before moving over to the Digital Media dark side, she was known as the marketing engine at SU. She brings the same strength and stamina to Singularity Hub to create engaging learning experiences.
Megan North

Discussion — 23 Responses

  • ideasware February 19, 2016 on 9:06 am

    Again, what the heck has that got to do with the Singularity? Given all there is to write about AI which is very relevant indeed, something has got to be wrong with someone else. Maybe they are simply lazy. I realize that’s not what you want to consider (lazy? Never!), but for just that reason, I think you better.

    • horseshoe7 ideasware February 25, 2016 on 1:11 pm

      Asteroid resource management is absolutely relevant to the Singularity… and humankind’s ability to efficiently manage those resources may make all the difference between our extinction or our survival – post-Singularity.

    • Dan Vasii ideasware February 26, 2016 on 12:27 pm

      One word answer: computronium.

  • DSM February 19, 2016 on 9:08 pm

    I find it ironic that a President who was awarded a Peace Prize for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people” may be responsible for the start of humankind’s first Solar System Wide War.

  • Sine Arrow February 22, 2016 on 6:43 pm

    I find it odd that people think that applying the same laws we do to fishing to asteroid mining will somehow result in war. If I go 1,000 kilometers west of my home, and put out nets in the North Pacific, no one will challenge my right to whatever fish I catch, or my right to sell them, and I cannot prevent anyone else from doing the same. Even if I find a shoal 1,000 km out, and harvest seaweed from it, no one will contest my right to do so. Given the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, the same should be the case for asteroid materials. As long as I add value to what is there, by changing its position, then I can rightfully profit by that.

    Applying that legal structure to asteroids does nothing to force war, or even to make it easier. It is true that people will often go to war for scarce resources, but asteroids are not a deeply limited resource, and will not be for centuries. There are millions of minable bodies in the Solar System, and finding new ones is lots cheaper than taking control of one and forcing others to stay away by outright warfare.

    Where I find a possible problem is piracy. It is widely noted that robot spacecraft will be doing the long slow hauls from an asteroid to, …say, …EML-1 processing/manufacturing stations. Once they become numerous, and manufacturing spacecraft in Space becomes common, then groups not possessing space launch capabilities could buy an “ore transporter” of their own, announce they are sending it to asteroid X, …and then divert it to already known high-graded resources headed to EML-1 in one of hundreds of other transports from legitimate companies. Zap the com equipment, and have custom built robots take control of the cargo. Later, with the original cargo transport gone missing, their transporter turns up, with them saying it has their first load of ore from the asteroid X.

    This sort of theft takes some investment, but not nearly as much as mining equipment to secure the original cargo will. To remedy this, a Space Guard equivalent to the Coast Guard will be needed. It will have to cooperate with legitimate groups, and scrutinize all. This will require good diplomacy, both in starting it and in operations, but it will be worth it.

    • DSM Sine Arrow February 22, 2016 on 6:51 pm

      You do realise that most of the “piracy” in the Caribbean was actually a proxy war? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buccaneer#Legal_status

      As they say, history has a way of repeating itself.

      • Sine Arrow DSM February 26, 2016 on 12:25 am

        Yes, and if we’re smart we’ll make the end game there happen faster in Space.

        “Merchants who had previously regarded the buccaneers as a defence against Spain now saw them as a threat to commerce, and colonial authorities grew hostile. This change in political atmosphere, more than anything else, put an end to buccaneering.”

        Spain was vulnerable first and foremost *because* they declared a legal monopoly on trade with their colonies for “friends of the crown”, who then loaned money to, …the Crown! It was the first example of imperial overstretch that eventually killed the Spanish Empire. They tried to treat a networked intercommunicating set of colonies as a hierarchy, rather than admitting it was a network the imperial government in Madrid could not control. That gave people incentive to do far worse than smuggle goods. The British shut down piracy hard and fast after the Spanish allowed trade.

        Then the Brits screwed up by trying to enforce trade laws in their own colonies favoring people with cousins as members of Parliament, and got US independence as a result. IMHO, these network reactions to agrarian culture hierarchies were some of the first indications that worldwide trade networks were making a world beyond what any agrarian culture hierarchy could control, what we now call industrial society, an inherently worldwide phenomenon. Looking at Arnold Toynbee’s definition of the industrial revolution instead of the old academics’ tired “hunks of stuff” definition handed out by Friedrich Engels gives an idea of what we can expect in Space.

        The simplest way to avoid that mistake is to *not* declare such a hierarchy-bound monopoly on trade, and to provide just enough enforcement of laws that maximize people’s incentives to build wealth, instead of steal it from others. You know, …”limited government”, …you may have heard of it.

        • DSM Sine Arrow February 26, 2016 on 12:32 pm

          Spain was shipping off to Europe vast amounts of precious metals that belonged to other people, does that sound familiar?

          The resources of the solar system belong to humanity and should be controlled and tax to ensure benefit for all humans.

          Ignore this point and you will have a war on your hands, and you will probably be outnumbered 10 to 1.

          • Sine Arrow DSM February 26, 2016 on 8:30 pm

            “The resources of the solar system belong to humanity and should be controlled and tax to ensure benefit for all humans.”

            I thought that’s just what I said.

            ‘The simplest way to avoid that mistake is to *not* declare such a hierarchy-bound monopoly on trade, and to provide just enough enforcement of laws that maximize people’s incentives to build wealth, instead of steal it from others.’

            The way to ensure wealth grows is to minimize taxation on activities making it grow. The way to keep it from growing is to tax it and hand the results to “friends of the Crown”, which is who politicians will give it to, no matter what noise they make about the poor. Spain did that. We should not, whether it is done through US government or the UN, or whoever. Allow whoever can to harvest the wealth and bring it to processing facilities to do so, where it can be used to build the equipment needed to settle the Solar System.

            “Spain was shipping off to Europe vast amounts of precious metals that belonged to other people, does that sound familiar?”

            No. The precious metals in asteroids will be a small part of the wealth available. The first product will be water, for propellant and for consumption by settlers *in*Space*! Next will be Carbon and Nickel and Iron and Aluminum, and their compounds, again, to build equipment to settle the Solar System. True, when journalists write about asteroid mining, they stupidly focus on Platinum Group Metals, (PGMs), because those have high prices *here*. It is their price *in*Space* that will matter.

            The residues from refining the native Nickel/Iron bits will contain significant amounts of PGMs. Focus on those alone, and you won’t make back your investment, however. It is similar to the whaling industry of the nineteenth century. The most expensive thing to be sold from a sperm whale was ambergris, to make a good basis for perfumes. However, if whalers had focused on that alone, they would never have made a profit. They would have foregone benefits from all other parts of what they were harvesting, which were in fact what paid for ships and men to go whaling.

            It’s the same for PGMs and asteroid mining. The resource can be harvested by anyone with the equipment, so encourage that by not taxing it any more than needed to support a “Space Guard” to keep down thievery. This will expand the wealth of all of Homo Sapiens, by opening up the rest of the Solar System to settlement, providing the wealth of *choice* as to where and how people want to live.

            In fact, the story of Platinum in the 16th and 17th centuries is instructive about the effects of over-focus on one resource that can be grabbed by government. The trade monopoly was effective enough that the price of iron products shipped from Europe to the Spanish colonies was high, …in fact, higher than people wanted to pay when they used metal just for decorative purposes, like on balustrades for balconies and other such purposes. So, instead of buying Iron, they used a heavy local non-rusting silvery metal that was available, but not taken away by the Spanish Crown. After the trade monopoly stopped, Iron once again became cheaper, and was used for balconies, with the older silvery metal painted over to look like the Iron balconies people were used to in Europe.

            Then, about 1920, people in Lima began replacing whole balconies, and were surprised when they found some of the “Ironwork” on them was enormously heavier than was usual. Throughout Lima and other old colonial capitals, balconies contained many millions of dollars of Platinum. It had gone unnoticed for hundreds of years.

            This is the kind of resource misallocation that happens when “the Crown” determines who gets wealth.

            • DSM Sine Arrow February 26, 2016 on 9:37 pm

              I can’t make sense of all that, are you saying that the resources belong to everyone but whoever grabs them first gets to decide what to do with them because tax is bad? So you are some sort of cosmo-anarchist?

              In democracies wealth is distributed according to need and by multiple levels of government and it works well in societies that have low corruption and high levels of mutual empathy.

              Give me an example of the anarchy you describe actually working at a large scale.

              • Sine Arrow DSM February 27, 2016 on 10:44 am

                “… are you saying that the resources belong to everyone but whoever grabs them first gets to decide what to do with them …?”

                I am saying that *just*like*fishing* in the ocean, the people who do the hard work of gathering in the resources deserve whatever profit they can make from doing so. Are you saying that professional fishermen do not deserve to profit from fishing? This is the same sort of thing. Asteroid numbers are so huge compared to the needs of human society that asteroids are like fish in the sea, except that they are more easily found with a telescope, and far less likely to be depleted.

                “So you are some sort of cosmo-anarchist?”

                No, anarchists don’t want *any* taxes. I am a *libertarian*, who wants legally limited government that cannot arrogate to its bureaucrats the power to intrude on Civil Society any more than needed to enforce basic laws that allow people to create wealth without someone else stealing it.

                “In democracies wealth is distributed according to need and by multiple levels of government … ”

                Here you have used the standard progressive trope of taking the concepts of socialism, and dropping the word “democracies” into the sentence, in place of the word socialism. No, this is not acceptable. This is what Stalin’s “socialist camp” was trying to force on the world throughout WW3 (also known as “The Cold War”) between 1946 and 1991, at the cost of over 100 million lives. No sale.

                Note that even if restrictions on liberty are voted by a majority, they are still restrictions on freedoms of action. I do not seek *only* democracy, but the freedoms of action needed to extend industrial networks throughout the Solar System. That is why *limited*government* among humans is most productive of wealth.

                Really, you seem to be limited by the old socialist views of progressives so much that you see anything outside the control of government as “anarchy”. What is outside of government control is in fact what is properly called “Civil Society”, …free men and women cooperating voluntarily through intercommunicating networks to run their own lives. Are you so lost in obeisance to government hierarchy that you cannot admit that Civil Society exists all around the Earth to greater or lesser extent? It is what creates wealth from highly productive industrial networks around the world. When it is cramped by government, we see wealth production drop to the disastrous levels we found in the USSR in its last years. Incrementally ridding themselves of that bureaucratic presumption is what has allowed industrial society around the world to blossom in the last 25 years. More of the same, on Earth and in Space, will make wealth faster for everyone.

                • DSM Sine Arrow February 27, 2016 on 12:05 pm

                  I asked you for an example of how your world view has been demonstrated to work, and all I got was garbage, false assumptions and insults. Not impressed at all, even your fisherman metaphor is broken because that is not how access to ocean resources is managed, you can’t just go and grab what you want.

                  If you were trying to convince me (who comes from a culture that is arguably superior to yours) that the world, and solar system should operate as you see fit then you have failed because you have resorted to disrespectful rhetorical tricks and deceit to mask your inability to actually demonstrate that your ideology is workable in the real world.

                  You come from a culture that thinks it is superior, but look at the mess you are in, you don’t even have the best longevity statistics!

  • Sine Arrow February 28, 2016 on 2:31 pm

    “I asked you for an example of how your world view has been demonstrated to work, ”

    After misnaming it anarchy, yes you did. I replied:

    “What is outside of government control is in fact what is properly called “Civil Society”, …free men and women cooperating voluntarily through intercommunicating networks to run their own lives. Are you so lost in obeisance to government hierarchy that you cannot admit that Civil Society exists all around the Earth to greater or lesser extent? It is what creates wealth from highly productive industrial networks around the world. When it is cramped by government, we see wealth production drop to the disastrous levels we found in the USSR in its last years. Incrementally ridding themselves of that bureaucratic presumption is what has allowed industrial society around the world to blossom in the last 25 years. ”

    That is the example. Is that what you consider “insulting”? If so, why.

    “even your fisherman metaphor is broken because that is not how access to ocean resources is managed, you can’t just go and grab what you want.”

    I don’t know about where *you* live, but I can rent a boat and head out beyond the 200 kilometer limit described in the Law of the Sea Treaty, and fish Salmon from the North Pacific as I please. I might not catch anything, but that’s what separates good fishermen from poor ones. As in the US laws recently passed about asteroid mining, I could do nothing to keep another fisherman from fishing the same patch of ocean. Since that 200 kilometer limit is based on the 200 kilometer radius from claimed dry land of a particular Nation State, and the Outer Space Treaty does not allow any State to be claiming any such “land” off the Earth, then that part of the Law of the Sea would have no analog in Space. That means I could harvest the asteroids that wander into the Earth/Moon gravity well and get temporarily captured without any problem. What I could not do is take part of one, then claim it to keep someone else from coming for the rest while I hauled what I’d got my first trip to a refinery at EML-1.

    “You come from a culture that thinks it is superior, …”

    Actually, multiculturalism is still appallingly strong here in the US. Its preference for any culture that is *not* a market-oriented industrial culture has warped far too much of our foreign and domestic policy for the last 40 years.

    “…you don’t even have the best longevity statistics!”

    Actually, if you look at the fastest growing part of our population, the people who are 65+ years old, you will find that here in US we have longer expected lifetimes than nearly anyone else for that population. The groups who do not have two-parent families in large sections of the country drastically distort actuarial statistics for the whole country.

    • DSM Sine Arrow February 29, 2016 on 4:53 pm

      You are not even in the top 30, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expectancy

      And you seem to be attempting to conceal the fact that things such as this do in fact exist “Pacific Salmon Treaty (Treaty Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Canada Concerning Pacific Salmon, T.I.A.S. 11091)”

      See http://www.fws.gov/laws/lawsdigest/treaty.html

      You insult our intelligence, yet you believe your arguments are persuasive?

      • Sine Arrow DSM March 1, 2016 on 7:48 pm

        Did you think that the existence of this treaty keeps me from fishing, then? It does nothing of the sort! In fact, what currently keeps fish numbers down is the unwillingness of academics and the bureaucrats they influence to allow fishermen to fertilize the plankton in areas where Salmon eat and grow fat.

        As to the longevity issue, I did note that we are far from being at the top. That’s OK. It’s not really as big a goal as progressives make it out to be. This is especially so when specific groups *within* countries drag numbers down by actions like raising the numbers of single-parent households. As I said, if people in the US of 65+ years are compared with most others of 65+ years, they will usually be living longer. Populations are *not* homogeneous.

        Remember that my arguments may not be persuasive to you, but your generally antagonistic tone of sneering really is more off-putting than anything I’ve said. You seem to take umbrage at the simplest exposition of market economics, which in a world where command economies failed catastrophically so recently in history is, …puzzling at best.

        • DSM Sine Arrow March 1, 2016 on 8:13 pm

          A father who fails to care for his children, or a leader who fails to care for his people is a failure, and so is a society who does the same. This includes the wealthy first world.

          Are you so lacking in empathy for other humans that you cannot see this?

          It is our children who decide how history will remember us. How will you be remembered?

          Correct me if I have got the wrong picture but, your world view seems to have very little room for compassion or for people having a sense of connectedness to the rest of humanity.

          If we did not cooperate, share and care for each other we would still be living like animals.

          How can you even have a chance of progressing toward a real commercial space industry without transnational, cooperation? Not being a selfish animal is what got us this far and the psychopaths amongst us have just slowed things down. I’ve never seen a sane argument that contradicts that.

          You can’t just go and grab space resources and say they are your property because they already have an owner and one little part of everything out there belongs to me. There are 2,690,000,000 people in just two of the other spacefaring nations who also hold a share in that stuff and you haven’t got their consent to touch it either.

          Nor can you just take your share, because just like Shylock you can’t have your pound of whatever without damaging something you have no right to damage. How are you going to get your share without changing the orbital characteristics of the rest of humanity’s property?

          The only way to have conflict free and ethical space mining is for your activities to be licensed by a global authority and your profits taxed in the same way. Then you have an incentive to extract as much wealth from your operations as possible so that your share can grow, but you have to do it without resenting the fact that your actions are also supposed to benefit all other humans.

          If you are against this how can you call yourself humane, or even human?

  • Sine Arrow March 2, 2016 on 10:25 am

    DSM expounds a progressive excuse for “global authority” using asteroid mining as his justification. The he says:

    “If you are against this how can you call yourself humane, or even human?”

    Homo Sapiens Sapiens is a species of large obstreperously violent primates. I am one of them. Fortunately, our species’ individuals can also place their attention on subtler things like communication and cooperation, which allows us to generate vastly more wealth than acting alone. I have never said that people should attempt to go into Space acting alone. I want them to do so using intercommunicating networks that have always been our means for making wealth faster, better, cheaper.

    What I *do* say is that government hierarchy, indeed *any* human hierarchy, does *not* proceed from our ability communicate and cooperate, but from our obstreperously violent nature, where the background question is always “who’s on top today?”. Yes, it *uses* networks to be at all productive of coercion itself, but hierarchy and networks mix like oil and water, and without being shaken, government hierarchy, because of its own agency costs, soon will assume the power to dominate and exclude, and even destroy, those parts of any network it cannot control, even when they are the most productive parts of that network. Hierarchy, including government hierarchy, is attentive to control, whereas networks are attentive to production. Where you place your attention is what will guide your long-term actions. Thus, a “global authority” organized as a governmental hierarchy, with no competition will, because of its hierarchy agency costs, degenerate into global tyranny. No sale.

    Spaceflight is still a highly risky and speculative business case. If people are to attract investment to it, they need the maximum freedoms of action possible to make the profit that will drawn in more investment to the market network they use to multiply their own productivity. Thus, I see that a *minimum* of government hierarchy is essential, to keep attention focused on productivity instead of on control of the resources produced.

    You say, you are truly interested in everyone benefiting from asteroid mining. Then I would suggest you promote the ability for everyone to participate in the market networks that are developing around asteroid mining. It is those who participate, even as small investors, who will benefit most. There *are* ways you could promote this.

    There are even *political* ways to promote their participation. Removal of laws that “protect” people from investing in start-ups is one political campaign that would help with this more than any other. There are non-political ways as well, such as videos like the Diamandis/Lewicki video just released on Singularity Hub.

    What will inevitably doom asteroid mining is a successful campaign that ensures it will be tightly controlled by a “Global Authority” that will hand out benefits to “good friends of the Crown”, and no, it does not matter whether nearly as much whether they are poor or rich as it does that it will be done with the dispersing agency being attentive to control, rather than to production.

    • DSM Sine Arrow March 2, 2016 on 3:52 pm

      More buffoonery from the Barnum and Bailey school of logic, since when does “global authority” imply an absolute requirement for an oppressive hierarchy, or any hierarchy at all? There are many forms of graph that can link cooperating entities that are peers and acting for their own good and for the greater good at the same time. There is nothing to prove that a fully transparent process is corruptible to the extent that graph nodes are not allocated their fair share if the entire graph is operating on the same set of protocols. This is what cooperation means and you’d have to be a very lonely and isolated sort of human to not “dig” that.

      What you really seek is a excuse to legitimise your denial of other humans’ rights, and their already established claims to an equal share of all extraterran resources.

      When you deceitfully claim “DSM expounds” you are just projecting your paranoia onto to me, perhaps instead you need to talk about yourself and how much of your world view is founded on fear of other humans, particularly those from other races and cultures?

      • Sine Arrow DSM March 2, 2016 on 7:00 pm

        “how much of your world view is founded on fear of other humans, particularly those from other races and cultures?”

        Why should I fear other humans from other cultures? They feed me, clothe me, built the car I drive and make the medicines that help me live. Your ideas about me are strange indeed.

        ” There are many forms of graph that can link cooperating entities that are peers and acting for their own good and for the greater good at the same time. ”

        Yes indeed! These are called networks! If this is what you are proposing, then we may be, basically, “in violent agreement, using different words”. I have no problems with this sort of arrangement.

        The only difference we seem to have comes from:

        “since when does “global authority” imply an absolute requirement for an oppressive hierarchy, or any hierarchy at all? ”

        Since most of written history. Authority has been based on enforcement. Otherwise it is vacuous pontification. Enforcement comes through hierarchies giving orders, with all the agency costs involved in that.

        However, if we are agreed that it is networks that should produce and distribute the material wealth from asteroids, and that these will seek to minimize hierarchical agency costs by minimizing enforcement activity to that which keeps thievery down, then we seem to have little real conflict. To spread the benefits as widely throughout our species as possible all we then need to do is allow as wide an investment base as is possible. As I said, my favorite way to do that is to remove restrictions on investment in start-ups. Other ways may occur to you.

        • DSM Sine Arrow March 2, 2016 on 9:33 pm

          The United nations is not a hierarchy as the world’s nations are peers and it is the only mechanism though which all of Earth’s peoples have any sort of voice when it comes to the establishment of the international laws and protocols necessary to ensure any hope of a genuinely peaceful and prosperous future for as many people as possible.

          You do seem to have a problem with this and, given you are a not part of one the majority nations, it would seem that you are not comfortable with people of other nationalities having a democratic (i.e. dominant) say in world and off-world affairs.

          I do not seek to minimise costs, I seek fairness and transparency, then any costs that exist are justified and the system is optimal in terms of universal cost-benefit. Costs alone matter in a wealth constrained scenario, this isn’t such a scenario, what really matters is equity because if everyone does get their share everyone will eventually have more than they could ever need.

          That is the point of the entire exercise is it not?

          • Sine Arrow DSM March 3, 2016 on 12:48 pm

            “The United nations is not a hierarchy as the world’s nations are peers and it is the only mechanism though which all of Earth’s peoples have any sort of voice when it comes to the establishment of the international laws and protocols necessary to ensure any hope of a genuinely peaceful and prosperous future for as many people as possible.”

            The UN is also the most corrupt international organization on our planet. No sale.

            “I do not seek to minimise costs, ”

            That is the biggest problem right there. Without the explicit incentive to minimise costs, asteroid mining will simply die a slow (or more likely a fast) death.

            “I seek fairness and transparency, …”

            Your definitions of these terms are the principles on which we disagree.

            “then any costs that exist are justified ”

            Which won’t matter worth a tinker’s damn when those costs are so high, and the profit so small, that no individuals will bother to invest.

            “Costs alone matter in a wealth constrained scenario, this isn’t such a scenario”

            Costs *always* matter. Remember that wealth does not simply exist, but *must*be*generated*, by human activity. In this case, it must be generated by people who spend their own money to go out and retrieve asteroid materials, and by those at EML-1 who will buy them and process them, and by those who will use the processed materials to build the equipment with which yet more humans will settle the Solar System. Costs matter at each and every step of this, because if they are too high, then the next steps will not take place, and the network does not grow.

            Better to say that *resources* are unconstrained in amounts. What is still constrained is their position, by orbital mechanics, and their composition, and their structure, by the technologies used to build them into what people desire to use them for.

            “what really matters is equity because if everyone does get their share everyone will eventually have more than they could ever need.

            That is the point of the entire exercise is it not?”

            Well, …no. In a world of rapidly changing technology, developed by and for humans as individuals and groups, wealth equity is a chimera, ebbing and flowing in completely unpredictable ways. As a goal, it is a mirage that will always be just out of reach.

            • DSM Sine Arrow March 3, 2016 on 1:05 pm

              So, it’s you vs the rest of humanity and the UN, well I’m putting my money on the other guy/s even if you can’t see why. LOL

  • Prasad N R July 7, 2016 on 12:08 pm

    One of the aspects that SingularityHub does really nicely is in maintaining neutrailty; Be it GreenPeace or DeepSpace-Industries or any other perspective; If they are doing nice stuffs, that would probably reflected in SingularityHub. That makes the article more worthy. This site is awesome.

    (I encourage it)