Asteroid Mining

I am interested in asteroid mining but I don’t know where to begin. I am 17 years old and want to be one of the pioneers of space mining. I was always confused why we didn’t go for asteroids as soon as we were able to launch to space, we are fully capable of it and yet we still don’t have operations happening. The issue is, I don’t know where to start. Should I become a Underground Miner and go to school for engineering?

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Yes Kazaiki,
Wow, what a great time to be 17 ! Space mining will be an expansive and creative opportunity throughout your lifetime and beyond. Recovery of space debris is an emerging field where the practical aspects of engineering and technology which are relevant for space mining are currently being developed. I am impressed with your question about where to start, and I would suggest a strong foundation of geology, chemistry, robotics, mathematics, and entrepreneurship. Beyond that I would apply for internships and scholarships and follow your passion. Learn all you can and keep asking, “what’s possible?”

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Yes Kazaiki,
Whatever else you study, learn to discern.
A great model for this is Neil deGrasse Tyson, and you can search out his ‘Masterclass’ series. Also, this article might intrigue you;

I think there are some folks on this forum that are much more informed than I am, but from working with the people at the osiris-rex mission, it seems like right now the aerospace part of it is the part you should concentrate on. I’m not saying that mining isn’t part of the scheme, but from my very limited discussions with them, it’s getting there with a spacecraft (and back!) that is still the hard part.

I can also say that having worked for an extraction company at one point (drilling for oil and gas) that you could certainly fall back on mining here on Earth if you studied mining instead. Either way, these are challenging but highly rewarding careers and I wish you all the luck in your future endeavors.

Welcome to the community, @Kaziaki!

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Very Cool. Go through Colorado School of Mines, Space resources program. I might apply to it as well. I am 19. And the cool about thing the course is they don’t have any prior degree, even HighSchool, as a prerequisite.

I think that there are two important factors to consider.

  • Timing.
  • Demand.

Timing is a topic that is somewhat explored and as it relates to startups. So I am not going to elaborate on this as much, as there are examples and resources that you can learn from. For example, the founders of SIRI timed the launch of their product really well. In fact, a lot of the underlying technologies weren’t even developed. I would be wrong, but computation just wasn’t available at a scale whereby SIRI could be powered on all the devices on a global scale. But the founders of SIRI anticipated what the trend was looking like and they intercepted that at some point in the future. It’s important to note that SIRI wasn’t a radically new idea in it’s entirety. Reading up on SIRI’s wikipedia page, you will see a mention of Apple’s ‘Knowledge Navigator’ from 1987. And the concept of Knowledge Navigator certainly appears to be more advanced, compared to the capabilities that SIRI can power.

Next, there has to be a certain level of demand for the product/service. The demand has to exist at a scale at which you can price the product/service and be in a position to be able to turn a profit for that innovation cycle (quarter/half year/one year e.t.c).

There is also this super important topic of being a student of innovation which I am not going to expand upon, in this thread. Innovation cycles have to be timed in an intelligent/clever manner, because the copycats are getting more sophisticated. The only way to beat copycats is to 1) Work on serving the customer really well and 2) Focus on cycles of true innovation at a consistent frequency/cycle whereby you end up canabilizing your own product cycle. I am not entirely sure how this is going to be at play and as it relates to asteroid mining. It will also be interesting to see how the colonies on Mars emerge and how quickly they begin to expand. As well, lunar colonies, O’Neill structures + + I am still not entirely certain how a company that has the first movers advantage here (tech/political problems solve e.t.c) will retain that monopoly on an extended time period. The other angle to this conversation is a post scarcity society and in such a reality, there isn’t as much of an evolutionary pressure to self-cannibalize and adapt and less of a risk from copycats. I think, I am not sure.

Coming back to the thread and what I was thinking. My uneducated guess is that there are a couple of problems that exist and as it relates to actually seeing asteroid mining become a concrete reality. The problems that I can think of, off the top of my head and in random order:

  • Lack of infrastructure: Where are you going to send the probes from? Where will they haul the asteroids back to? What will you do once you have hauled the rocks back? Where will you break them? Where will the smelting occur? There is a long list of questions here.
  • Propulsion systems: Can we actually haul material to a location of choice using existing state technology? Right now we have reuseable rockets using liquid propellant (Please correct me if I am wrong). I am not sure what kind of ion thrusters are currently in operation. Even if ion thrusters could be implemented, I am not sure if they’d prove to be the right tech in order to haul material from different points across the solar system. | So, in short, what kind of new propulsion systems are needed and how is that development going to be incentivized on which time spectrum?
  • Treaties and legal aspect: Who owns the rocks? What kind of provisions need to be made to the outer space treaty. Note: I am not very well educated on the outer space treaty and I do not even know if extracting NEOs is something that is covered by the treaty.
  • Political problem: For the sake of this discussion, suppose a company (however it is structured) is the first to successfully mine a small scale asteroid. They find iron on this rock, plus some other metal, maybe like silver and traces of gold. And suppose that this company is actually able to smelt the rock right where they found it, extract all the good bits and leave the remainder behind. If the designs of this company are not going to be copied already, the moment word gets out there are going to be other copy-cat contenders vying for the same territory. Lack of effective treaties and intellectual property laws in place could prove to be a big problem in this situation. I don’t want to be a scare mongerer, but lack of effective legal laws and protections in place could create a future precedent towards increasing the probability that there is weaponization of a particular territory in space. And that’s not something we want. Because, the weaponization angle will serve as a huge barrier towards other discovery and exploration efforts. Namely, discovering and further mapping the other territories across the solar system. Plus, with so much money at stake, nation/state and other governments are going to be lobbying and putting pressure on other countries to comply.
  • Economic realities: Earth has a finite amount of precious metals that are locked up under the crust. We haven’t scanned, probed each one of the asteroid real-estate to be able to truly come up with a quantitative measure of how much of precious metals are actually stored. Or metals in general. There are a bunch of different calculations at play here. Meaning, cost to send a pound of weight to space, which will probably keep plummeting, specially as reusable engine/rocket tech keeps improving exponentially. But, it’ll probably be economically advantageous to make use of certain elements/metals from NEOs and other territories. Same with hauling water. There is one risk in particular and that is, the moment a rock with precious metal is hauled and a sizeable quantity is found. The moment that happens, the price of that very precious metal on the earthly index is going to collapse. That is a moment that we should have safeguards against as there are tens of thousands of humans employed in trades associated with the extraction/trade of those metals. There are many other realities to consider, including but not limited to the reality that the evaluation of some of the companies employed in this trade may turn out to be some gargantuan figure. How do you deal with this reality in an economic system. And if it turns out that the evaluation of such a company turns out to be in the tens of trillions of dollars, then what do you do?
  • Which leads me to the next point and that is the actual architecture of the company: If a company that can successfully mine asteroids does emerge. And it turns out that it’s evaluation does indeed turn out to be in the tens, maybe hundreds of trillions. Then, does it make sense to have a top-down/standard pyramidical or flat organizational structure. As difficult as the problems may have been and in order to get to first movers advantage, the enablement of a reality whereby you have 10 to 20 or more individuals who are now each worth 1 trillion dollars each. Maybe that is a reality that we are equipped to deal with as a species or not. Personally speaking, I think that any company where the evaluation is significantly higher compared to the majority of organizations out there and/or any company which is going to have a significant impact and as it relates to the evolution of the species. All such companies should probably run in a manner whereby decisions are made on an autonomous basis and portions/proceeds from the profit-making mechanism are redirected towards the further enablement of the it enterprise itself and/or other projects that support healing on earth and elsewhere (not weaponization).
  • Other issues in different domains.

It’s important to highlight that, actually documenting some of these questions is not to suggest that activities like asteroid mining must not be promoted. On the contrary, by asking some of these questions and more and beginning to scratch the surface, you may realize that there are companies and individuals who are/may be active in this space. As you answer these questions, you may begin to reach out to some of the players in this space. Your goal, would then be to build relationships and empathize with others. As you cultivate these relationships, you will then seek to inquire the set of problems that others are experiencing. Only by having many such conversations will you find out about the niche areas where problems exists and no known solution to that problem is being developed. Those areas (conceptual them as a venn diagram) is really where you and I should be operating.

There is no doubt that the functional age of space exploration, colonization, mining, terraforming, tourism will be here at some given point in the near future. With some time on your hands and with adequate skills in mathematics, you can probably even start predicting precisely when certain realities are going to start emerging.

If you are 17 and you want to be a pioneer in this coming age, then you should follow a leader in this space. You should work for them directly and seek to emulate the good parts of their persona/personality. I think that is where you should start.

I don’t think you can systematize innovation. You should be more disciplined and focused, yes. But you should only go into an area if you can see yourself spending the entire day working in that area and feel like the whole day passed by and you never got bored. Some call it a flow state.

If you want to mine asteroid, then you need to learn how to make friends and influence people. You will need to make friends all over the world. Have many friends and allies supporting your vision. If, it turns out that there are enough people who are willing to support your vision, then your vision is going to come true. But if you create friction, cause problem, cause divisions, then it will be counter-productive to your mission and maybe your mission will not materialize. So, in a strange way, making human-life interplanetary involves having good working relationships in different/all communities across earth.

To start, you must make a declaration and stay true to your vision.

If I was you, then I’d start by learning about Chris Lewicki. Learn about Lewicki’s history, Lewicki’s work ethic and accomplishments to date. I would have a list of questions that I haven’t found an answer to. I’d start there. Having Lewicki as a mentor (if you can) may turn out to be a great boost towards your career in this space. Even if you touch base with him once a quarter. That is, is Lewicki is in a position to be able to dedicate his time towards this effort. I am not sure who else has a track record in this space (with respect to accomplishments at NASA and then Planetary Resources)

Hope this is of some use. Good luck!

P.s: Shameless plug: If you happen to be interested in the terraformation of Venus project in the future, then feel free to reach out to me.

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Besides being very good advice to a young person, I think if you substitute “asteroid mining” with “open source satellite tracking” in much of this post, you will have a good plan for growing TruSat.

I can’t agree more with the last part, too. I had solid, helpful, patient mentors throughout my education and early career (even if Mag did want to dunk me in the Houston Ship Canal) and tried to do the same when my turn came. Of five official proteges, all have gone on to or are starting great careers with good companies, and one owns his own multinational service company. (One even replaced me at my last job). Find a successful person, emulate the good parts, soak in all the technical knowledge you can, never fails.

Thanks Brad @hafsnt

So, @trusat’s model is to crowdsource the satellite tracking related activities. It sounds like sousveillance.

Brad, I have to follow this advice myself.

What’s your background in? Is there some way we can take this discussion offline? Thanks!