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Tom Toles
Posted at 07:15 AM ET, 04/30/2012

Space for rent

For those of you who follow my, shall we call it skepticism?, of our space exploration activities will no doubt be simply itching to hear what I have to say about the ‘plan’ of private interests to mine asteroids for valuable minerals.

First, let’s start with the obvious. Everybody thinks the idea of mining asteroids for valuable minerals is cool. Me too. The IDEA, that is. And if somebody wants to rocket off and dig gold on asteroids, have at it! My only question on space stuff is what it’s always been: explain to me how it makes sense.

The use of humans in space for anything at all hasn’t made economic sense since the invention of the robot, and makes less all the time as robots get better and people don’t. This is finally dawning on everybody, though this is probably a false dawn and I don’t count on it lasting very long. This space mining story is big on sweeping Newtonian (Gingrich) grandiosities, as are all space stories that need to fudge the math. The math in this one is a real head-scratcher. Mining asteroids is CHEAPER than mining on earth??? If you say so. It’s your money! To me it looks more like rich guys need an awesome way to waste their spare billions.

But they’ll use robots! And they’ll mine water! Wait wait, wait a minute. Re-read that WATER part. Hmmmmm. Okay, now I get it. The water is for the tax-supported astronauts. Astronauts again. Back to the future one more time. WE are going to be buying that asteroid water in the newest private-public trough-raiding boondoggle. They must have noticed that we are willing to pay money for free tap water if somebody puts it into plastic bottles.

By  |  07:15 AM ET, 04/30/2012

 
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