The Spice Islands of Interplanetary Space

Back in July 2009, in a post “Industrialize the Solar System,” I laid out the economic “case for space:”

(1) Space development will catalyze economic development in general, which always enables higher environmental consciousness and greater resources to address environmental challenges.

(2) Living in space requires recycling technologies for water and air that are many times more demanding than on earth, and these technologies will have applications that will improve water and emission treatment technologies on earth.

(3) Zero gravity manufacturing and manufacturing off the planet can eventually allow us to do potentially hazardous work in space where there is no danger to the earth’s ecosystem.

(4) There are benefits in terms of earth observation and ecosystem management that we have only begun to realize through a presence in space.

(5) We may build satellite solar power stations and beam the energy they produce back to earth.

(6) We can access minerals on the Moon, Mars, other terrestrial moons, and the asteroids that eventually can take pressure off resources on earth.

To this sixth point, a fascinating comment recently surfaced on a post by Walter Russell Mead entitled “Top Green Admits ‘We are Lost‘,” where the writer quantified the amount of minerals likely to be recoverable in a relatively small (1 km diameter) asteroid. Here is an excerpt:

“A 1 km metallic asteroid (90th percentile iridium richness), mined at a rate of 1 million cubic meters per year, […] Read More