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Space mining as a private industry


Mutie
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Some of us may have already independently reached the conclusion that asteroids could be mined for their mineral value. It took a couple of years to finally hit me that such ideas had already been around for more than 30 years. They were of course much more detailed and refined than my lay assumptions and logical inductive reasoning. Now that I've looked for referrences to the mineral exploitation of space I've found that they're everywhere one chooses to look. So why hasn't it happened? We could discuss for pages why the circumstances aren't proper for the emergence of the space mining industry.

 

Instead I'd like to discuss what can be done taking into consideration the current state of things. I don't mean the actual mining, but what can be done to help bring about the rise of competetive companies to mine space? That's the actual point of this thread, but anything relating to profitable mineral operations is certainly still on topic.

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Some of us may have already independently reached the conclusion that asteroids could be mined for their mineral value. It took a couple of years to finally hit me that such ideas had already been around for more than 30 years. They were of course much more detailed and refined than my lay assumptions and logical inductive reasoning. Now that I've looked for referrences to the mineral exploitation of space I've found that they're everywhere one chooses to look. So why hasn't it happened? We could discuss for pages why the circumstances aren't proper for the emergence of the space mining industry.

 

Instead I'd like to discuss what can be done taking into consideration the current state of things. I don't mean the actual mining' date=' but what can be done to help bring about the rise of competetive companies to mine space? That's the actual point of this thread, but anything relating to profitable mineral operations is certainly still on topic.[/quote']

This should be a public enterprise. No one owns those asteroids, so everyone should benefit from them. Otherwise it will only be the super rich who can afford to mine the resources.

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This should be a public enterprise. No one owns those asteroids, so everyone should benefit from them. Otherwise it will only be the super rich who can afford to mine the resources.

 

I personally believe that governments have no right to control exploration of space by imposing regulations and laws against the ownership of extraterrestrial property. It's a way that only the most powerful nations can control space. The best way to pursue the mineral exploitation of space would, at least in the beginning, be private enterprise. Think of it as being the lesser of two evils.

 

I do believe however that once this occurs, the people will have control over the fate of the companies, after all they will be the consumers and regulators. I'm not saying that they should be leeches and tax the companies dry, but in the case that the business isn't led by some souless bastards the company may set up funds on it's own to help advance technologies or aid in humanitarian efforts. Even if they don't have consciences they'd probably set up funds anyway to help their image.

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I personally believe that governments have no right to control exploration of space by imposing regulations and laws against the ownership of extraterrestrial property. It's a way that only the most powerful nations can control space. The best way to pursue the mineral exploitation of space would' date=' at least in the beginning, be private enterprise. Think of it as being the lesser of two evils.

 

I do believe however that once this occurs, the people will have control over the fate of the companies, after all they will be the consumers and regulators. I'm not saying that they should be leeches and tax the companies dry, but in the case that the business isn't led by some souless bastards the company may set up funds on it's own to help advance technologies or aid in humanitarian efforts. Even if they don't have consciences they'd probably set up funds anyway to help their image.[/quote']

 

I suppose I have to agree with the unfairness of powerful countries ousting smaller ones, but I don't think companies would voluntarily give up funds. It would have to be a tax of some sort. A tax all over the world distributed to all over the world (based on population), otherwise companies could just move their operations to the cheapest place. There's a lot of labor problems I suppose that need to be considered. Then again, thats already a problem here on Earth, much less in outer space.

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I think the point is that the only way space exploration of any kind is going to stop being pathetic is if people have greed to motivate them, i.e. to make it profitable. And that means making it profitable. On the other hand, there are things that just aren't going to be profitable at first, and so government has a role, too. It's comparable to the early days of aircraft. The first few generations were too impractical to be used in any kind of a business application, and so research was funded by governments. But it was private enterprise, stimulated by government contracts, that ultimately found ways to improve the designs, and so today anyone can fly. Compare the early prizes for whoever could be the first to fly across the English Channel and then the Atlantic Ocean to the recent X Prize, for whoever could build a reusable craft to bring 3 people into low orbit and back again. Ultimately, if people have to spend money to make things work, it usually won't get done. If they can make money doing it, it usually will. And so private enterprise in space is definitely a necessary evil. That is, if you consider space exploration necessary, which I do...

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I like the parallel you draw between space exploration and a past event in human history. And I do have to concede that governments do play a role in such affairs, reluctantly so though. I don't believe in governments being involved for the best interest of the people. As it was in the early days of aircraft, the most likely application for space technology is military superiority. Infact NASA and the US military have quite an intimate relationship that most if not everybody already knows about. There's an article in this month's PopSci titled "Battlefield: Space", which talks about the newly rekindled drive for space superiority as seen in the USAF and DARPA... It's just disturbing.

 

...A tax all over the world distributed to all over the world (based on population)...

Now, something like this I wouldn't shudder at. A fixed percentage pan national tax on all companies that profit from space. It would place the responsibility of how that money is spent on the shoulders of the individual nations. There's a way that it can be specified later on, so that the tax is only a percentage of profits generated in the earth markets rather than the total profits. That way future colonies or independent human establishments do not fall under the same category.

 

As for labor problems, even if these are to be unmaned missions there are people who have to build the machinery and are not in administrative positions. So I understand where that concern comes from. I can't think of a way to prevent that.

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Now who is going to impose this tax? The United Nations? Or will it be an agreement among industrialized nations, distributing tax funds out of the goodness of their hearts to all nations equally (based on population, of course)? I don't see how that could possibly work. I also don't think it should be taxed, at least at first. Once the industry is established, sure, but I don't see any need to stifle something before it even begins. If anything, it should be subsidized. And I'm curious: what labor problems are you envisioning?

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I like the parallel you draw between space exploration and a past event in human history. And I do have to concede that governments do play a role in such affairs' date=' reluctantly so though. I don't believe in governments being involved for the best interest of the people. As it was in the early days of aircraft, the most likely application for space technology is military superiority. Infact NASA and the US military have quite an intimate relationship that most if not everybody already knows about. There's an article in this month's PopSci titled "Battlefield: Space", which talks about the newly rekindled drive for space superiority as seen in the USAF and DARPA... It's just disturbing.

 

 

Now, something like this I wouldn't shudder at. A fixed percentage pan national tax on all companies that profit from space. It would place the responsibility of how that money is spent on the shoulders of the individual nations. There's a way that it can be specified later on, so that the tax is only a percentage of profits generated in the earth markets rather than the total profits. That way future colonies or independent human establishments do not fall under the same category.

 

As for labor problems, even if these are to be unmaned missions there are people who have to build the machinery and are not in administrative positions. So I understand where that concern comes from. I can't think of a way to prevent that.

 

I like your idea of how it could be fixed later on as to only take a percentage of Earth markets... although I have to laugh at myself on this because when this happens, companies will try to improve technology, but to the point of being able to send their "earth work" jobs to the future colonies! And when this happens, haha... well we'll have to deal with it over time. All I can say to that is it seems that there is no ideal body politic, and it takes careful balancing and rebalancing to handle change in humanity.

 

 

Now who is going to impose this tax? The United Nations? Or will it be an agreement among industrialized nations, distributing tax funds out of the goodness of their hearts to all nations equally (based on population, of course)? I don't see how that could possibly work. I also don't think it should be taxed, at least at first. Once the industry is established, sure, but I don't see any need to stifle something before it even begins. If anything, it should be subsidized. And I'm curious: what labor problems are you envisioning?

 

You are making it seem like that all institutions that exist now are the only ones that will in the future. I would be more than suprised if companies around the world were sending things into space and there wasn't an international space politics body. I mean, there are alot of safety factors alone that need to be considered. Like what happens when an Austrailian company's moon nuke accidentily falls on to Germany? There are many possible other unifying bodies as well, which you mentioned, such as the UN, or a treaty protocol like the Kyoto Treaty.

 

And I wouldn't start throwing public money to wealthy business men yet. The industry needs to be able to exist without public funds for there ever to be a possibility of it being a private industry. If it needs public funds then why not keep it public property?

 

The labor problems I'm envisioning is private companies pulling all of their jobs out of the U.S. and sending them to a cheaper third world country, as well as companies doing whatever they can to cut costs, which could easily include a cut in quality. Quality is something I don't want tampered with when such things are getting launched into potentially dangerous positions about the heads of humanity.

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Labor problems which could arise would be merely problems normally created in capitalist labor situations, nothing unions and existing or new laws couldn't fix.

 

Sisyphus makes perfect sense when saying that we should wait a time before applying taxes to these companies. The companies wont be generating any significant profits until they land their machinery on their first asteroid, then there will be enough money for the tax to really matter.

 

I don't know of any existing entiy that can control something like this ideally. Although I can imagine the UN taking it upon themselves to tax private enterprise in space. Now that I think of it though, population may not be the best method of distribution.

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Labor problems which could arise would be merely problems normally created in capitalist labor situations, nothing unions and existing or new laws couldn't fix.

 

hence why companies moving "offshore" where unions aren't protected by laws would be a problem for labor.

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I see what you mean. In standing against private enterprise and for government control of any space related affairs, that could be used as an argument to discourage people.

 

Really though I can't imagine labor problems being so severe. There may be an organization to help monitor the companies. This could possibly be the same as the group that manages the taxation and other business regulations.

 

Asteroid mining will prove to be much more efficient than on planets simply because of their composition (no segregation of dense metals). Has anyone wondered what such a massive influx of rare metals would do to earth economies?

 

I think that to prevent something like that, resources would have to be trickled slowly to Earth. Mining companies would have to find another practical use for all of that excess metal. Maybe some could dedicate branches of their mining businesses to take on the task of constructing human settlements on the moon or on Mars' moons I'm sure they would be bought if offered. Personally I think that at least some naive attempts at terraforming Mars should be made before settlements are constructed - things like induced global warming with Perfluorocarbons made from martian regolith, then releasing genetically engineered bacteria. Asteroids of decent size could be mined hollow from the inside and reinforced with molten slag to house stations or possibly turned into ships.

 

Sleepy, got a paper due tomorrow on some or other boring thing, so that's all for now.

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