Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"Asteroid worth $10,000 quadrillion ‘could transform global economy’"

Yes, yes it could.
Have I ever mentioned the alchemist's fallacy?
First up, Astronomy Magazine, May 24:

NASA’s mission to a planetary core has been moved up 
The craft to Psyche will launch a year earlier and get to its target four years early.

NASA’s Discovery mission to a smashed protoplanet core will reach its target four years early after a new launch date. Instead of launching in 2023, the craft will now in launch in 2022 and will reach its target, the asteroid Psyche, by 2026.

Psyche orbits the Sun between Mars and Jupiter and thanks to its component of nickel-iron metal, studying it will give scientists a closer look at the space collisions that create planets. Psyche was the 16th asteroid discovered, but it will be the first world scientists explore made of metal instead of rock or ice. Psyche’s metal core means at one point in time the asteroid was likely a protoplanet, or a large body of matter that turns into a planet, that had repeated collisions that resulted in leaving just the metal core.

After some consideration, NASA reached out to the Psyche team to see if it would be possible to rework the spacecraft to get an earlier launch date. A 2022 launch will perch the Psyche craft well for a Mars assist in 2023. That assist will help get the craft to Psyche four years ahead of schedule.

“The biggest advantage is the excellent trajectory, which gets us there about twice as fast and is more cost effective,” Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Tempe said in a press release. “We are all extremely excited that NASA was able to accommodate this earlier launch date. The world will see this amazing metal world so much sooner.”...MORE
It is a big rock, one of the top ten in the asteroid belt:

Artist's concept of 16 Psyche. Image: NASA

Here's the headline story from RT:
NASA scientists are outdoing themselves yet again: by reworking the planned route for a robotic mission to a giant asteroid worth $10,000 quadrillion, they’ve managed to cut costs, launch sooner and arrive four years earlier than planned. Not bad. 
The Psyche planetoid, measuring 240km (149 miles) in diameter, is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and is made almost entirely of iron and nickel.

At current market prices, such an asteroid, a truly unique object in our solar system, is estimated to be worth $10,000 quadrillion ($10,000,000,000,000,000,000). That is, if you could successfully tow it into orbit and then mine it (and find someone to buy all of it, of course). For scale, the entire global economy is worth over $74 trillion.

“We challenged the mission design team to explore if an earlier launch date could provide a more efficient trajectory to the asteroid Psyche, and they came through in a big way,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, as cited in a NASA press release.

“This will enable us to fulfill our science objectives sooner and at a reduced cost,” he added.
The original launch date for the mission was in 2023 with a scheduled arrival sometime in 2030. With the new trajectory, however, it will launch in the summer of 2022 and arrive at the asteroid belt in 2026.

The key to the galactic shortcut is mindblowing in and of itself: By scrapping a planned gravity boost around the Earth, the team of scientists figured out how to avoid any pit stops or paying the gravity toll in passing too close to the sun.

"The biggest advantage is the excellent trajectory, which gets us there about twice as fast and is more cost effective," said Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Tempe.

Speculation is rife among the NASA team that the asteroid could indeed be the solidified core of a planet.

"It's such a strange object," Elkins-Tanton previously told Global News Canada in January.

"Even if we could grab a big metal piece and drag it back here ... what would you do? Could you kind of sit on it and hide it and control the global resource – kind of like diamonds are controlled corporately – and protect your market? What if you decided you were going to bring it back and you were just going to solve the metal resource problems of humankind for all time? This is wild speculation, obviously."...

And about that Alchemist's fallacy:
2015's  "It is Now Legal to Own an Asteroid in the U.S."
You know the first things they want to mine are those things with the highest price per ounce back on earth which ex-truffles and saffron probably means the so-called precious metals.
However, with all that gold and platinum coming back, you might want to bone up on Another Post On Glass, This Time With "The Alchemist's Fallacy" (And Professor Nordhaus).

The miners will probably also keep an eye peeled for Californium-252 at $27 million per gram, but finding any is a bit of a long shot, 8 grams known to date....
Platinum Extends 6 1/2-Year Lows as Asteroid With $5.4 Trillion Worth of the Stuff Whizzes Past Earth
See also:
"The Price of Gold in the Year 2160"
And "We Are About to Start Mining Hydrothermal Vents on the Ocean Floor" (now with added alchemist's fallacy"

I guess I have.

The thing is, such an enormous increase in supply would crash the market, something the ancient alchemists didn't mention when they were pitching their lead-into-gold private placements to their version of accredited investors, the princely class, back in the day.

It is for this reason that the astro-miners have changed their approach and are now talking about looking for oxygen, water, nitrogen and other elements that can be used to take us farther into the universe.
Presumably to sell to Elon Musk to speed him on his way. 

I first heard the concept from Yale's Professor Nordhaus in 2005's "Schumpeterian Profits and the Alchemist Fallacy"
Here's some exposition from FT Magazine in 2015: "Another Post On Glass, This Time With "The Alchemist's Fallacy" (And Professor Nordhaus)".

We have dozens of posts on the asteroid rush including:

Jan. 22, 2013
May 14, 2014
And the series: 
A compilation image of mining equipment in space
Artist's depiction, not actual asteroid mining