USING space-faring robots to mine precious metals from asteroids almost sounds easy when former astronaut Tom Jones describes it - practically like clearing a snow-covered driveway.
Jones, an adviser to a bold venture that aims to extract gold, platinum and rocket fuel from the barren space rocks, said many near-Earth asteroids have a loose rocky surface held together only weakly by gravity.
"It shouldn't be too hard to invent a machine like a snow blower to pick up material off these asteroids," explained Jones, a veteran of four space shuttle missions.
But it will be risky and monstrously expensive, which is why some of the biggest and richest names in high-technology - including the barons of Google and filmmaker James Cameron - are behind the project.
If the plan gets off the ground as planned, robots could be extracting cosmic riches within 10 years.
Asteroids may yield precious metals, cosmic riches
PMs aren't expensive enough to justify extraction, save as a byproduct of air, water, and other materials needed for space operations. Current pricing on gold is about 1/3rd of the price of air or water in space. Of course, as operations gear up, this will probably change. As the price of air and water in space comes down, it will encourage more manned missions, and longer term operations. Eventually, one could see a large orbiting asteroid as an orbiting space station, complete with manufacturing, food production, energy production, and even assembly plants for deep space exploration.
Yes, even if this were to knock down the price of PMs, the benefit to EVERYONE will be so huge that you will be happy to take the blow. Of course, silver is so cheap, it will likely be one of the last materials to be exploited ;)