The final frontier costs are high
Written by Gary Silverman, CFP®
Space, the Final Frontier…no, this isn’t the opening of a Star Trek movie, it is an incredible investment opportunity.
Back in November, Congress passed and President Obama signed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. Now you can legally own a piece of space. Well, not space itself, but the stuff floating around in it. Before this there was a question as to whether a U.S. citizen could fly around in space and collect asteroids to mine. Now we know. You mine it, you own it.
Of course, it is doubtful that you or I will be grabbing a pick and blasting off, but there are quite a few companies thinking about it. The founder of one of those companies, Eric Anderson of Planetary Resources, considers the Act “…the single greatest recognition of property rights in history.” It, like its rival Deep Space Mining, is looking to mine asteroids. Moon Express, as the name implies, plans to land on that ball of cheese within the next two years.
Even the tourist-minded SpaceX is looking at mining activities. After all, if you’re taking the trouble of heading up there, might as well bring something back. But what is worth bringing back? Last time I was at the Orlando airport I saw a moon rock sitting in a display at a NASA gift store and it didn’t look like it was worth all that much, especially considering how much it must cost to go roaring off into the heavens.
Still, one article I read seemed to indicate that there are plenty of asteroids rich with platinum hanging around parts of our solar system. So far, across all of history, the amount of platinum we have mined from the earth is about 25 cubic feet—about the size of your living room. I’m thinking it wouldn’t take all that many asteroids to equal that.
But don’t get your investment wallets out yet. Even though the cost of going to space looks like it will be coming down dramatically ala SpaceX and Blue Origin, it’s still not cheap. Space mining isn’t a tourist trip, it requires equipment and procedures that have yet to be invented. How exactly do we find the right asteroids? How do we separate the ores from the rocks? You can’t just drop one down onto our planet and break it apart down here…that’s how the dinosaurs became extinct.
So we’re looking at a fleet of many types of ships, habitations for the workers, advanced robotics for most of the tasks, probably a space station or a moon base…you get the idea. Anything significant isn’t happening soon or cheaply. Estimates are about $100 billion.
Still the future looks exciting and man has had a habit of making what initially looks impossible an everyday matter.
This article was printed in the Wichita Falls Times Record News on January 31, 2016.