A siily question about mining asteroids,etc.

Probably because of our latest outing to Mars, as well as recent success by a commercial space venture, there seems to be renewed discussion of the possibility of mining asteroids or other planets for valuable elements and…stuff.

My question is: Is there any risk to bringing back large amounts of anything to the Earth? I know we have been randomly hit by large chunks of extra-terrestrial stuff from time to time, but what (if anything) might be the consequences of mining on a larger scale?

The greater vaue is in gathering it up there for consumption up there. Once the resource is obtainable (ie, space mining becomes possible), the next step is all the wonderful things we can do with it.

The only real consequence would be the drop in prices of Gold, Platinum, etc if large amounts of it were readily available and could be easily brought back to Earth.

there’s always the risk that something goes wrong during retreival and return to earth, and you end up with Dallas or Chiicago being flattened by a giant flaming lump of gold. The biggest value is having the matrial in orbit; fashioning a re-entry vehicle to bring back tons and tons of metal can get expensive. Then what, you have to launch the re-entry carrier again?

it takes so much energy to launch mass to orbit, the biggest value would be to have the mass already up there to work with; however jockeying mass into low earth orbit from the asteroid belt, and then docking with it would probably be almost as expensive.

The biggest value would be in smaller quantities or more rare material - gold, platinum, precious metals, rare earths - assuming you could find and extract them in industrial scales.

I guess if you accidentally crashed a container of toxic metals so you created a vapour cloud of it, you might gas an area of earth. Odds are it would disperse before causing major problems. Really, the biggest worry is lumps hitting the earth while still solid or worse, liquid. you probably don’t want to be dropping large quantities or radioactive material on earth either.

The biggest consequence of this is that in 50 years we’ll be joking about those guys back in 2012 who said we’d be mining gold on asteroids soon. Dollars to donuts it never happens in our lifetime. The plan involves, among other things, capturing the asteroids and towing them into Earth orbit, performing industrial-level mining operations with equipment that isn’t close to being designed or developed. Another proposed use for these captured asteroids is to place them in various orbits between Earth and Mars, harvest their water and use that water for fuel, like space gas stations, for upcoming manned missions to Mars. This ranks up there with Gingrich’s absurd plan for moon colonies. It’s a case of a bunch of Internet billionaires with a lot of money and even more time on their hands. It makes flying cars seem as rudimentary as toaster ovens by comparison. Remember that company that sunk millions into a scheme that promised to have commercial space tourism up and running by 2009? There’s no private company anywhere close to putting even lump a of coal on the moon, and we’re talking humans on Mars? But, hey, if they want to spend their billions on audacious plans that mean researching wild new technology, I’m all for it. If we’re digging up space platinum within the next 50 years, I’ll eat my hat. If we’re doing it in the next 100 I’ll instruct my heirs to eat theirs. But, who knows? Maybe they’ll develop new technology that might help mankind in other, more realistic ways.