Metal asteroid Psyche has a ridiculously high 'value.' But what does that even mean?

Apr 15, 2020
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There are a lot of rumors circulating that say the asteroid could be made of Gold or Platinum. It they find either, we are going to see the insanity of greed show it's ugly head.
 
Oct 12, 2023
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Given that we have many samples from metallic asteroids already on earth, the compositions are very well known. Mostly nickel/iron, but there are relatively large amounts of rare metals such as gold, platinum, etc.

Which does make these types of object theoretically valuable.

However, as far as I have seen, nobody mentions the simple fact that gold, platinum etc are expensive only because they are rare. If you could safely get a large metallic asteroid to the earths surface, the price of all these now common metals would go through the floor. It's the simple result of supply and demand.

It may be worth 100 gazzilion dollars in space but on earth, no way. We would only end up with solid gold toilets for sale at Walmart.
 
Oct 12, 2023
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Think of the hundreds (thousands?) of Falcon X launches needed to get the asteroid to the earth.
Rocket launches are not green events. Also think of all the other toxic elements (lead, thallium, cadmium etc) that need to be dealt with. Separating the ones you want and dealing with the ones
you don't isn't going to be a squeaky clean process.

Landing the whole thing at once is called Chicxulub. So you also have to cut the darn thing up and send it bit by bit to enter the earths atmosphere. Ablation of the "ore" will put nice clouds of heavy metals into the atmosphere. Lead vapor anyone?

It's not bricks of gold floating in space, it's a rock containing a nearly homogeneous mixture of every metal in the periodic table. It's got to be processed in space and on earth. I have no idea of the environmental impact compared to traditional mining. But it won't be green by any measure.

There really is no such thing as a free lunch...
 
It's not free. Green is the most expensive. But it's clean. No guilt.

Chunk the metal space rock. Sling chunks into moon orbit. Wrap with heat blanket. Sling chunk into ocean. Float and retrieve chunk.

It's a Muskian project and operation. Large scale thinking. It might start an environmental movement. And possibly a metal monopoly.
 
Many metals have value due to their suitability for various uses. Some that are rare on Earth would still be useful, even if they became commonly available. So, we need to stop thinking about getting rich and start thinking about what resources we need to develop the technologies that we want to make abundantly available on Earth. Yes, bringing tons and tons of gold to earth would make retirement accounts invested in gold lose value. But it would also make a lot of commercial products more reliable because there would be gold-plated electrical contacts where now there are brass contacts.
 
Sep 8, 2023
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Think of the hundreds (thousands?) of Falcon X launches needed to get the asteroid to the earth.
Rocket launches are not green events. Also think of all the other toxic elements (lead, thallium, cadmium etc) that need to be dealt with. Separating the ones you want and dealing with the ones
you don't isn't going to be a squeaky clean process.

Landing the whole thing at once is called Chicxulub. So you also have to cut the darn thing up and send it bit by bit to enter the earths atmosphere. Ablation of the "ore" will put nice clouds of heavy metals into the atmosphere. Lead vapor anyone?

It's not bricks of gold floating in space, it's a rock containing a nearly homogeneous mixture of every metal in the periodic table. It's got to be processed in space and on earth. I have no idea of the environmental impact compared to traditional mining. But it won't be green by any measure.

There really is no such thing as a free lunch...
You're not factoring in STARSHIP.
Falcon lofts 23Tons, STARSHIP can do 150-250T. (Just how much will depend on the configuration.)

No, there is no free lunch, but asteroid mining won't be for Earth.
And it won't matter how "green" it might be in space.

But it will help the mudball by providing feedstock for space manufacturing. Less launches if you ship tools to make structures instead of the big and heavy structures. We won't be spam in a can forever.

Never mind the heavy metals,those won't be useful until we do industrial chemistry in space. Good catalysts some of them. A generation or two away.

What will be immediately useful will be good old nickel iron that doesn't need to go up the gravity well to reach Luna or Mars. Tungsten would be good, but copper would be better. Asteroid mining will start with the basics.

The value isn't in what might come down but in what doesn't need to go up.
 
"Wendy Caldwell, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, told Space.com that some of her most promising results, including the findings of a 2020 study, had the asteroid being made of Monel, a metal that is made mainly of nickel and copper and is thought to be representative of the composition of metallic objects in space."

Yet every metallic meteorite sample ever tested appears to be nickel-iron, not nickel-copper. Is there any real reason to expect monel? Surely nickel-iron is thought to be representative of the composition of metallic objects in space.

We don't have any samples of monel meteorites, nor any with gold or Platinum Group Metals as nuggets or seams or even as high concentration ores; they are well mixed (alloyed) within the Ni-Fe. The high value metals are at 10s of ppm (PGM's) or ppb for gold. The highest content of PGM's are found in the high nickel taenite form, up to (but rarely) around 100ppm . Which is often bands within a specimen rather than the whole specimen. The nickel content may rival the precious metals in market value and it will be worth looking for examples of high nickel content asteroid material. Which may not be Psyche. A Near Earth asteroid, that orbits near or inside Earth's orbit seems more appropriate; lots of solar power, smaller delta-v.

How to mine any of it cost effectively is the question. Remote, robotic and automated would probably be given; nothing makes a space mission more complex and expensive and limiting than including astronauts. In-space transport that runs with minimal supply from Earth would be a given too. Solar powered electric, using water as propellant maybe?

Carbonaceous chondrites seem more enticing to me than metallic Psyche; they can still have abundant Ni-Fe, but as grains and nodules within a soft, water rich carbonaceous material. In quantity terms mining and refining (purifying) water ice would be the biggest part of the operation.
 
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This sort of "virtue signalling" is getting ridiculous and tiresome.

How do these folks think you can give "access" to space materials when it takes very high levels of technological expertise and industrial capability to actually get to them? Do we think the indigenous tribes in the Amazon rain forest should be given rocket launch facilities?

Seriously, most people on Earth will be dependent on a few of the most advanced societies getting space materials for uses on Earth. To the degree that anybody in any society anywhere on Earth is accepted into the cultures and companies doing that actual work, then they are partaking in part of the "benefit" of its retrieval, even if they never get any of it personally and are only paid for their work. But, because there are various warring factions on Earth, such activities will probably always be partitioned among several different competing cultures, with varying degrees of "inclusiveness".

The other way to make "equal access" would be to tax the profits of the companies actually doing the retrieval and spreading that tax money to the people who are not involved. That has some precedence on Earth already, where citizens of some governed areas, such as Alaska, receive payments for oil pumped out of the ground inside Alaska. The concept is that the oil belongs to the people and the company pumping it pays the people for their oil. But, other governments keep those payments for "themselves" instead of directly distributing them to all citizens. And, other governments let the companies make huge profits and keep them, or at least let oligarchs who own the companies keep the profits. It is this that most people call "inequitable". But, human nature being what it is, it has been shown to be necessary for governments to allow the individuals who are willing to take on the risks and get the hard things done to keep more of the profits than they would get if all the profits were shared uniformly among all citizens. Even communist China needed to let some company heads get rich (i.e., behave like capitalists) in order to get their technological capacity to increase rapidly.

So, realistically, there is a limit to how much a government (of a country or the United Nations) could tax space resource access without killing the incentives and losing the opportunities. And, there will always be people clamoring for a bigger cut of the profits than the government is distributing to them. Neither capitalism nor communism is realistic in their pure forms, and no matter how much some people get, they will always want more. So, this argument is never going to be resolved. The politics just ricochets back and forth between too much toward one extreme to too much toward the opposite extreme.
 
A huge chunk of rare metal in outer space has no value until sold. It might be used in orbit or maybe ferried back to Earth, at which time it becomes inventory, then it is sold. Taxes on inventory and income are pretty much universal. No different than mining the ocean floor.
 
Bill, The economists argue about who gets to impose the taxes and on what. There are many conflicting opinions and practices.

Usually, it is only the governments that own the territory of the activity that can levy taxes. However, the U.S. levies taxes on its citizens no matter where they live and work - which actually results in about 3,000 U.S. citizens per year who live and work in other countries deciding to renounce their U.S. citizenship, even though it has an associated fee of $2,350.00. Within the U.S., various states have various taxes on residency, property, often including inventories of businesses, taxes on paychecks, and most have taxes on sales. That can lead to people paying a lot of taxes if they work in one jurisdiction and live in another jurisdiction. There is a lot of hypocrisy involved in the supporting logic. For instance, Washington DC, the capital city of the United States, was specifically established to be a non-political locality that is not in any state. So, people living there do not have representatives in Congress, but they still pay taxes to both the District and national governments. They want to become a state, and argue that they are being taxed but not allowed representation in how that tax money is used. Hypocritically, they simultaneously want to tax people who work in DC but do not live there, and do not want to let those taxed non-residents vote in DC elections to say how those tax proceeds will be used. However, there are many in DC that want to let non-citizens of the United States who live in DC vote in DC elections.

The obvious conclusion is that governments need and want more money, and adopt whatever taxation philosophy will get them more. There is a lot of disagreement on what is "fair" to the people being taxed. On top of that comes the arguments about how the proceeds from those taxes get used and whether that is "equitable".

Going to how that is all going to be reflected in making the "resources in space" get "distributed equitably" to all the residents of Earth seems to indicate much potential for disagreement. For example, some are worried that China wants to "claim the Moon" based on establishing the "first permanent residence" there. China seems to be pursuing a similar policy in the South China Sea, building islands on shallow areas and claiming sovereignty in the surrounding sea areas. Others want some sort of universal ownership similar to what has been negotiated for Antarctica. But, Antarctica is not currently used for resource extraction, so that doesn't really establish a precedent. The current scramble for resources in the Arctic Ocean as it becomes ice-free seems like a more likely scenario to play out in space.

And, even if the U.N. can decide on a tax on space profits or space inventory, it really does not have the means to enforce that, any more than it can enforce all of those resolutions regarding nations like North Korea and Iran and Israel, etc.

So, I don't see any real chance for changes in the status quo regarding "fairness" and "equitable" in space. The entities that can make a profit will do so, and others that cannot make a profit will fail and not be extracting resources from space. Governments can really only decide how much of the profits they can syphon off the processes before they become unprofitable failures. It is in each of the governments' best interests to not force everything within their jurisdiction to failure, because then that government gets nothing - some other government gets it, instead.

That is how it really works, and sometimes fails to work well, because different economists have different predictions about the effects of various policies, and they are often very wrong in predicting the future effects of their policies.
 
Fairness and equality are false concepts. Life is NOT fair. This should have been taught at a very early age. It was in my family. And people are not equal. People have never been equal. If you have siblings.....you know this. This is reality. And all know this.

The unfairness of life gives us virtue. The inequality of life gives us merit.

The concepts of fairness and equality are for government/bureaucrats to practice and obey, not free citizens.

Free citizens practice virtue and merit for quality and security. And a future worth living.
 
Seems to me people expressing concern for access to space resources being equitable are - a bit ironically - people who believe the hype, that asteroid or other space resources are a great opportunity that can and will be exploited successfully, and relatively soon.

But if it doesn't work well enough to survive being taxed after it is in production it won't be successful enough to be economically significant. If it works then important commodities will become widely available at lower costs and "equitable access" isn't an issue, or else may be more about assuring competition and avoiding monopolies doing market manipulation. Not convinced any "state run" operation would be more successful despite the deeper pockets and tolerance for lack of commercial return, or refrain from selling space resources on the open market if they can successfully mine them them in low cost abundance.

So the real equity issues seem more near term, about how much we expect taxpayers to pay for state run operations or subsidise and underwrite private space business activities before they are making profits and can pay taxes (or evade them) like other businesses. Businesses can raise venture capital funds to try on their own but space mining is not anywhere near close to viable, and most institutional investors will have duty in protecting their funds from being wasted.

I expect asteroid mining is something most people expect to be done by businesses on a commercial basis, not the responsibility of a government program or space agency.
 
It means something great, regarding wealth, for an expanding frontier beyond Earth that includes the Earth. Otherwise in a closed Earth isolated from expanding space frontiers, it is in fact wealth killing. It is getting time for people to understand the physics.