Imagine someone plans to build a gas station far out in an isolated desert. They plan to sell gas and snacks to the truck drivers who come out to deliver gas and snacks. Want to invest? No? How about if they also sell gas and snacks to passing explorers, out there to signal toughness? Yes, explorers won’t look as tough if they buy gas and snacks from your station. But if the station can lure enough not-so-tough explorers, maybe you’d want to invest.
Long term, is there value in having a terrestrial society? Gravity wells seem expensive energy wasters. If you can mine in space and collect free energy for various uses, what do you need the surfaces of planets for? I understand colonizing stars, but not colonizing planets.
But these rocks are not in Earth orbit, they are in solar orbits
You are missing the point entirely. Its so much cheaper to send materials back to the earth than it is to send them out. But even if we were sending them out, it would still be viable.
1) It costs spacex about 2.5k per kg to send something into LEO. Currently gold and plat are > 50,000 dollars per kg.
2) The reason for the volatile materials depots are partially for their own use. Getting things into space is expensive, getting things from space to somewhere else in space isn't that expensive, if you are willing to do it slowly. (more or less)
3) This isn't status seeking but rather part consumption and part profit seeking on part of the billionaires. The consumption part is because they really want to their boyhood scifi dreams come true.
GEO orbit is about 3 km/s. If all you want to do is drop the rocks onto the Earth (something I'm skeptical about but will accept for now) then you only have to decrease the speed to about 1.5 km/s and it will hit the surface. It's even easier from higher orbits (0.83 km/s if you are 1 Lunar Distance away).
No one who is not a billionaire should invest in this, because they will probably lose money. (If PR was planning an IPO at any time in the next 5 years I would call them a scam.) But I still think it's awesome and will make things better for whoever tries next.
So they are supposed to extract water from the asteroid rock, electrolyse it and cool the resulting hydrogen and oxygen to temperatures far below the "nighttime" temperature of the asteroid to make cryogenic LH2/LOX rocket fuel. All using only photovoltaic power. Sure.
And even if that was somehow technically possible, how many passing rockets must they refill to make the business profitable?
How many probes can the RKA, NASA, ESA, JAXA, CNSA and whatever send?
Moving the asteroids to Earth to mine rare metals seems also infeasible. Platinum price is about 50K$ / Kg.Launch price to GTO is about 17K$ / Kg on a commercial Ariane 5, reaching a NEO asteroid and landing on it would cost more. How many kg of platinum can you recover for one kg of payload? I suspect far less than one.
People would be concerned about the safety of steering an asteroid at the Earth. What happens if it hits someone? People are everywhere - even in the middle of the Antarctic and the Sahara. We'd also be concerned about the margin for error and the environmental impact from the landing. Meteors that strike the Earth belong to the country where it falls, so if it lands somewhere that hadn't already agreed to give it up the investment would be lost.
There doesn't seem to be a physical reason it can't be done, but that doesn't mean it'll be socially or politically possible to do it.
I didn't say they were pouring in billions, which seems unlikely. I said they were billionaires, pouring in money, not pouring in all their money.
You seem very much like a conspiracy theorist. The proposal doesn't make sense to you so you believe something is being covered up. Perhaps the nefarious purpose is for the evil billionaires to steer an asteroid into the Earth, causing an extinction event? Billionaires may be building and fortifying their secret lairs right now so they can survive and rule the planet after all the governments collapse.
Or it could be that you just don't have enough information. Even if it comes out close, billionaires can invest in way-cool high-risk proposals without impacting anything else in their lives. Kind of like how many people buy designer jeans when Lee's will do the job just as well.
The effort is strictly robotic. There is a lot more tolerance for g-forces and a lot less concern about an emergency recovery.
I'd be willing to bet that the research and mining robots are never intended to return to Earth, which would reduce their cost quite a bit. Either shuttles or something else that can survive re-entry and navigate the payload to a safe landing will bring materials to Earth.
The risk to billionaires is that they'll end up with only several hundreds of millions. They'll still be able to buy nearly everything they've ever wanted. They're buying the status of outer space enterpreneurs and a place in the history books. It's a win-win situation for billionaire investors because it buys status even if the endeavor fails.
Meanwhile they're putting people to work inventing, innovating, and manufacturing space exploratory, mining, and refining equipment. Even if they never mine a single asteroid, it's an endeavor worthy of the billionaire's club.
It doesn't have to be "inhouse". That's why I talked about buying stock. The current system of suppliers would still exist, only the names of the shareholders would change (only a little since many corporations already own stock of their suppliers).
Corporate politics shouldn't be worse than today because it's the shareholders who are continously infusing the corporation at the end of the chain with money, just like investors do all the time when trying to save a broken corporation.
This is America.
So, talk of International Satellite Hydroponic Soy Farming is a stretch.
Find a way to grow weedwackers, Pizza, and Pizza delivery"persons" and watch the bucks flow in.
"If suppliers work better if they feel independent then just buy their shares or create a subsidiary supplier. "
You are, of course, reasoning ceteris pribus which is invalid in this case because, in order for your argument to be true, you require the existence of the current system of suppliers which will not exist if firms produced everything inhouse. Economies of scale are real and they are impossible in a lot of sectors without outsourcing.
Moreover, you probably have never worked as a manager as you grossly oversimplify the role of company politics and inefficiencies that come with the layers of managers and embedded responsibility that are absolitely necessary for the existence of vertically integrated large companies. Most companies today, even with all the outsourcing going on, are so terribly inefficient that if we actally had real entrepreneurship in US and Europe, the top 100 companies in S&P 500 and their European equivalent (I am actually unaware if there is one) will not exist in 5 years as they will all be bankrupt.
The math speaks for itself: if you own the shares of n steps in your supply chain and all those companies have a 20% profit margin then you save 0.8*(0.9)^n-1 percent on your supply costs (for n=5, you already save a third of your non-HR costs). Competition is not affected because your suppliers and their competitors are still comepting for your investment money (if one of your suppliers becomes complacent you just sell your shares of them and buy up one of their competitors).
In addition, resource extracting corporations such as "Planetary Resources" can cut costs even further by being smart about their resources. After all, would an oil company buy gasoline from a competitor at market prices for their service vehicles? Of course not, they'll make sure their vehicles refuel at the company's own gas stations. Similarly PR would not buy circuit boards for their robots at market prices: they'd give some of their own platinum to the (most efficient) circuit board supplier, so that supplier can produce the circuit boards cheaper.
It's all about cutting out middlemen: why let other shareholders reap the profits?
Ah yes, the tragedy of purely profit-based thinking: it increases the efficiency with which people can build a canoe, but because no one ever took the risk of taking a canoe to the other side of the river to proof that there's something valuable over there, no one wants to buy canoes in the first place.
Thank god some humans have been endowed with vision and a sense of adventure, otherwise we'd still be sitting in our caves, arguing about the profitability of stepping outside.
if you control all stages of production your costs will drop a lot
But I agree that your proposals make as much economic sense as those of the CCCP.
"The whole trend towards outsourcing business processes (that every big company you have heard of is participating in) is a result of the fact that the opposite is true – specialisation and short supply chains are far more effective than in-house."
This is a non-issue. If suppliers work better if they feel independent then just buy their shares or create a subsidiary supplier. The point is not that these suppliers have to look dependent on paper, the point is that their profits should flow back to you, so you can cut costs in the end. You'll find that many corporations outsource to their own subsidiaries or companies they own a lot of stock in (Apple own a lot of Foxconn stock for example). Meanwhile some countries have legal limits on foreign ownership or have a lot of stock owned by the state that is not for sale, so that's why you can't just buy up all you supplier factories and mines in China.
"Also, the Soviet Union was able to have a large military because it underinvested in everything else and had a far larger share of government in GDP."
Yes, they underinvested their resources in other areas where their economy was dysfunctional, but they were able to get a lot more hardware for a less money. I can assure you it would not have cost their government $1 trillion to build the F35.