Orphu Meets Zeus

Anyone who has spent a month of Sundays digging away at Eve Online just so that they can shoot pirates at the weekend, might like this one.

Seems the US government want to open up the rights to mine asteroids. While those outside of North America may call for an international agreement – much in the same way that Antarctica is protected by a treaty of nation states – the idea of sending probes to seek mineral wealth away from the Earth is intriguing.

Numerous companies have been speculating about the logistics of what such a mining operation would entail. Back in 2013, Astronaut published an article about how the solar systemic race for resources was shaping up. Among the possible solutions Deep Space Industries’ concept of a self-replicating fleet of prospectors caused the biggest stir among Sci-Fi fans. Partially because it offers a neat solution to the expense of repeated rocket launches from Earth, but also for the similarity to Dan Simmons’ Moravecs from Ilium and Olympos (Francois Baranger’s interpretation of Orphu of Io above). Add to the evocative mix the recent hi-res imagery from NASA’s Dawn probe as it flew past Ceres – the largest of the solar system’s planetoids – and suddenly there seems to be more science to the proposals than fiction.

Personally, it’s been over a decade since I wrote my own take on what the future might hold for mining among the stars. In Dusted, the approach was to employ genetically altered humans on long tours of duty in the asteroid belt. Throwing in some extraterrestrial interest – which was inspired by this scene from Empire Strikes Back – the story also called into question whether life could evolve on a smaller landmass within a hard vacuum. A flight of fancy possibly, but the mystery behind the bright spots recorded on Ceres’ surface proves that humanity always has more to learn the further it gets from home.

As well as discovery, there’s the added bonus that this new ‘gold rush’ to the final frontier might also ensure the survival of our species. Not just by protecting our home planet from environmental depletion, but also by reducing our dinosaur-like vulnerability while we remain confined to Earth.

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