When asked why my novel’s protagonist seeks to pioneer asteroid mining, it’s tempting to offer a coy summary… ‘it’s the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow’.
But a frank expression of my motivation is offered by this Reuters special report on unlicensed gold mining in Africa. As long as humans sustain (white and black) markets for Earth’s limited resources, like gold, there will be inordinate, relentless human suffering. The chance – however slim – to shift this status quo is what intrigued me about something as ‘magical’ as asteroid mining.
Asteroid mining in the 21st Century is incomparably ambitious, yet possible. The developmental tasks required are progressively complex, yet achievable. Doubtless the legal and commercial powers, if applied to mining in space, could provoke quarrelsome debates and lawsuits. Yet the potential for supranational governance – some kind of global body safeguarding the benefits for all of humankind – is compelling.
In a world where (largely northern hemisphere) human consumption and oblivious apathy are offset by (largely southern hemisphere) human cost and endless suffering, asteroid mining is perhaps the archetypal curveball. It is something unexpected, unknown, unproven, yet it is something to draw attention to as an alternative idea, an analogue, an argument. And with each week, month, year our science, tech and engineering capabilities close in on making asteroid mining a reality.
For all of the above, I could not not write about asteroid mining.