A prospector is someone who searches for mineral deposits. In human history, prospectors have panned for gold, drilled for oil, and excavated land for various minerals locked in ore. Prospectors are often driven by the excitement of “making it (a fortune) big on their own.” They endure consequences from a staggering array of risks, which include costs: training, equipment, land permits, their subsistence, hiring helpers, contracting with refiners, transport of people and ore, finding buyers, buying insurance (in case their work damages the property of others or pollutes the environment), health maintenance and repair (sickness or injury), and emotional costs of worker separation from family. Who would want to take on all that risk and the peculiar risks of being off Planet Earth by prospecting in space? Web search the startup company “Planetary Resources.” Also, read the article, Space Mining Comes Down to Earth in the December 2018 issue of Fortune Magazine.
The answer is the same as it was for the prospectors of old. Someone might strike it rich if he or she perseveres and overcomes costs, risks, and consequences of risks. The startup company sees mining potential in asteroids. The asteroid belt is located between Jupiter and Mars. A theory that a planet was once (or supposed to be) there might explain the orbiting band of dangerous rubble. Regrettably, the belt is not between Earth and Mars, because Mars is mankind’s first planetary target for human exploration and possibly colonization. We already know that we need an extraterrestrial source of launch: basing, water, fuel production, and other resources in place as a necessary first step. Why couldn’t non-Earth mined material and manufacture of necessary finished products support an endeavor in space exploration?
Maybe it is not so unfortunate that the asteroid belt is not closer to Earth. Another theory suggests that the planet Jupiter’s gravity holds most of the asteroid field space debris in place. Yet, occasionally, asteroids hit each other, and sometimes one is ejected from its orbit. An ejected asteroid will keep going until it hits something else or the gravity of another planet pulls it into a new orbit. So, maybe, a mining company can have at an opportunistically close asteroid if a large one comes near and stays in orbit about Earth or its moon.
Off-planet Earth endeavors and adventures intrigue human beings even more than the age of sail and its exploration by sea voyages. Yet, the age of sail caused a huge leap forward for mankind. The benefits and the tragedies of it were staggering. I do not see why space exploration will be any different. It must progress from an idea to an idea supported by justification with the means to do it. Maritime ships enabled the ocean exploration and exploitation in earlier centuries. Mankind today has the vision, the justification, and the means to surge into a void once more. I agree that prospectors have a necessary role in space exploration. How exciting! What do you think? #TAG1writer.