Robotic Asteroid Mining for Rare Elements

avi neodymium sub

When I was a teenager the coolest speakers on the planet were made by AVI Sound International in Vancouver BC and they stood out from other manufacturers because of how they used rare earth neodymium magnet structures.

Using these rare materials in speakers intended for bass was a first in the world of audio products, and AVI has helped many enthusiasts win at international competitions with their exotic products and no-compromise ideas. Even at the time the cost of using these rare minerals was really crazy, and AVI only produced limited quantities before totally stopping production.

Fast forward to 2012 and US federal authorities tasked with resource forecasts are already predicting a world-wide shortage of neodymium, and other rare minerals, that will be outpaced by our needs as early as 2015! The transition away from these magnets for things like traditional physical HDDs will help, but our needs in just the electric-vehicle industry alone is causing concerns.

Enter: Planetary Resources

It is speculation at the moment, but when you take someone with the resources and imagination of James Cameron, pick Peter Diamandis (the X Prize founder) to lead the operation, stir in some wealthy Google executives, and call it ‘Planetary Resources’ you are begging for speculation.

planetary resources logo

When Earth runs low on rare resources, the value of reaching into space for those resources starts to match up with the cost of doing so.

Bruce Willis - Armageddon

The trick is to find a way to mine without having it cost more than the minerals are worth.

It’s for this reason that we’re not likely to send Bruce Willis, or any humans, off to space with a pickaxe any-time soon.

The first industrial space mining is almost certainly going to be done by robotics, and guess who’s behind a new robot fighting show on TV called “Robogeddon”? Yes indeed, James Cameron is lending his experience in robotic battle cinema to the new show which will be hosted by Mark Burnett from Survivor and Shark Tank.

Is it really financially feasible to mine asteroids?
Back in 2005 Peter Diamandis did a TED video discussing how a single asteroid full of nickel-iron alloy could be worth “$20 Trillion” on the precious metals market:
[jwplayer config=”550×437 Classic” mediaid=”3821″]

(Oh Canada .. @ 8:35m)

When you look at the resources we need to continue advancing clean energy technologies like photovoltaic panels, electric motors, batteries, etc.., these items are all based on rare minerals we are rapidly running out of on this planet. By as early as 2020 we will start hitting a crisis of supply that nobody doubts will impact our current clean energy initiatives drastically.

So at this point we already know we can’t afford to not take this next step into space exploration and mining. The gains in science and development of the entire human race alone make the case for this work.

Another factor is the privatization of space exploration with NASA stepping out of the publicly funded access to space. This lack of a publicly financed effort makes room for all the private companies who now can see the value of the investment and competing for the business in this new sector.

I don’t need to tell the reader how excited and eager I am to hear the full ‘official’ announcement of Planetary Resources’ plans which should be coming as early as next week!

Speaking of Competitions..

April 15th was the final day of our Beanstalk map making contest in Minecraft.

While we were really impressed with all the effort going into the maps we know that most map makers are still trying to finish the maps they started.

At this point we have confirmation that all entries past the date of our prize change are interested in extending the competition.

To make things as fair as possible Dave has agreed that we will give out the original $50 prize to the best map we have now, and then give everyone until May 31st to finish their maps for the main prize.

This should be plenty of time to finish all those ‘runaway trains’ of details and tweaks that map makers find as they start to complete a major build. I know that on the demo map I could probably spend a week just detailing the cloud structures and leaves on the Beanstalk leading up to the giant’s castle.

Congrats to Faragilus for his floating castle and beanstalk map submission! We’ve sent out an email to confirm your win and will be shipping out your prize once we’ve confirmed your address info.

Faragilus’ map will also be featured along with the top finalists, and he is welcome to re-submit an updated map at any time if he wishes to also compete for the grand prize. Because the competition is still on-going we won’t be featuring any winning map content until the May 31st closing date.

Good luck and have a great time making your maps!

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