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You are here: > News > April 23, 2012

Stott Space: Asteroid Mining Tech is 30 Years Old

The fear of the "oops" misdirection of trying to bring an asteroid into orbit around the Earth to mine it, needs to be superseded by the realization of the benefits of knowing how to steer asteroids to prevent natural(?) collision events.

Artist concept from

by Sterling D. Allan
Pure Energy Systems News

In my live interview with Isaac and Chad Stott of on Friday, the point that stood out most poignantly to me was that the technology to get up into space, grab an asteroid, bring it safely into orbit where it can be mined, has been around for three decades. "What has been lacking has been the balls to do it", said Isaac.

When they brought up that point, I thought of an analogy.

A few years ago, my parents had two horses that ate through all three boards on their coral in one place where they liked to chew on them. They could have walked right through. Gratefully they didn't. They just stood there as if the barrier was still there, not realizing they had eaten their way to freedom. It was the funniest thing to see them standing there as if the corral was still just as firm as ever.

How much like those horses is humankind?

Another analogy is with circus elephants. They grow up with their legs chained to a restraint, which they are unable to resist when young. By the time they are full grown, they could easily tear the thing away, but they don't because now the barrier is in their mind.

In the case of procuring and mining asteroid it's not that cost is a barrier, because the amount of money to be made from mining the asteroids could recoup the capital cost, which would be in the range of a billion dollars to get the operation going. 

Isn't it about time we stopped strip mining, considering that we can get the same things from space?

And not everything needs to be brought down to earth. It can be use to build space stations to help us create living quarters and launch pads for further exploration -- such as a way station to Mars and elsewhere.

One of the first concerns that usually comes to mind in contemplating asteroid capture and retrieval, is: "What if you mess up and redirect an asteroid that would have missed us to now hit us? Oops."

There are two key points to be made in response to that. First, when commencing the practice, they would first tackle smaller asteroids, to fine tune the technique. Second, the smaller asteroids would burn up upon entry into Earth's atmosphere.

Don't you think it's about time that humans began learning how to deflect asteroids? It seems that skill would come in handy if a major asteroid came along in a collision course that we didn't want hitting us. Dinosaurs became extinct because they lacked such a capability. There was an excellent discussion about this on Coast to Coast AM on March 7, 2012.

The Stott brothers are hoping to interest Apple Computers in getting behind their initiative, to set up a friendly competition between Apple and Google to see who can be the first to successfully bring an asteroid into orbit. Last week, CNET had a story about Google's involvement in such an endeavor. "Mysterious company backed by film director James Cameron and Google's Larry Page and Eric Schmidt promises to 'create a new industry' that will overlay space exploration and natural resources."

Check out all the images of asteroid mining doing a Google search on that term.

Here are some points to ponder regarding such an undertaking:

  • There are around a thousand known candidate asteroids to choose from that have been discovered in this decade.
  • Scientists are able to tell what the general composition of an asteroid is. There are three general classifications:
    • M-Type, metallic, such as platinum group metals, cobalt, rare earth metals
    • C-Type, carbon-based, including water and oxygen
    • S-Type, stony type, silicates, nickel, iron, magnesium
  • The mining operations that would make the most sense for bringing down to earth would be expensive minerals such as the rare earths.
  • At first, the size of asteroid sought would be in the region of 20-50 M -- about the size of the International Space Station. Such an asteroid could be worth several billion in the mining resources it would have. 
  • The cost to launch is around $2,000 / kg.
  • Once an asteroid is in orbit, it could be sold to a separate company for mining.
  • The asteroid harnessing task would not be a manned mission.
  • The asteroid mining industry is sure to create some interesting international regulations dialogue, covering everything from the claiming of an asteroid, to the methods of bringing it into orbit, to the proper disposal of tailings.
  • Asteroids would typically have everything needed to sustain life: water, oxygen, hydrogen, fuel.
  • The Asteroid-mining business has room for many players. Like other industries, it can benefit from competition.
  • In space, everything is valuable, so the issue of tailings will be minimal.

As for Stott Space, I have several observations.

First, the best thing they have going for them is vision and drive -- two factors which are crucial to the success of any company. These factors can help fill in for inadequacies by finding ways to solve whatever problems arise. And that is something the Stott brothers (includes uncles) know how to do from their experience as ranchers in Montana, where you have to learn how to make due with what is available.

It's obvious that they are not yet fully ready to take on an endeavor of this magnitude, but they are taking on the task with high optimism.

"We want the world to know that this is going to happen, this decade, by us or someone else."

One of the best things in their quiver is having Bruce Cutright from the University of Texas on their board of advisors. He has written an excellent primer about asteroid mining: "The Near Earth Asteroids as the First Step on the Way to Mars" (pdf).

I'm sure that others have discussed this before (though I've never encountered it), but one thing that seems obvious to me as to the origin of most asteroids, upon looking at the location of the "asteroid belt", is that there used to be a planet between Mars and Jupiter that at some point either exploded or was impacted and blown to smithereens, throwing debris in all directions, which over time created the fairly uniformly-distributed asteroid belt. And I would guess that it was in the earlier stages of that debris flying around that resulted in the dinosaur extinction event; and that by now, most of the debris has broken into smaller pieces; so the primary task now is to just be able to deflect or harness those smaller pieces to keep them from obliterating cities. 

I wonder how big that planet was, and if it was inhabited by intelligent life similar to ours, and if that intelligent life was involved in the explosion event.

Check out this graphic from Cutright's document, showing the disbursement of known asteroids in January of 2010, with the same size dot, regardless of asteroid size, and not taking direction vector into consideration.

Whatever was the case in creating that asteroid belt, enough of it comes into Earth's vicinity that it behooves us to develop the skills needed to deflect those asteroids that could cause problems for us.

I wish the Stott brothers success in their endeavor. Likewise, I hope the Google group is successful as well. It's about time, don't you think?

Here's our interview:


The relevance to free energy here is that as some of these exotic modalities come into the marketplace, one possible application for them will be propulsion, as well as remote power that doesn't require a fuel supply, making such initiatives that much more feasible.


On April 27, 2012 8:33 PM MDT, Isaac Stott wrote:  (slightly edited) (In response to my sending him a link to an April 24 Popular Science article: Why Mining an Asteroid for Water and Precious Metals Isn't as Crazy as it Sounds)

Yeah, I knew this was gonna be a big media attraction, and I appreciate your efforts on helping us get onto the Smartscarecrow show. Since then we have had engineers and high caliber business strategists calibrating with us. We have a venture capital firm contact us and now TED talks could very be having us on there show with in a few weeks. Also we have a hot shot economist doing cost analysis and providing data and research as to why this is economically feasible. Stott Space is doing very well. 

Thank you for believing in us.

# # #


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Page composed by Sterling D. Allan
Last updated September 04, 2012




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