Seth Shostak has an article at HuffPost on asteroids. Not the usual we-need-to-prepare-for-incoming, but discussing something I’ve noted before that the space age needs: an economic incentive. As some of us have discussed, mining asteroids looks like it might be an excellent candidate.
These rocks are a resource. The fact that they’re in small chunks makes mining them as appealing as cat videos. And at least two companies are considering doing just that. The consequences could be mind-boggling. According to John Lewis, chief scientist for Deep Space Industries, if humanity can improve its recycling efforts, then ores smelted out of just the nearest asteroids will supply the needs of 80 billion of us until that distant day on which the sun dies.
That sure beats the slow and inevitable impoverishment that will be our fate if we confine mining to our own back yards (or preferably someone else’s back yard). The asteroids aren’t so much a renewable resource as an endless one.
Shostak also discusses the possibility of us living on asteroids, and on the rocks further out from the sun in the Kuiper belt and scattered disk.
The only issue with these far out locations is their distance from the sun and the inability to use solar energy. Shostak talks about Freeman Dyson’s idea of using mirrors near the sun to beam energy out to specific colonies. But that seems like it would quickly grow cumbersome with large numbers of such colonies. To be economically feasible, those outer colonies would probably eventually need to figure out a way to use the materials on hand to generate energy.
I suspect any such colonies would be “manned” by robots, or post-humans. Maintaining natural humans that far out from the sun would probably be too energetically expensive.