Ten Things you didn’t know about Asteroid Mining

asteroid value

One of the best things about writing science fiction, is that if you pick an obscure enough occupation for your protagonists, nobody can tell you you got it wrong…

Asteroid mining, for example. There is a little knowlegde about asteroid mining using today’s technology. But… 800 or so years in the future….?

This first appeared on Blogging Authors as part of my tour last March.

10 Things You Might Not Know About Asteroid Mining

By Jemima Pett

1.    Asteroids are currently classed as stony, metal or chondrite. The chondrites are clay and silicate rocks, and are, generally speaking the oldest types of rock in the solar system. Stony types are silicate and nickel-iron; metallic are nickel-iron but with compositional differences related to how far from the Sun they were formed. 

image from universetoday.com 2009/08/infog-high-value-asteroids1

2.    Solar system metallic asteroids are generally up to 80% iron, and the rest a mixture of nickel, iridium, palladium, platinum, gold, magnesium, osmium, ruthenium, rhodium and possibly others.

3.    The Earth company Planetary Resources was set up in 2012 to mine asteroids in space, focusing on the platinum group of metals, but its assets were acquired in 2018. [article]

4.    In 2020 NASA awarded contracts to four companies to ‘extract small amounts of regolith’ (asteroid surface layer) by 2024 [article]

5.    A single 500-meter diameter platinum-rich asteroid can contain more platinum group metals than have been mined on Earth throughout history [citation].

6.    In the Viridian System, asteroids are similarly rich in the (fictitious) metallic element orichalcum.

7.    Orichalcum is used throughout the galaxy for instantaneous communications, regardless of distance. 

8.    Only three other systems are known to have orichalcum deposits, and none in great quantity.

9.    Orichalcum occurs in both large and small quantities in Viridian asteroids; as metal strips (seams or veins), as nuggets within other rocks (like geodes), and as fines (like gold panning).

10.  ‘Raw’ orichalcum has a propensity to draw electrical power from anything too close to it, making extraction a hazardous operation, and one which requires considerable ingenuity to develop the right tools and processes—in the near-vacuum of space.


If you’ve read the series, you probably know the last five items.

Next month: An interview with Maggie Ingleton

Moons of Exoplanets – real science

Could moons of exoplanets harbour life?  That is a question currently engaging scientists involved in exoplanet identification.

Earthsky.org, a wonderful news feed in need of annual funding, featured a post last month on 121 giant planets identified outside our solar system, whose moons might be habitable.  It’s a big ‘might’.

researchers at the University of California, Riverside and the University of Southern Queensland announced they’ve identified 121 giant exoplanets with orbits within the habitable zone – the zone within which liquid water can exist – of their stars. [earthsky.org]

Giant planets of the Solar System – Jupiter and Saturn – have given us the idea that life could exist under the ice of Titan and Europa.  The exoplanets these scientists have identified are themselves within the habitable zone of their star, so the possibility for any (so far unidentified) moons is fascinating.

What would life on these moons be like?

I’ve already started wondering that, since I’ve set Lars’s birthplace on a moon (called Ulric) of a giant planet.  It’s not necessary to the Viridian System series to know more detail about the effect of a giant ball of planet in the sky as well as a sun of unspecified size and luminosity (although I was thinking dimmer/more distant than ours.  It’s hard enough working out the moon configurations for Sunset Strip (it has two moons) without adding in the complication of a huge neighbour.

When I did a back-story for Lars, I assumed the red reflecting planet was pretty much always in the sky and provided most of their light.  As a result I gave Lars excellent night vision, which is something that I use int he story occasionally.  That he needs contacts for Pleasant Valley and Sunset Strip is a minor detail I haven’t bothered with.  Or maybe he has an eyelid adaptation so he can see in the bright sunshine of his native sun when it comes out from behind the red planet.

I did a brief introduction to the planet Ulric for and A to Z challenge one year. One day I’ll do some more work on this, but I’ll need my planetary science text books to hand when I do!

A part of Lars’ backstory set on Ulric is told in The Inspector Calls.

Some real life Hacking

wordfence logo

During the slow days that our heroes will have during Curved Space to Corsair, I set Lars hacking the Imperium database.

Hacking is not a subject I know much about. I’ve seen enough films involving it to make it up as I go along, and read one or two books that include hacking (one as a normal hobby for teens).  I know that programmers can set traps for hackers.  So Lars takes his chances with what he does.

But system security relies on hackers – or the hacking mentality, since many hackers see it as an intellectual challenge, and justify their activity to help companies sort themselves out.

I thought you might be interested in the hacking games that Wordfence, a security system for certain blog systems, held at their conference recently.  One of the winners was just 11 years old…

Hacked by an 11 Year Old

Scifi predicting the future

This interesting post was part of a round-up from Scifi and Scary, which is a really interesting blog that I recommend (I skip the scary bits).

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The Sci-Fi Zone: Science Fiction to Science Fact

Sometimes truth can be stranger than fiction. Sometimes the fiction of the past can influence technology of the future. So I’ve gathered up some examples of science fiction and fact. I’m sure at the time these new ideas, creations and technology were thought of as science fiction rather than items that would become the technology of today and commonly used. -Gk

1578 – 1605: Submarines in Fiction to Fact

1578: William Bourne designed one of the first prototype submarines. It was designed as a completely enclosed boat to be submerged by hand and rowed under water. There seemed to be little room for crew in the design.

1605: The first actual submersible built was created by Magnus Pegelius.

1726: Computers

The Engine in  Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift was a mechanical information generator. It is generally accepted as the first description of a machine that resembles a computer.

1877: Videophone

An early concept of a videophone and wide-screen television called a ‘telephonoscope’ was conceptualized in popular periodicals of the year.

1881-1888: Time Travel

1881:  The Clock That Went Backward by Edward Page Mitchell features a clock that takes people back in time. It is the first use in a story that features a machine for time travel.

1887: El Anacronopete by Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau predates H.G. Wells’ ‘The Chronic Argonauts’ by 1 year in the use of an actual time machine used to purposely move through time, rather than at random.

1888: The Chronic Argonauts – H.G. Wells – An inventor takes a companion in his time machine. The companion narrates the story of their subsequent adventures. The basis for The Time Machine, written when Wells was a student.

1907: Androids/Humanoid Mechanicals

First introduction of a humanoid mechanical man was Tik-Tok in Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Tik-Tok was powered by a trio of clockwork components that controlled his thinking, movement, and speech. None of which he could wind for himself.

1950: Black Holes

One of the first mentions of black holes in fiction occurs in   The Sword of Rhiannon by Leigh Brackett .

  1955: Laser-weapons

In his story, Earthlight, Arthur C. Clarke mentions a particle-beam weapon. They functioned by energy which would be delivered by high-velocity beams of matter. One of the first uses of a laser-like weapon in fiction.

1967: Hover Board

The first mention of a hover board ( a levitating board used for personal transportation) was first described by author M.K. Joseph in his story “The Hole in the Zero“.

To see the original post on Scifi and Scary, click here.