Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Ambitious Project To Harvest Gold From Asteroids

As we consume the Earth’s resources, scientists are looking further afield to the solar system with a privately funded space program which could be good news for mankind, but bad news for gold speculators…

Scientists are looking further afield to the solar system in the
quest to harvest valuable elements for the benefit of mankind.
Up until the current point in the history of space exploration, space missions to other bodies in the solar system have been primarily about investigation.  You could sum it by saying that the motivation thus far has been a curious need to scratch a scientific itch.  Of course this curiosity has often led to numerous benefits for society such as fire resistant materials, earthquake monitoring systems and Velcro, but up until now the benefits have been incidental rather than the primary goal of any space missions.

However, with the launch of the Project Xpansion space program, the brainchild of a group of scientists and private investors, the history books could be about to be rewritten.  As Sir Herbert Monaghan, chairman of the group explains, "The Project Xpansion space program aims to send spacecraft to specifically selected 'resource rich' asteroids as they orbit the Earth, and then via the use of robotic probes ‘harvest’ these asteroids of their valuable elements and precious metals."

As you might expect, given its high value, one of the primary elements the program will be aiming to harvest is gold, but other precious elements identified as harvestable from targeted asteroids include rhodium, osmium, palladium and a long list of other elements which, as Sir Herbert explains, "are becoming increasing sort after as new scientific developments and techniques are discovered which rely increasingly on scarce elements and precious metals."

However, it is the mention of gold which has ruffled the feathers of certain observers, most notably the precious metals and commodities trading group, Stebel Precious Metals Inc (SPMI), for reasons which as you’ll soon discover, many would suggest are motivated by self-interest.

The electromagnetic fingerprint of the APK-67100028
asteroid which, as it will be instantly apparent to any
scientists out there, tells the Project Xpansion team
of boffins that the asteroid is rich in gold deposits and
other precious elements which are ripe for harvesting.
(Image copyright of Project Xpansion.
Used with kind permission.)
The Project Xpansion co-ordinators have so far identified an initial seven asteroids as ripe for harvesting during the period 2015-2021, with a further nine missions tentatively pencilled in for the period 2022-2026.  If each of these missions and the program as a whole proves to be a total success then by the year 2026, Project Xpansion will have brought back to Earth almost ten thousand cubic metres of gold deposits* or to put it another way more than twice the current gold deposits so far discovered on Earth.

* It sounds a lot, and it is, but perhaps not quite as vast as it may sound.  In actual fact this only approximately equates to a cube 22 metres long on each side.

You can perhaps understand therefore why the Project Xpansion space mission has been met with concern and in some cases outright opposition from gold speculators around the world.  As mentioned, in particular Stebel Precious Metals Inc, have been very vocal in their opposition to the program.

Malcolm Stebel, the majority shareholder and present chairman of SPMI, lists a variety of reasons on the Stebel Precious Metals website why he feels the Project Xpansion space program is a risk and of negative value to society, but to give you a quick sample of his objections, here’s a brief quote taken from his statement on the Stebel Precious Metals Inc website:

“To the outside observer it may seem like our objections are based purely on self-interest, but there are in fact a wide range of legitimate worries and concerns which need to be thoroughly examined before a potentially dangerous program such as this gets the green light.  For example, who knows what harmful and perhaps even potentially life-threatening bacterium may be brought back to Earth from these asteroids.  The risks to mankind are simply too great.”

Given the obvious potential negative effect of the Project Xpansion space program on SPMI’s balance sheet, it’s inevitable that some people have questioned Malcolm Stebel and SPMI’s objectivity, no one more so than Sir Herbert Monaghan, the chairman of Project Xpansion who had this to say on the matter:

“It deeply saddens me that when reaching for the stars and striving to unlock potentially untold benefits for mankind, a few self-motivated individuals can only see the possible negative impact this could have on their own financial interests,” he bemoans.  “As we at Project Xpansion have stressed right since the very inception of the program, Project Xpansion is not about a group of pioneers trying to get rich.  This is about expanding our boundaries and exploring ways to obtain not just gold, but numerous other valuable elements which are becoming increasingly sort after in today’s scientific world. 

Experts predict the value of gold could plummet.
If mankind is to move forward and make use of the ever increasing number of scientific developments and discoveries which rely on elements of limited resources, then we have a duty to seek out ways of obtaining increased supplies of these beneficial elements.

And I would stress that our aims are not purely about gold, but that the Project Xpansion space program would strive to harvest targeted asteroids of a long list of elements of scientific benefit, such as rhodium, iridium and rhenium to name but a few.  Many of these elements have chemical and physical properties which make them extremely useful in a number of fields, including but not limited to, social, medical and energy efficiency fields of research.”

Whatever the legitimacy or otherwise of SPMI’s arguments, the first mission is pencilled in to take off on 29th October 2014 with the catchily named APK-67100028 asteroid being the first asteroid which the project would seek to harvest.  APK-67100028 has been identified as containing an estimated 12% of the total amount of gold currently discovered on Earth, although less than 20% of this figure would be accessible for harvest.  However, when all the other various valuable elements are factored in you can begin to see why, despite the estimated 1.5 billion* dollar start-up costs, the project would seem to be financially viable.

* The actual cost of the program has been shrouded in secrecy, so any published figures are no more than educated estimates.

I’m no stock market expert, but you don’t need to be a mathematician to know that if a commodity becomes more plentiful then its value will drop.  So when you consider that by the year 2026, the Project Xpansion space program could potentially have tripled the quantity of gold currently on Earth, you can understand why Stebel Precious Metals Inc are so worried and why some traders are already writing off gold as a long term investment.

In some ways it’s sad that such an exciting development for mankind has been overshadowed by arguments motivated by greed and financial implications, but whatever the objections, if all goes to plan then by October 2014 the Project Xpansion space program will become reality and the precious mineral resources available to mankind could in theory increase exponentially.

Scroll down the page for links to the Project Xpansion website and details on how to stay up-to-date with future developments in the Project Xpansion space program.

Please note, the Project Xpansion space program doesn't actually exist.  This story is not real and is entirely made up.

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