Lunar Polar and Asteroid Mining Business Realities
When people first hear about lunar polar and asteroid mining as a business, it raises many questions.
The PERMANENT founder and Director will give you his opinion on the lunar polar and asteroid mining business.
Answer #1: Is Lunar Polar and Asteroid Mining Profitable?
Yes, there are many ways that lunar polar and asteroid mining can be greatly profitable. This includes by space industrialization and colonization. However, the numbers are vague and there is a great deal of uncertainty. Who would invest in this, and why, is question #3 which we will get to in a moment. First, a very brief background.
There are a variety of business plans as covered in our large section on products and services, as well as tourism and condos, from lunar polar and near Earth asteroid missions. We must link up the various businesses and expand into a "space economy" and tie all these together.
One thing is for sure: government colonization of space would be far too slow, expensive, and too territorial and dysfunctional. We must do this flexibly and responsively via the private sector.
Answer #2: By what business plan?
There are a variety out there as touched upon in our Business Plans section. PERMANENT tries to suggest how they can link together into a space economy, and invite and help additional people to come up with their own business plans, by discussing potential revenue streams and the open literature.
(However, PERMANENT stays quiet about specific plans with which it has confidentiality agreements or judges on its own that it's best to keep those secret.)
Answer #3: Who would invest in this, and why?
This is, in my opinion, the most important question.
Many space resources advocates have tried to come up with business plans which mainstream investors would buy into simply to make money. This, in my opinion, is not feasible. The world is full of alternative investments which give much quicker payback at a lot less risk.
I believe that it is a waste of time, effort, and money to try to put together business plans for the big world of mainstream investors, as the vast majority of investors simply want to make money and don't care enough about the rest of the world and universe beyond themself to put out money on lunar polar and asteroid mining, which simply cannot compete with the big world of much quicker and lower risk investments.
It's my opinion that the first investors into lunar polar and asteroid mining will have other motivations, and not be interested only in money.
Indeed, this has been the case to date. Initial investors have mostly come from a background in being fascinated by turning science fiction into reality. Some have a sincere humanistic commitment, but those seem to be a minority at this time, or else have humanistic interests secondary to personal fascination, even wanting to go to space themselves as a driving force, one of the purely selfish motives.
Nonetheless, profitability and sustainability are very important, whereby investments, whether for profit or not at this stage, should be practical and yield results cost effectively, if not profitably at this stage.
At some point, when lunar polar and asteroid mining assets are established, they will become highly valuable to some speculators. Not most, but a significant number of them, based on either ego or the usual stock market gamblers. When it comes to candidate investors, I urge people to not just sell out to the highest bidders to offer to buy up your assets, projects or organization, but instead choose humanistic investors who will take profits from developing space resources and plug them back into space development, not just flip and siphon off profits and then invest them back into old style Earth investments such as oil and gas drilling or luxury resorts on the seaside. There is surely some quick money to be siphoned out by flipping space investments or tapping them for purposes other than a commitment to human colonization of space.
The time will come when lunar polar and asteroid mining will attract mainstream investors, but that is well down the road of development, long after the early adopters have pitched in. Of course, all this assumes that the human race does not destroy itself first with biotechnology and become extinct, or cause worldwide economic collapse and a reversion to feudal lords and the such...
4. Who would work on this, and why?
There are countless non-space jobs which are better paying, much easier, and far more secure. The key people who work on space resources startups will mostly be in it because either it's more interesting to them personally or else have a humanistic commitment, which override desires for maximum materialistic comforts and/or social status. From experience, the former kind of person has far outweighed the latter (in walking the walk, not just talking the talk). In either case, the early workers are willing to make financial sacrifices and take on personal risks.
People who take on space resources jobs mainly for the money and benefits (because they are better paying than alternative jobs) are not people I would hire. There are various problems with these kinds of people, including:
I have a lot of confidence in peoples' abilities if they focus and commit to something. When you love what you do, you can amaze yourself with accomplishments over time. I can tell you from personal experience, as well as watching other relatively unskilled people surpass experts in their own field in performance.
However, if somebody sends in their impressive-on-paper CV and says something essentially like "please hire me if you get enough money to give me a better offer than my current job", those go into the trash without a second thought.
When the money comes in, our initial business team comes from our volunteer base which has a good track record.
In all of the above, it comes down to 3 potential motivations:
1. Make money.
These possible investors and proven contract workers have the least interest and are the most transient, except for government contractors and others whose personal value gets locked into their field by their work experience and contacts network, though the latter mainly just keep an eye on space resources as one of many possible future employers.
2. Science fiction and technology enthusiasts.
From experience within the space community, most of these people move on after dabbling for awhile, but a small percentage of hard core enthusiasts persevere with their vision for a very long time. These people tend to have a lot of technical skills and other options in the world. The big risk with these people is that they turn out to be time wasters -- know enough to talk the talk and eventually make promises, but when it comes time to walk the walk, they can easily mouse away to something new and different.
3. Humanistic people.
From experience in various fields outside of the space community, these people are the most reliable and stable, willing to persevere through financially difficult times, maintain a thick skin to the egos and conflicts which arise in any community by human nature, and do what needs to be done instead of making excuses. Humanistic people are sometimes lower skilled but can find practical things to do and are often more willing to learn and develop new skills as required to succeed in their greater endeavor, and really take responsibility.
When the time comes that a space resources business takes off, then people in category 3 are generally given the most trust and responsibility, followed by people in category 2. However, people who have a high rating in more than one category, such as 3 and 1, can get the most power.