Even though I last wrote about the biggest war in the history of my universe, usually, it makes no sense to get into fights. Once you have an effective means of FTL travel, fighting over land and resources becomes largely pointless. Movies like Independence Day and Signs and all of that, where the aliens travel billions upon billions of miles for some water or minerals, that’s dumb, you can get all of that by strip mining asteroids, why bother with difficult to obtain resources on an inhabited planet with critters that fight back?
So this time we’ll take a look at mining and exploration in my universe and why, should we get some better space-based technology on our own planet, we need never worry about running out of precious resources again.
Once you have a decent interplanetary technology, you’re pretty much golden. Having a fusion-based drive is easy to fuel if your ship has a hydrogen scoop on the front end. You collect fuel as you fly, it comes in the front end, it gets processed and purified, then burned out the back end for thrust. There’s no need to carry fuel of your own, outside of a starter tank to get you moving.
In reality, we have two abundant mineral-rich resources in our own solar system, the asteroid belt and the Oort cloud. It’s somewhat risky to mine other planets, at least extensively, especially if they fall in the Goldilocks zone and you might want to terraform and inhabit them. Doing something nasty to an existing planet in your own solar system, such that you change the gravitational balance is probably not a good thing for your planet. Why not use the debris in your system that doesn’t affect anything else? Better yet, why not use the debris in another system altogether if you can?
Once we get beyond the borders of our own solar system though, the opportunities for mineral wealth are largely endless. Any star, whether it’s developed planets or not, is going to have huge rubble fields of detritus left over from the formation of the star. Swoop in, mine it and take the finished product back home. In fact, you don’t even need to mine it, you can drop automated factories on these asteroids and comets and let them do the work. We almost have that technology today in fact, it’s not much beyond what we do with planetary exploration robots. Drop off a factory, come back later for the results.
But what if you don’t want to use any star system? There’s still tons of planets to harvest! In fact, scientists think there are more rogue planets, planets that have been thrown out of their star systems and now float through the endless night, dead and cold, than there are regular planets. This might take a bit of searching but once you find one, you can mine to your heart’s content without worrying about causing damage to surrounding planets because there are no surrounding planets. These planets are perfect for automated mining facilities because, with no star to heat them, they are going to be far too cold for human (or alien) miners. Drop ’em off, let ’em work, pick up the end product and take it home. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Honestly, I get really tired of science fiction stories where starfaring empires are warring over mineral rights and raw materials. It makes no sense. In another 20-30 years, we’ll have no excuse to be doing it here on Earth. Certainly there will still be wars in the far-flung future, but they’ll be ideological, not mineralogical.
So, anything you want to see me write about in the future? Give me some ideas! I need help Building a Better World!