From Luxembourg to the asteroids

An odd duo of concepts in the same sentence caught my attention a couple of days ago.

The small country of Luxembourg (sandwiched between France, Belgium and Germany) has announced it intends to partner with just about anyone in the fledgling field of asteroid mining.

Now you can be forgiven if you are really ancient for remembering Luxembourg as nothing more than a radio station people in the UK used to listen to before BBC Radio 1 to BBC Radio 1,000,000 came along.

Delving a little deeper we find Luxembourg entered history under my old mates the Romans. What did the Romans ever do for them? Well, built some nice baths for a start.

After much to-ing and fro-ing it somehow emerged from the Middle Ages as a small and independent Grand Duchy. Now isn’t that a splendid title?

The Nazis wiped it from the map for a few years in World War 2. Now its greatest claim to fame is being home to various European Union organisations and who knows if that’s going to last?  I hope it does.

On a personal note I spent one day in Luxembourg on business in about 1978 so I feel a deep spiritual connection there.

And now the Luxembourgers want to mine the asteroids.

Well good on them! We are running out of precious minerals needed in all kinds of technologies. These being heavy metals mostly sunk down onto the molten core of the Earth over four billion years ago and are beyond our reach. It’s only the tiniest fraction in the top few kilometres of the crust we can ever mine. On the millions of asteroids they are much closer to the surface. Over the next fifty years the cost of utilising these resources will drop while the dwindling amounts left on earth will make the price rise. There’s also lots of ice out there that could make hydrogen for fuel and oxygen as well. There are a couple of American companies already making plans to get out there and do it with robotic spacecraft.

Of course the venture is highly speculative but full marks to Luxembourg for its long-sighted vision.

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