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Why asteroids loom as future space frontier

Asteroid mining
In this artist’s conception, a mining spacecraft makes a rendezvous with an asteroid. (SpaceResources.lu)

It’s been 55 years since satellite communications became the first commercial space frontier, and space tourism is looming as the next frontier. But what comes after that? Would you believe in-space mining and manufacturing?

Those are the opportunities that came to the fore on July 29 when members of the Association of Professional Futurists gathered at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.

“The big change that I foresee is when we begin to live and work on the asteroids, using them as the resources for our civilization. … We are going to see a leap in productivity to create wealth and to allow us to do things without harming the Earth,” said Brian Tillotson, who is the systems technology chief engineer for Boeing Research and Technology and a Boeing senior technical fellow (as well as a science-fiction writer).

“It’s going to be much bigger than the industrial revolution, and this time it’s going to be good for the Earth, not bad for the Earth,” Tillotson said.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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