As a science fiction and futurism buff, I can only get excited at the prospect of Asteroid Mining. Not because of their plan to mine things like platinum, which is appealing enough. I like the idea because if they manage to make asteroid mining profitable, space will open up quickly and dramatically.
A major barrier to space exploration has always been cost and risk. Government agencies like NASA have been seriously constrained by the confluence of these two issues – as you reduce risk you increase cost. A zero risk effort is monstrously expensive, and NASA has been (somewhat rightly) shy of risking humans in risky ventures. Fair enough – if they lost a Mars mission full of astronauts, they would likely have to shut their doors and Mars exploration would be pushed back a generation or two.
But commercial ventures have different risk/cost ratios. If a corporation like Planetary Resources loses a robot mining craft, or even loses everything, others can and will learn from their mistakes. They can still reduce risk, but they are not required to eliminate it altogether in the way that government entities must.
This makes me very optimistic. I don’t have an attachment to any particular entity or type of organization reaching space, and I think that viable space commercialization and (possibly) colonization will be enough of a singularity that it is impossible to predict the outcomes as they apply down here on earth. But what I am enthusiastically in support of is humans expanding into space, as soon as possible.
We are an adaptable species, but we are also at our best when we have significant challenges. Space exploration is a much more interesting and exciting challenge than many of the dystopian futures current SF seems obsessed with.
Via GFR and many others.