Book Review: Asteroid Mining 101 by John S. Lewis

asteroid mining, space exploration, new frontier, John S Lewis, science

I can’t believe it’s already October. It’s almost the end of the year – and almost the end of my 2016 science reads resolution! I’ll be sad when it’s over. I’ve been really enjoying my monthly science reads – they’ve opened up a whole new world of knowledge and ideas to me, and I’m glad I pushed myself to do this.

But more on that later. Now it’s onto my review of September’s 2016 science read!

For September, I decided to read John S. Lewis’s Asteroid Mining 101, mainly because I wanted to find out a little bit more about the subject. 

Now I really hate saying this, but if you were to ask me if I had any disappointments in my choice of books for my 2016 science reads, I’d probably say Asteroid Mining 101 was it.

In this book, Lewis takes a look at the topic of asteroid mining and its future possibilities. He offers a pretty decent basic explanation of asteroids, meteors and meteorites are, their composition and the categories they are grouped in. He also talks about the possibility of mining NEAs (Near Earth Asteroids), the resources they could yield up to humans, and the challenges and viabilities of space

So far, so good. However, I couldn’t help wishing for more. Asteroid Mining 101 is a pretty fast read, and I felt Lewis could have elaborated further on the subject. It’s true that he is hampered by the fact that asteroid mining is still a fairly new subject and a lot of it, as it stands, currently revolves around speculation on what could be. However, there is a fair buzz going around the topic right now and I felt Lewis could have expanded further, perhaps interviewed companies like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries and folks at NASA about the current research into asteroid mining and what new technologies are being developed. What kind of spaceships would be used, for example, and what sort of technologies could be used to mine asteroid resources? Lewis touches on this a little, but I felt there was a lot more he failed to explore. I felt I got a lot more out of the possibilities of asteroid mining from scifi fiction speculation (which are more often than not based on ongoing space exploration research) than I did from this book.

I think part of the problem is that Lewis is a university professor of planetary science and in consequence his book does read like a rather dry textbook or a set of lecture notes. I think it would have been far better if he had collaborated with a journalist or another writer to create a more interesting and comprehensive book. Though I did come away from the book with some new  ideas, as well as a greater understanding of asteroids, I can’t help feeling that much of what is in the book can just as easily be garnered elsewhere – say, on the Internet – and told in a far more entertaining and easily comprehended fashion than Lewis did.

To sum up, Asteroid Mining 101 is a nice little basic book on asteroid mining, but it has left me with a distinctive feeling that it could have been so much more.


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