Tales from the Edict 27 - Political Backing
Updated: Apr 30, 2021
From the start of the twenty-first century, space start-ups had been able to raise significant funds to back a dream of opening space travel for commercial gain. In the 2010s that became a reality as long-term investment poured into the sector at the same time the US administration began to loosen the control NASA held over the federal expenditure. Cost effective and proven, companies like SpaceX began to win small contracts away from the big established NASA contractors. By the 2020s it was clear that NASA procurement was undergoing a massive displacement as the performance gap between the old guard and new upstarts grew to be too big not to notice. Over the course of the next 20 years the whole trajectory of NASA moved to free market tendering and open sourcing for everything from launches to space recovery. The cost benefits of outsourcing were as attractive as the new approach to delivering an optimised product solution. In short, the space sector had undergone a revolution.
With the economic depression in 2030 came tightening of fiscal policy that even the most successful private companies felt. New savings had to be made, greater efficiency sought in every action, launch and delivery. But the science of discovery in space continued, as most of the budgets were already hardwired into the system and mostly paid for long before launch. So even as labour was laid off in traditional sectors, new skills and learning were in demand for the space focused industries.
In 2029 gold peaked at a record US$ 5245 per troy ounce, easily eclipsing the previous real term high of January 1980. At that price, a ton of gold was worth $169m. Coincidentally, in late 2029 LOPEC made a startling announcement. Their remote sensing orbiter Venture, in route to Saturn, had made a flyby analysis of several metal asteroids as Venture passed through the Asteroid Belt. One of the smaller asteroids (precise details were not revealed) was found to be 64.5% gold with substantial quartz and silver content. The estimated weight of the asteroid was put at 45 metric tons. Recovery would yield US$4.9Bn. This discovery acted as a catalyst to revaluing the potential of off-world resource recovery, estimated in 2016 to be worth US$100 trillion for just 700 known asteroids, not including the latest discovery which was too small to be noticed back then. And since the price of gold was expected to stay high long into the global recovery, immediate new investment was forthcoming despite the economic woes being felt.
Governments too began to take a lot of interest in asteroid mining. Whatever the future price of gold may be, the need to maintain the public’s confidence in the fiscal system was paramount. Privately, governments around the globe entered three-way discussions with national space agencies and leading companies who were thought capable of undertaking such a mission. It was only a matter of time before this edged towards national policy and a new space race. Who would unlock the riches of space first and in doing so, stabilize their economic position?