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Spectrographic analysis of the asteroids in Earth's solar system show that there's tons of mineral wealth just floating out there waiting for some daring Prospector with a rocket, a spacesuit, and a drill to go get it. Creators of Science Fiction thus came up with the image of the Belters (also known as Rock Rats, Rockskippers, and so on) as rugged, independent types who prefer the freedom of a one-man spaceship and a life of hard work to living under someone else's rules.

It should also be noted that asteroid mining is one of the things that make Alien Invasions somewhat inefficient. It's much easier to pull materials and resources from a low-gravity asteroid than the huge gravity well of a planet. Not to mention not having to deal with the indigenous population.

Stories that feature miners IN SPACE! draw a lot of inspiration from (and sometimes directly steal from) stories regarding the various gold and silver rushes of the 1800s.

Often they will end up processing their ore in a Mobile Factory.

Not to be confused with Space Mines.

Examples of Asteroid Miners include:


Anime & Manga

  • Mighty Space Miners, a hard-ish Science Fiction OVA.
  • The introdump sequence of the pilot of the Captain Harlock series Arcadia of My Youth (1982) shows a bunch of asteroid miners getting killed.
  • Asteroid mines (abandoned ones) appear in one episode of Cowboy Bebop. It goes without saying that humans probably worked in them at some point.


Comic Books

  • A Don Rosa Scrooge McDuck story, "Attack of the Hideous Space-Varmints", features an alien asteroid miner's hyperdrive beacon accidentally snatching Scrooge's money bin. When the Ducks go in hot pursuit, Scrooge, a veteran prospector himself makes friends with the Asteroid Miner patriarch.
  • There exists a version of Moby Dick In Space where the whales are asteroids, Moby Dick is a sentient comet, and Achab's harpoon is a ten-megaton nuclear warhead.


Film

  • The entire point of the setting for Outland is the mining of rare radioactives on Jupiter's moon, Io.
  • Moon takes place on a Lunar Helium-3 mining colony consisting of one man and a robot.
  • In Alien, the Nostromo is an ore carrier and processor returning to Earth with a full cargo.
  • Moon 44 takes place on an asteroid mining station whose miners are all convicted felons forced to work in the mines as part of their sentences.
  • Moon Zero Two revolves around a plot to crash an asteroid composed of sapphire into the Moon's surface so it can be more easily mined.
  • The crew of the Protector in Galaxy Quest go down to a planet to find a mining camp, and mistake small aliens for the miners.
  • The moon Nazis of Iron Sky have prepared for their return to earth by building spaceships and stocking Helium-3.


Literature

  • Edison's Conquest of Mars, a serial novel written in 1898 by Garrett P. Serviss, makes this trope Older Than Radio. In the story, a fleet of spaceships from Earth on its way to attack Mars halts at an asteroid that is being mined for gold by the Martians.
  • In Larry Niven's Known Space series, the Solar System is divided between the UN-dominated Earth and the Asteroid Belt, two competing super-powers whose rivalry might at any moment descend into a destructive war. It never does, because as different as their cultures are, and as much as they hate each other, Earth relies on the Belt for raw materials and the Belt relies on Earth for consumer goods and foodstuffs.
  • In Seetee Ship and Seetee Shock, both by Jack Williamson, the asteroid miners are the sole remaining champions of individual liberty in a solar system dominated by competing tyrannical nations.
  • Catch That Rabbit by Isaac Asimov features a lonely asteroid mining station as the location for an intractable robot mystery and tangle.
    • The Martian Way is about a colony of asteroid miners on Mars threatened by Straw Environmentalists putting an embargo on water exports from Earth. The miners hatch a plan to grab one of the ice fragments in Saturn's rings, which is only possible because they're psychologically tough enough to endure the long, isolated trip.
  • The Rolling Stones by Robert A. Heinlein features the titular family Stone traveling to the Asteroid Belt, where the twins of the family hope to sell food and luxury items to the miners extracting radioactive ores.
  • The Rogue, a short story by Poul Anderson, features a tense love affair between the owner of an asteroid mine and an officer in Earth's space navy.
    • In later stories by Poul Anderson, the various miners of the Asteroid Belt form the Asterite Republic after a full-scale Asterite War Of Independence against the Earth. (The story draws heavily from the US Revolutionary War.)
  • Murray Leinster's Miners in The Sky takes place in the ring system around Thotmess, a gas giant in another star system. The ring system is a completely lawless place where "claim jumping" is frequent. Miners, riding small "donkey ships", need to contend with both the harsh natural environment and with fierce human competitors.
  • In Jerry Pournelle's short story Tinker, the Asteroid Belt is dominated by a consortium of multiplanetary corporations. In a subversion of the genre, the corporations are the good guys and the rugged, individualistic asteroid miners are the bad guys.
  • Heavy Time by C. J. Cherryh. Mining of the asteroid belt of Earth's solar system is a critical part of the economy in the 24th century.
  • Gray Lensman, part of E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series. Kimball Kinnison goes undercover as asteroid miner Wild Bill Williams to infiltrate a Boskonian drug ring.
  • Wheelers by mathemetician Ian Stewart and biologist Jack Cohen. In a subversion of the usual 'hotheaded, crude roughneck' style of asteroid miners, all the asteroid mining here is done by monks. Neo-Zen monks. All the solitude, concentration and slowness of the work makes them uniquely suited to it.
  • Asteroid miners don't actually make an appearance in Ken MacLeod's Newton's Wake, but the folk duo play some of their work songs.

 We're the atomic blasters,

The dancing wi' disaster masters,

We're the solar mirror spinners,

Bringing home the steel.

  • In Sergey Suhinov's Shadows on Mercury, the heroes encounter this sort of miner in the Asteroid Belt. Each miner lives on his or her own asteroid, preferring isolation to companionship. They do, however, band together when the Big Bad threatens their way of life. Some of them even sacrifice themselves by putting their one-man craft between the heroes and the Big Bad's missiles.
  • In the Larklight Series by Phillip Reeve, steam punk asteroid miners are hard at work among the asteroids of various planets in our solar systems, complete with minecart tracks tying the asteroids together.
  • In Star Trek: A Time to..., this is how the Dokaalan race live, following their planet's Earthshattering Kaboom.


Live Action TV

  • The titular Red Dwarf is a mining ship carrying (and processing) ore on its way back to Earth. At least, that was the plan...
  • In the Battlestar Galactica episode "The Hand Of God", the Galactica and its fighters attack a Cylon tyllium mine located on an asteroid made almost completely of the stuff.
    • And in "Scar", the fleet mines asteroids for metal ores and radioactives vital to the fleet's continual survival.
  • Milo Clancey from the Doctor Who serial "The Space Pirates" is an asteroid miner.
  • Lexx's backstory combines this with Dug Too Deep.
  • Montgomery Scott mentions "working the cargo runs, bringing in supplies and taking out cargo" for Asteroid Miners in the Star Trek episode "Operation: Annihilate".


Machinima

  • "Shady" Slater is just settling into mining an asteroid when the "Phantom Fleet" is mobilised in Clear Skies 2.


Music

  • "Chiron Beta Prime" by Jonathan Coulton


Newspaper Comics

  • Beyond Mars, which ran from 1952 to 1955 in the New York Sunday News, featured asteroid miners as its heroes. Of course, the strip was written by Jack Williamson, who also wrote Seetee Ship and Seetee Shock, mentioned above.


Tabletop Games

  • In Warhammer 40000, the alien race called the Demiurg mostly live in massive Stronghold-class cityships, and tend to survive by asteroid mining. Quite fitting, as they are basically Dwarfs IN SPACE!
    • Ironically, they are replacements for the last Dwarves In Space, which were retconned and became the unmentionables.
  • The Star*Drive fluff mentions asteroid mining as a common (though dangerous) source of income, especially in frontier regions.
  • One of the career options in the sci-fi RPG Traveller is "Belter", their name for asteroid miner.
  • GURPS: Spaceships has a bunch of asteroid mining ships in the Industry book. Asteroid miners also show up in their Transhuman Space setting.
  • Present in Traveller . Glisten, one of the most important mining colonies in the traveller universe subverts the trope of the wild frontier asteroids, being a cultured and civilized place and the home of important grandees. Several other belts play this straight.
  • Asteroid mining, especially valuable ice asteroids, is one of the primary industries in orbit over Rifts Earth.


Toys


Video Games

  • In the first expansion to Galactic Civilizations II, asteroid mining ships could build and upgrade mining bases in your systems' asteroid belts, boosting production on nearby worlds. Those damn Space Pirates loooove them.
  • The Space Game is an RTS about mining mineral-rich asteroids and defending your claim from absurdly well-armed pirates.
    • If you replace "pirates" with "aliens", Space Station: Frontier is this for iOS devices. It may not be free, but it has more options. And better graphics.
  • A viable, but boring career path in Eve Online.
    • At least until one of the Space Pirates shows up to ruin your day.
  • Lego Rock Raiders, and the sets it's based on, features a team of miners who are on their way home from another planet when their ship gets hit by an asteroid and sucked into a wormhole to another galaxy. They then have to mine a nearby Death World for Energy Crystals to power their ship and get home. It's essentially a fun Troperiffic take on the whole Asteroid Miners concept, with some Space Western elements thrown in.
  • Also featured in Freelancer, where it's not quite so boring.
  • Homeworld had you doing this as well.
  • Red Faction features a cousin of this trope - Mars Miners.
  • Orbiter has the Jupiter Mining Company in some of it's Twenty Minutes Into the Future scenarios.
  • A large amount of the 'ore' collected in Conquest Frontier Wars comes from asteroids, you can also mine stars for gas.
  • Elite
  • The X-Universe series has mining elements, mostly consisting of breaking up asteroids with lasers and then collecting the results. Until X3: Albion Prelude, if the mining was done remotely, from another sector, it lead to an infinitely respawning supply. Placing a mining station on the asteroid is more expensive, but is safer, requires less management, and makes more money in the long run.
  • Mentioned in the Codex of Mass Effect.
    • In Mass Effect 1, almost every single star system containing an asteroid belt, has at least one asteroid that you can scan, for easy money and XP. Just put the redicle over it, and press one button...
    • Omega from Mass Effect 2 is an entire city built within the hollowed out remains of a mined-out asteroid.
  • In Escape Velocity Nova, you could mine asteroids for water, metal and opals.
  • Asteroid Miners in the Space Empires games take the form of automated robots.
  • Oovo IV in Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer is a penal asteroid mining colony.
  • In peculiar example, the Planetoids map generator for Minecraft creates asteroid-like floating masses which many people usually mine hollow and string minecart tracks between.
  • In Space Rangers, the player can "mine" asteroids by blowing them open with specialized lasers (normal weapons tend to vaporize most of the minerals).
  • About half the asteroid belts in Infinite Space contain mineral-rich asteroids that can be mined for relatively small amounts of money (equivalent to one to four random encounters).
  • Star Ruler allows you to build ships to do this. With the right tech, you can include systems for refining, export and ship construction, creating an independent factory craft.
  • The Perils of Akumos: You're on a space station orbiting a series of asteroids. You meet many miners, some injured.
  • Wing Commander: Privateer features mining asteroids as one of the basic locations you can visit. Abandoned ones also act as Space Pirate bases, several of them being relevant to the plot.
  • You can do this in Battlestar Galactica Online and it is a Boring but Practical way of gaining exp. You can also call in mining ships to handle large planetoids, which give better payoff but force a Protection Mission on you.


Webcomics

  • In Sluggy Freelance the Punyverse uses asteroid mining as a common punishment for criminals.
  • In Speak No Evil: Melancholy of a Space Mexican cheap labor is sent to asteroids and planets for mining.
  • Most Belters in Escape from Terra, though Ceres and a few other asteroids are developed enough to support populations with different professions. Also the source of the mineral wealth that the United World is desperate to get their hands on.


Web Orignal

  • Artemis Neo - The asteroid mining town of West Haven, New Vancouver, Cascadia on the moon Neo Luna II.
  • The original purpose of Cielo in Nexus Gate.


Real Life

  • As of April 2012, there's at least one company out there, called Planetary Resources, that has as its long-term goal the creation of automated mining operations on Near-Earth asteroids. They figure they'll find anything from water, to rare earths to platinum and gold out there, and expect profit returns within 10 years.
    • It probably seems like an insanely risky venture that requires enormous initial investment. It is. Among the company's founders you have James Cameron and Larry Page.
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