Scavengers in Space, by Alan E. Nourse
Four out of five stars
The recent shift from space exploration being restricted to the actions of national governments and generally operating at a loss to the involvement of commercial enterprises in search of profit has led to the main premise of this book now being plausible. Companies such as SpaceX are now regularly transporting payloads to the International Space Station and humanity is only a few years away from the advent of commercial space tourism. Articles are appearing in journals that follow the development of science and technology explaining the plans that some companies are developing to mine asteroids. That is the fundamental premise of this book.
The characters from which the title is taken are wildcatters that seek out asteroids in order to extract the mineral wealth that is locked in them. Much like the early days of mining on Earth, it is a very dangerous business with the potential for great wealth if a mother lode can be found.
Roger Hunter is a space miner that is operating alone out in the vastness of the asteroid belt. He is looking for a mineral strike and is being stalked by agents of an evil interplanetary corporation known as Jupiter Equilateral. The goal of the corporation is to take total control of all mining of asteroids, pushing out the United Nations, which currently has jurisdiction over the operations. There is a massive human presence on Mars, after years of being an expensive drain on Earth’s resources, the colony is now reaping profits, much of which is from the mining.
After Hunter’s death, his two sons Greg and Tom recruit Roger’s friend Johnny to take a ship and retrace Roger’s path in order to find what may have been his great discovery. With Jupiter Equilateral on their trail, this story is more one of the good lone entrepreneur adventurer class versus the greedy, ruthless corporation than it is science fiction. It turns out that Roger Hunter’s discovery is far greater than any return from an asteroid containing a mother lode could provide.
Given the commercial involvement in space with the potential for corporate greed, this story may prove to be a glimpse into the future in both the positive sense of human outreach and the negative sense of corporate greed and callousness following along.