aka: Asteroid Miner
"Yes, there's no safer occupation than mining. Especially when you're perched on a snowball whipping through space at a million miles an hour!"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. Can be difficult if they work in an Asteroid Thicket. Not to be confused with Space Mines or Spice Mines.
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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.
- Not to mention that the first episode takes place on a colonized asteroid, Tijuana, which is almost certainly a mining enterprise, at least originally.
- The asteroid Axis in Gundam was originally a large mining complex, before the remnants of Zeon moved there and repurposed it as a colony. Other Gundam series will often have large groups of asteroids moved into high Earth orbit (usually in the Lagrange Points) to be used for raw materials in space construction.
- 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.
- 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.
- Spacely's Orbiting Ore Asteroid from Jetsons: The Movie. The plant is fully automated, so there aren't actual miners, however.
- The 1954 film Riders to the Stars isn't a strict example but worthy of note — several one-man rockets are sent up in an attempt to get a meteor sample before it enters the Earth's atmosphere.
- Older than Television: Edison's Conquest of Mars, a serial novel written in 1898 by Garrett P. Serviss. 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 Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
- Melisa Michaels' Skyrider series is set in a time of growing tension between the independent asteroid miners and the Earth-based companies they work for or with.
- John Varley's The Ophiuchi Hotline features Oort-cloud miners in the outermost regions of the solar system, looking for micro-black holes.
- Acorna is adopted by three asteroid miners when they rescue her escape pod. As she grows up she gets them involved in other adventures, and they eventually decide to split up and settle down to other jobs (and get wives).
- Asteroid miners near Ithor in Galaxy of Fear dig too deep and find Spore. This isn't just an Asteroid Thicket, it has giant space slugs, too.
- The antihero of Ben Bova's Venus is a former asteroid miner who lost his wife and his livelihood to the story's Big Bad.
- Frederik Pohl's Mining The Oort featured a variation, with a young man from Mars training to become an Oort Cloud miner. In this case, the miners rig chunks of ice with rocket engines and send them towards the inner solar system where they can be steered towards Mars as part of a long-term terraforming operation. The book's central conflict is due to a plot to use one of these ice chunks for a Colony Drop.
- Orson Scott Card's Earth Unaware focuses on a Venezuelan clan of free miners whose ship El Cavador ("the digger" in Spanish) travels through the Kuiper Belt, looking for large enough asteroids to mine. Whenever one is found, the miners use the ship's laser drill to reach valuable pockets, extract them, and load them into unmanned "quickships", which are then sent to the Moon for processing. They are a fairly small clan with a single ship and constantly try to survive in the outskirts of the Solar System, trading with other free miner clans, fighting off Space Pirates, and avoiding mining ships run by Mega Corps. As it happens, El Cavador is the first ship to detect the arrival of the Formics. During the invasion, asteroid miners (both free and corporate) play a key role in thwarting the Formics, since this is prior to the creation of the Space Navy, and miners are the only ones with any experience in space combat.
- In The Pride Of Parahumans, parahumans were made to mine asteroids when baseline humans wouldn't sign the legal waivers. After they obtained human rights and became independent many parahumans still pursue that profession. Protagonists Argentum, Aniya, Cole, and Denal are freelance prospectors at the start of the novel.
- In The Mote In Gods Eye, the first (live) Motie the humans encounter is an asteroid miner who detects the huge amount of metal in their ships and comes to meet them. They can't communicate with the alien but one officer sees that his ship is an asteroid miner's ship and makes the connection.
Live Action TV
- The eponymous Red Dwarf is a mining ship carrying (and processing) ore on its way back to Earth. At least, that was the plan...
- Battlestar Galactica (2003)
- In "The Hand Of God", the Galactica and her 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: The Original Series episode "Operation: Annihilate".
- Babylon 5
- The second half of the Nova episode "Asteroid: Doomsday or Payday?" talks about the possibility of snagging and mining near-Earth asteroids.
- "Shady" Slater is just settling into mining an asteroid when the "Phantom Fleet" is mobilised in Clear Skies 2.
- "Chiron Beta Prime" by Jonathan Coulton
- 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.
- In Warhammer 40,000, 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!
- 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 Tabletop RPG Traveller is "Belter", their name for asteroid miner.
- 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.
- GURPS: Spaceships has a bunch of asteroid mining ships in the Industry book. Asteroid miners also show up in their Transhuman Space setting.
- Asteroid mining, especially valuable ice asteroids, is one of the primary industries in orbit over Rifts Earth.
- In Eclipse Phase mineral claims in the belt are a constant point of contention between the Planetary Consortium and the Autonomists, and between Autonomist factions (anarcho-capitalists, capital-A Anarchists, Titan...)
- Dwarven rockships in Spelljammer. Their forges double as the settled asteroid's magical propulsion system.
- In Rocket Age the asteroid belt is being mined by both independent operators and 5th Orbit Excavations, with 5OX often pushing independents off their dig sites.
- 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. (Newbies are often encouraged by veterans to do anything other than take up asteroid mining. On the other hand, there's no other reliable source for the tritanium that forms the backbone of the game's player-driven economy.)
- 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. The Somtaaw in Cataclysm start out as just a mining kiith.
- 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 nebulae for gas. You can get both ore and gas from refineries on planets, but if you're not sending out mining ships to hit the asteroid fields and nebulae as well, you're going to get outbuilt by the guy who does.
- 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.
- There are four wares that can be extracted from Asteroids: Ore, Silicon, Ice, and Nividium. Since Ore and Silicon are required to produce Techs, every player-friendly race sells Mines for them; Ice is only used by Terrans to obtain Water, so they are the only ones who sell the "Ice Harvesting Facility"; lastly, Nividium is the most valued mineral, but the places where you can sell (at only 2 units at a time!) can be counted on the fingers of your hands, not to mention that there aren't any Mines for it.
- 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... to claim it for the Alliance and mark its location for others to mine. You're a soldier, after all, not a miner.
- Omega from Mass Effect 2 is an entire city built within the hollowed out remains of a mined-out asteroid. The asteroid was originally a huge chuck of extremely valuable element zero, and as more miners showed up to take it apart, the city grew and the asteroid shrank. When the eezo finally ran out, the city was abandoned to the massive black market and underworld presence that had built up around the mostly-unpoliced city.
- In the third game's Leviathan DLC, one of the places you visit is an asteroid-mining colony where something strange has happened to the population...
- 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 I: 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.
- A common feature in Space Pirates and Zombies. Around one third of the visitable solar systems are classed as "mining" and generally when you get their the Civ-base is cracking open asteroids to get the 126th element Rez. The player can also crack open asteroids to get Rez just on a smaller scale. Also one the large hulled ships is a refitted asteroid cracker.
- You can find remains of these kinds of operations in FTL: Faster Than Light, and one random event can allow you to do it yourself.
- Star Trek Online has a once-a-day minigame in which you grab a spacesuit and bounce out onto an asteroid to do your own dilithium mining. Both the ore and the refined mineral are then used as one of the game's many currencies.
- In Ten Minute Space Strategy, asteroid fields that appear randomly on the map can be occupied with a fleet of fighters to boost your empire's speed of spacecraft production and facility building.
- Essentially, the entire premise of Alpha Prime. The Company has people mining an asteroid known as Alpha Prime for hubbardium, and you are heading there to rescue your prospector friend.
- rymdkapsel has "debris fields" you build extractors next to, to mine minerals.
- There are two ways you can do this in Starbound. The first is to build a pillar (or use techs) to go past your planet's atmosphere, where you can find asteroids floating about. The second is to visit an Asteroid Biome. One advantage of this is that it's very easy to see where all the ores and minerals are, making it easy to mine compared to spelunking. Several disadvantages are that the ores are mostly embedded in meteor rock (or worse, magma rock) that makes it very slow to mine, the second is not only do you need a survival pack in order to breath (which you don't get until you get access to the Delta Sector in which you're working with durasteel), but also clothes/armor that provide enough warmth because, well, Space Is Cold (unless you want to be silly and bring a campfire/nanostove to keep you warm).
- In Meteos, Mekks was originally one of these. After the original owners left, however, the worker robots gained sentience and created its own peaceful civilization. (The game calls it a planet, but it's really about the size of the dwarf planet Ceres.)
- The Elite series features asteroids that can be blown apart with a special (and otherwise largely useless) Mining Laser into fragments that can be scooped into the cargo bay and sold. A third party add-on for Oolite adds a ship accessory (which Elite: Dangerous also has) that turns your ship into a Mobile Factory of sorts, giving a small chance of extracting higher-value cargo from the fragments. It's a low-risk, low-reward and generally Boring but Practical way of grinding for cash.
- In Millennium Return To Earth, you can build and send out Grazer-class mining ships to prospect and mine the Asteroid Belt. Once sent, the Grazers automatically go back and forth between the Moon and the Belt for 5 runs, after which they ask for new instructions. Occasionally, they will come across a particularly valuable asteroid and ask if they should mine it. If you don't reply quickly, the Grazer will move on.
- While not a clear example, in Alien Legacy, you can build colonies on asteroids of both belts in the Beta Caeli system. Since making a colony self-sufficient involves building factories and having them perform mining operations, this may fit the trope. However, the asteroids in question are large enough to support at least one full-fledged colony.
- In Sword of the Stars (with expansions), you can build refinery ships that, besides refueling your fleet, can replenish their supplies by mining the asteroids in the system, if they are present. However, you should be wary of any possible Morrigi asteroid traps. A triggered trap creates a strong gravity field that pulls the ships to it, as well as any surrounding asteroids, to destroy the offenders.
- This is roughly a third of the point of playing Space Engineers, the other two parts being obtaining the same materials through piracy, and constructing ships from the gained materials.
- Sinistar has the player and enemy ships fighting over crystals extracted from "planetoids."
- 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.
- 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.
- Whateley Universe: in "Tennyo's Easter", the first problem Tennyo hits in space is asteroid miners: an abandoned mine full of pirates trying to operate the equipment to steal more ore, while being attacked by a different gang of pirates.
- An episode of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius consisted of Jimmy and his friends going out to an asteroid to find "space rubies" and keeping their find away from thieves.
- 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.
- As of January 2013 there is also Deep Space Industries which is out to mine asteroids. They also are planning on deep space manufacturing and refueling using these asteroids if things go well enough.