"We follow the scientists around and look over their shoulders."
Sooner or later, humanity will need to go into space for more raw materials. The asteroid 16 Psyche is believed to contain enough iron-nickel ore to supply our annual needs for iron for about the next million years (it contains 1.7 times ten to the nineteenth kilograms).
I don't know who first suggested the idea of mining the asteroids. The idea appears in science fiction by 1946, if not earlier, in Love Among the Robots by Emmett McDowell.
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