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Saturday, June 8, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Gems In Space -- Undreamed Treasures In A Passing Nugget

WHEN YOU wish upon a star, try to make it Asteroid 1986 DA. This little gem in the sky, now just 20 million miles from your living room, is a 1.2 mile-wide floating bonanza. Scientists revealed the asteroid contains 10,000 tons of gold and 100,000 tons of platinum. That's enough raw wealth to shame even the winner of the Washington state lottery.

Speculators quickly calculated the value of the asteroid and came up with $90 billion for the gold and a cool trillion dollars for the platinum, plus loose change for the asteroid's 10 billion tons of iron and a billion tons of nickel.

No one yet is suggesting that exploring space is a profitable enterprise, but someday it can be, with enormous dividends beyond the simple mining of metals. Since the lonely path of 1986 DA is out of reach right now, all anyone can do is watch the heavens and yearn for treasures yet undreamed.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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