Imagine a distant future in which humans’ descendants have scattered throughout the stars, settling wherever they can.
Some planets and moons are resource-rich paradises, while others are barren wastelands with little to offer other than common minerals and metals.
In sci-fi, spacefaring peoples often war over things like water—necessities that we take for granted here on Earth. In post apocalyptic settings, conflicts arise over food, water, gasoline, weapons, and shelter. And then there are the valuable rarities, such as the spice melange in Dune (and of course the vibraniums and unobtaniums and all the other handwavium plot devices).
Obviously, interplanetary and especially interstellar conquest is unimaginably resource intensive, and therefore uncommon. And obviously, demand will depend on what’s available in any given solar system. Some planets or systems will lack certain fundamental materials, whether it’s wood or wheat or aluminum. And of course, habitable planets are themselves valuable rarities worth fighting for.
But here’s my question:
Which materials are most likely to be in high demand most often among future spacefaring peoples—so much so that the demand for them results in interplanetary and/or interstellar conflicts, whether petty piracy or all-out war?
Could it be aerospace materials? Rare earth elements? Precious metals such as gold and platinum? Radioactive metals such as uranium and plutonium?
Even if water, food, and oxygen are in much greater demand, I’m curious which rare commodities might become targets. Of course, this depends in part on the cultures and the technological development of the diverse populations in question, so feel free to use your imagination.
I realize that some of the materials that are rare on Earth are abundant in outer space. Asteroids, for example, often contain tons of precious metals, and let’s assume that some colonists mine them.
Let’s also assume that at least some of these civilizations (namely those staging attacks or invasions) are capable of FTL travel. Given the staggering distances between stars, I’d imagine that interstellar warfare would be even more unlikely without it, but maybe not.
Easily transferable energy is probably a prime candidate, but I’m not sure what that would look like to a spacefaring civilization (barring antimatter or something like that). Probably not fossil fuels or even chemical propellants, though that’s an intriguing thought.
Anyway, thanks for any ideas.