Obligatory Backstory*: In year, whatever the count is now, humans get their black hole ships in working order, and decide to venture into space. We colonize a few worlds, and start establishing some loose connections with other races (think sort of Native American v.s. Europeans, except not necessarily a power difference). Cruising along, we find material X. Material X is very valuable. We see a race, which roughly would be pronounced as numahs in human vocal cords, are hogging it up (numahs are at approximately the same level of development as us, although might use a different system of propulsion). Our military leaders try and negotiate to get some of it, but then they up and decide to slaughter our women and children for no reason besides hating us (and well, the women and children were on the ship that started the battle, but still)! Obviously, numahs don't deserve material X. We will get material X, and they will get none.

End Obligatory Backstory

So humans have always fought over resources, and I don't think we'll stop in space. My question is, what would space faring civilizations fight over? I had a couple ideas, but they don't quite pan out.

  • Worm Holes: They don't actually exist.
  • Micro Black Holes: Some what hard to harvest, Doubtful to occur naturally, Not too hard to make
  • Antimatter: Doubtful to occur naturally, Hard to harvest
  • Neutron Stars: Hard to harvest, why would you want it
  • Gold: My favorite so far, Gold could be rare in space too

What other materials could space civilizations fight over. Include both the material, how to harvest it, and why we would fight over it. If you have any reason why the above would be a better idea than I originally thought, feel free to include it.

*Not obligatory for reading, feel free to skip


3 Answers 3


Fuel sources

Without a fuel source, your spaceship is just drifting space junk. Fuel provides the energy required for life support, movement, and construction. Life support can come from an external power source such as the nearest star but we don't yet have a way to move an object in space without some kind of reaction mass.

Construction Materials

Building a space empire is going to need lots and lots of construction materials. If building giant ships or space stations is in the plan then finding high grade iron-nickel asteroids will be high on the priority list. (Of course, iron and nickel aren't the only materials you would need.)

Advantageous Orbital Positions

The Lagrangian points between the earth and moon are very valuable places to be for any number of strategic reasons in relation to a near by planet or sun.


Certainly a few rare standard resources:

Gold. First and foremost. For reasons.

Diamond. Used all over science. Sure, there's that one diamond planet we found, but those are pretty rare.

And possibly a few non-standard resources:

Space itself. Property ownership and control of star systems. The right to be close to the stars. That's got to be the space-equivalent of ocean-front property.

Alien Technology. Other life forms have probably dreamed up all sorts of devices and vehicles. Reverse engineering them could provide all sorts of benefits, including prolonged or eternal life. I bet that would be worth a mint.


You run into the issue of McGuffinite as described in the Rocketpunk Manifesto blog; there really isn't anything valuable enough to justify exploiting space resources, at least not at our present level of development (even if the Moon were pure gold, it would still be far cheaper to mine it on Earth than have a Lunar gold mine). Even in the future, trying to justify exploiting space resources because "the people in space will be using them" begs the question as to why people will be going into space in large numbers anyway.

Once we do get out there, fighting over element "x" is silly, there is an entire universe of resources, and even the Solar System is rich enough in resources to potentially house trillions of human beings with an American standard of living. The moon Europa is thought to have 3X the amount of water as all the world's oceans combined, and that is only one moon in a Solar System full of moons.

So what is there to fight over? Robert A Heinlein suggested living space: the Humans and the Bugs fight a genocidal war in "Starship Troopers" because both are aggressive species who are competing for the same ecological niche (habitable planets). Heinlein makes no bones about it either:

Man is what he is, a wild animal with the will to survive, and (so far) the ability, against all competition. Unless one accepts that, anything one says about morals, war, politics—you name it—is nonsense. Correct morals arise from knowing what man is—not what do-gooders and well-meaning old Aunt Nellies would like him to be. The universe will let us know—later—whether or not Man has any "right" to expand through it. In the meantime the M.I. will be in there, on the bounce and swinging, on the side of our own race.

The other thing which has triggered more and more destructive wars in human history is ideology. In the past this was often expressed as religious wars, such as the Crusades, the 30 Years War and the current series of wars in the Middle East (ISIS represents the Salafist Sunni branch of Islam fighting against the Iranian Shi'ites, and Iran is fighting back with Shi'ite Iraqi militias, Quds' forces, Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon and the Syrian Army, who they have essentially taken over the remnants). WWII was essentially political Liberalism vs Socialism, while the Cold War continued the conflict with a slightly different cast and had the potential to take that conflict to "11" with nuclear weapons.

If the Aliens have some sort of religion/ideology/philosophy which is extremely at variance with Human religion/ideology/philosophy, then there may be source of conflict which would be vicious and intractable (since there are no areas where compromise would be possible). This can be developed at further depth by reading the "Blue and Orange" page at TV Tropes: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BlueAndOrangeMorality.

So to recap, there will be plenty to fight about, if you are motivated enough, and once you take it to space, you will have plenty of resources to fight with.

  • $\begingroup$ Good post, except for "WWII was essentially political Liberalism vs Socialism", given that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was fighting against National Socialist Germany. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Feb 23, 2018 at 12:20
  • $\begingroup$ Note it was "essentially" Liberalism vs Socialism. The USSR had used WWII to infiltrate Western society, and the Western powers were in an alliance of convenience with the USSR. If the "Winter War" and lasted longer, the Allies might have joined the Finns against the USSR, and at the close of WWII, Churchill were contemplating fighting against the USSR immediately on the destruction of Germany (Operation "Unthinkable"). So the USSR was actively working against the West, and the West was preparing to fight the USSR either before or after the destruction of Nazi Germany. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Feb 23, 2018 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ "The USSR had used WWII to infiltrate Western society" Say what??? $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Feb 23, 2018 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ Read your history. The Atomic spies, the infiltration of Hollywood, the US State Department and other Government agencies, many examples of infiltration of British governmental agencies and organizations, Soviet infiltration of West Germany.... $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Feb 24, 2018 at 4:26
  • $\begingroup$ Apparently, I know history better than you: the Sovs were infiltrating the State Dept, Hollywood, labor unions and academia, etc in both UK & US long before WW2. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Feb 24, 2018 at 16:19

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