I was thinking about Avatar the other day after the recent Cirque du Soleil show and it got me thinking. Aside from the thrill of scientific discovery, is the inherent premise just slightly barmy? I mean surely it'd be cheaper to just analyze the composition of Unobtainium on Earth and find a way to synthesize it in a lab rather than mounting five year missions to colonize a planet in another goddamn solar system. Space-trucking ain't cheap, especially over interstellar distances, and since the current cost of sending anything into space is already tens of thousands of dollars per pound, I can't imagine they're making much money off of Unobtainium after you account for the cost of the crew, the equipment, and the transit time.
So is interstellar macguffin mining as impractical as I'm beginning to think it is, or am I just overestimating the cost of space travel IN THE FUTURE! ?