Researchers hope to put manufacturing plants in space in order to develop advanced zero-gravity processes that could allow the development of perfect ball-bearings, unusually large crystals and exotic chemicals for use in pharmaceuticals. Still, not everyone's convinced that orbital factories would be economically viable. "Even if there were an asteroid made out of diamond somewhere nearby, the cost of getting to it, mining it and bringing the pieces back probably wouldn't be justified as a business," notes one skeptical space-tech investor.

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