Getting a mine up and running on the moon or an asteroid would cost less than building the biggest gas terminals on Earth, according to research presented to a forum of company executives and NASA scientists.

A mission to Ceres, a dwarf planet 257 million miles from the Sun and the size of Texas, may cost about $27 billion. The expense includes 10 rocket launches to convey equipment, the extraction of metals and water, and the construction of an in-orbit facility to process the raw materials.

The costing comes from graduate business students at Australia's University of New South Wales, which is also collaborating with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on the economics of space mining. By comparison, Australia's biggest single resources development — Chevron Corp.'s Gorgon liquefied natural gas plant — has an expected price tag of about $54 billion.