In Guardians of the Galaxy, if Thanos knew the orb contained an Infinity Stone (one of the most powerful artefacts in the galaxy), why did he send Ronan to retrieve it?

It was pretty clear from their short exchanges that Thanos and Ronan pretty much hated each other. Why would Thanos trust Ronan with such a hugely important task?

I know initially, Ronan didn't know that the orb contained an infinity stone, but Thanos was still taking a pretty big risk sending him to retrieve it.

Even with two of Thanos' daughters on board Ronan's ship, the orb would ultimately pass through Ronan's hands before it reached Thanos, so there was always the possibility he would discover it's contents.

Is there any reason established as to why Thanos doesn't go after the infinity stone personally?

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    There isn't really anything in universe that can explain this other than basic wartime tactics. As Magneto said in the end battle of The Last Stand, "In chess, the pawns die first." – krillgar Jan 5 '15 at 11:33
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    And, as you've said, he sent both of his daughters with him. – Valorum Jan 5 '15 at 11:35
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    @JamesSheridan For all his power, he can't be everywhere at once. You'd think he might put aside some time to personally acquire the most powerful items in the galaxy. Loki made a balls of his mission and Ronan flat out died. He needs to improve his interview process... – Daft Jan 5 '15 at 11:59
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    Does there need to be an explicit reason why Thanos, or any other BigBad would have lackeys doing important things for them? – Gorchestopher H Jan 5 '15 at 12:51
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    @Daft: might be Thanos is so powerful that everything feels like a game to him (be it true or due to overconfidence). It wouldn't be any fun if he acquired the stones himself; it would be like taking the king in the first move – nine9 Jan 5 '15 at 13:16

This isn't supported by anything said thus far, but then again, neither is anything else except the old comic lore.

Thanos is experimenting.

He knows all about infinite cosmic powers awaiting at his disposal, but he wants to get more information on effects, limits, drawbacks... He's probably savvy enough to know that if anything was terribly easy to get, everyone would be after it (as more or less shown once the Orb came into play).

So he uses cats paws as lab rats. The stones get kicked out into the world(s) where he can observe them in play. He watches and he learns how they work, how people react to them, what the strategies are to counter them (as commented, the pawns get to die first).

Judging by his smile, he gets to have fun while he works too.

And since the most common and predictable reaction so far is to stick the things in a bigger and deeper and theoretically more secure vault, he just has that to worry about rather than finding them all when the time comes to make his move.

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    This is entirely opinion based and as such has a high possibility of being down voted to oblivion. Saying that, I still think your pretty close to what's probably the correct answer. – Daft Jan 5 '15 at 14:48

It seems to be his schtick. The film Avengers essentially showed him doing the same thing. Except there he lent Loki an Infinity Stone in hopes that he'd snag another (the Tesseract). Guardians of the Galaxy shows him enacting a similar plot, except he lent Gamora and Nebula to his minion this time.

He doesn't want to get his hands dirty, it seems. He'll contribute resources to enable his minion to accomplish the task, and when it fails, he moves on.

Per the mid-credits scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron, he's changed his strategy. So in Phase 3, we should see him be more personally involved in the accrual of Infinity Stones.

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  • Both with Loki and Ronan, Thanos could have just walked in and taken the Tesseract and the Infinity Stone himself and literally no one could have stopped him maybe the Hulk. I was wondering was there some galactic law which stops him from doing whatever he wants, enforced by some super, super, ridiculously super being(s). – Daft Jan 5 '15 at 14:55
  • @Daft Not that we've seen. The closest to space cops or celestial cops are the Nova Corps, but there's no indication they cover the Milky Way. – user1027 Jan 5 '15 at 15:00
  • @Keen Plus, if they struggle like they did against Ronan, they wouldn't be able to stop Thanos. – KSmarts May 11 '15 at 21:48

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