Off-world mining: should we, can we do it?

R

RGClark

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Last week two highly regarded teams of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs, announced plans to do asteroidal and lunar mining:

Google billionaires, James Cameron backing space resource venture.
By Alan Boyle
Today's media alert says the new company "will overlay two critical sectors — space exploration and natural resources — to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP. This innovative start-up will create a new industry and a new definition of 'natural resources.'"
"That sounds like asteroid mining," Christopher Mims writes on MIT Technology Review's "Mims' Bits" blog. "Because what else is there in space that we need here on earth? Certainly not a livable climate or a replacement for our dwindling supplies of oil."
Parabolic Arc's Doug Messier, meanwhile, writes that the venture will be an "extraterrestrial mining company."
Diamandis has said on more than one occasion that he's intrigued by the idea of digging into asteroids, for materials ranging from water (for fuel as well as for astronauts) to precious metals such as platinum. The Verge points to a TED talk in 2005 where Diamandis discusses his dream, while Forbes magazine has brought up the subject with him more than once in the past few months.
http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/18/11273238-google-billionaires-james-cameron-backing-space-resource-venture

Renowned scientists join tech visionaries at Moon Express to mine the Moon for planetary resources.
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., April 24, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Moon Express, a Google Lunar X PRIZE contender, announced today that some of the world's leading planetary scientists have joined its Science Advisory Board (SAB) to assist the company in its plans to explore and ultimately mine the Moon for precious planetary resources.
http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/renowned-scientists-join-tech-visionaries-at-moon-express-to-mine-the-moon-for-planetary-resources-148632035.html

In regards to the reason for this endeavor, several studies have shown many of the important metals for high technology such as platinum at present global growth rates, especially in the emerging economies such as China, will be depleted within decades:

Earth's natural wealth: an audit
23 May 2007
NewScientist.com news service
David Cohen
http://www.science.org.au/nova/newscientist/027ns_005.htm

If these reports are true, and there is some uncertainty in the estimates, then such asteroid mining missions, might turn out to be not merely amusing topics of discussion, but actual necessities.

In that New Scientist article the author seems to be implying the uncertainties in the estimates of impending scarcity come from how the producers are reporting their stocks and available mine-able ore. That is, they may be underreporting them to artificially keep prices high. But with some of these key minerals predicted to run out within two decades clearly this is something that needs to be determined definitively. Maybe we need to send in UN inspectors into their accounting departments and into their actual mines like we send in inspectors for rogue nuclear states.

In any case, here are some peer-reviewed papers that discuss this issue:

Metal stocks and sustainability.
R. B. Gordon*,
M. Bertram†,‡, and
T. E. Graedel†,§
PNAS January 31, 2006 vol. 103 no. 5 1209-1214.
Abstract
The relative proportions of metal residing in ore in the lithosphere, in use in products providing services, and in waste deposits measure our progress from exclusive use of virgin ore toward full dependence on sustained use of recycled metal. In the U.S. at present, the copper contents of these three repositories are roughly equivalent, but metal in service continues to increase. Providing today's developed-country level of services for copper worldwide (as well as for zinc and, perhaps, platinum) would appear to require conversion of essentially all of the ore in the lithosphere to stock-in-use plus near-complete recycling of the metals from that point forward.
http://www.pnas.org/content/103/5/1209

An impending platinum crisis and its implications for the future of the automobile.
Chi-Jen Yang
Energy Policy.
Volume 37, Issue 5, May 2009, Pages 1805-1808.
Abstract
The global demand for platinum has consistently outgrown supply in the past decade. This trend likely will continue and the imbalance may possibly escalate into a crisis. Platinum plays pivotal roles in both conventional automobile emissions control and the envisioned hydrogen economy. A platinum crisis would have profound implications on energy and environment. On the one hand, inadequate platinum supply will prevent widespread commercialization of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. On the other hand, expensive platinum may enhance the competitiveness of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery-powered electric cars. Policymakers should weigh the potential impacts of a platinum crisis in energy policy.
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421509000457

And of course also if such scarcity estimates are valid this would clearly have a major impact on the question of the profitability of the space mining ventures. B)


Bob Clark
 
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RGClark

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RanulfC said:
RGClark said:
.... There was a recent article discussing the idea that a loophole in the Outer Space Treaty might allow private land claims on outer space bodies:

Loophole Could Allow Private Land Claims on Other Worlds.
By Adam Mann | April 5, 2012 | 6:30 am | Categories: Space
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/04/moon-mars-property/

Then the intriguing question arises: could landing of such a low cost rover on a NEO allow the Astrobotic backers to claim full mineral exploitation rights on potentially a $20 trillion asteroid?

Bob, you might want to note a couple of things:
The "loophole" does not exist in any way, shape, or form. In fact it has been pointed out numerous places and times that the "suggested" legal angle that the SSPA is supposed to be based on it in fact declares "null-and-void" within the first few paragraphs. (The idea of "basing" the suggested legistlation on the 1967 OST and then suggesting that all government "oversite-and-contol" be negated pretty much has made the entire "suggestion" illeagal in any and all senses. Moreso the fact the person who WROTE the SSPA is supposed to be a real "space-lawyer" has been a major issue from the day it was first "proposed" in 2001) Rand Simberg recently "discovered" the act I guess but he has no more 'clue' about what the OST actually "says" than it seems anyone else who argues that "Space Settlement is being impeded because of Private Property Rights!" In other words; none.
Lets address your question:
"Then the intriguing question arises: could landing of such a low cost rover on a NEO allow the Astrobotic backers to claim full mineral exploitation rights on potentially a $20 trillion asteroid?"
Uhm the answer has remained the same since BEFORE 1967 but it is fully and completely "YES they could"
THE problem has NEVER been "could" they claim the rights to exploit the asteroid (Moon, Mars, etc) for the purposes of profit that is a simple "fact" and perfectly "legal" under current, exisiting international law. Like "resource-exploitation" anywhere and everywhere on/under/around Earth's oceans anyone may engage in such at any time and walk away with a profit.
The question is can it be done in a manner as to be ABLE to make a "profit" remain the same and are still un-answered. Of course the WORST issue is that actually KEEPING any of your "profit" is fully and totally in the hands of whichever "government" backed and under-wrote the original expedition. What makes investers "nervous" is not the fact they can't "claim" land on the Moon, or an asteroid it is the simple 'fact' that supposedly "free-market/capatilist" nations such as the United States HAVE and CAN choose to "interpret" the "ownership" issue in different ways at different times.
...

Thanks for the response. However, you seem to be offering contradictory opinions. You begin by saying there is no loophole for private, financial use of space bodies, then you say such rights have always existed by international law.

This well-written article on The Space Review site discusses the issue in more detail:

Staking a claim on the Moon.
by Jeff Foust
Monday, April 9, 2012
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2058/1

The opposing view to Simberg's is expressed here:

How the U.S. Can Lead the Way to Extraterrestrial Land Deals.
By Berin Szoka and James Dunstan April 9, 2012 | 1:58 pm | Categories: Space, Wired Opinion
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/04/opinion-space-property-rights/

I don't agree with the argument that Szoka and Dunstan give that Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty bans private use of outer space bodies. This article in the treaty states:

Article VI
States Parties to the Treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions set forth in the present Treaty. The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty. When activities are carried on in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, by an international organization, responsibility for compliance with this Treaty shall be borne both by the international organization and by the States Parties to the Treaty participating in such organization.

This article only seems to be talking about things like that the uses shall only be for peaceful purposes and that rescue operations need to be undertaken for other nations manned missions if needed, etc.

However, another part of the Szoka/Dunstan argument I do find compelling: that different countries would grant overlapping land claims. Then it would appear such claims would have to be granted by an international organization.

Perhaps, you were focusing only on that particular US space act offered on the issue. But of course proposed US laws are always subject to modification. Which one finally is adopted may be completely different. What's important is whether the treaty allows private use of space resources. It is important to note then the treaty most certainly does not ban private, financial use of space resources. The big debate has been about ownership, but you don't even need ownership for private, financial use! The situation would be quite analogous to mining rights granted on public lands. The mining companies have the right to extract even valuable minerals from the ground but they still do not own the land.

You also discuss, aside from the treaty issue, the difficulty US companies have had in owning space rocks, etc. I don't think there is any doubt that if a private company, privately funded, could return, say, $20 trillion to the US economy, then the US government would pass laws to allow them to accomplish it.



Bob Clark
 
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RGClark

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As discussed previously, a sample return spacecraft to the Moon could also serve for a sample return spacecraft from a NEO since the delta-V requirements are actually less.
Developing ISRU stations on the Moon would also be quite beneficial for propellant for any putative asteroidal or lunar mining operation. So the two are intimately connected.

I've just been informed that Astrobotic has changed their Google Lunar X Prize entry into a lunar polar prospecting mission:

Monday, April 9, 2012
Astrobotic changes plans, aims for lunar north.
http://lunarnetworks.blogspot.com/2012/04/astrobiotic-changes-plans-aims-for.html

Note that the Astrobotic rover is built by the same Carnegie Mellon robotics lab that built the Scarab lunar polar rover. The Astrobotic rover will be launched on just a Falcon 9 so this is a smaller and cheaper lander/rover than one that would require the heaviest 20 mT capacity launchers. Though it will not be sample return, it can certainly confirm the large amounts of water suggested by the orbital studies. It may also be able to confirm the tentative detections of precious metals such as gold and silver found by LCROSS.
Again because the delta-V requirements to a NEO are less than those to the Moon, this lander/rover could also serve as a prospector for asteroid missions. There was a recent article discussing the idea that a loophole in the Outer Space Treaty might allow private land claims on outer space bodies:

Loophole Could Allow Private Land Claims on Other Worlds.
By Adam Mann | April 5, 2012 | 6:30 am | Categories: Space
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/04/moon-mars-property/

Then the intriguing question arises: could landing of such a low cost rover on a NEO allow the Astrobotic backers to claim full mineral exploitation rights on potentially a $20 trillion asteroid?


Bob Clark
 

blackstar

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RGClark said:
As discussed previously, a sample return spacecraft to the Moon could also serve for a sample return spacecraft from a NEO since the delta-V requirements are actually less.

Just because the delta-V requirements are in the same range doesn't mean that you'd use similar spacecraft. For example, when returning from an asteroid you don't need to climb out of a gravity well unlike the Moon, so you don't really need a high impulse engine. Put another way, you could return from an asteroid using only ion propulsion, and you cannot do that from the Moon.
 

Michel Van

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technical is feasible, but is a question about cost


You have to launch a probe like Dawn who scan the Asteroids on there content
Launch the mining machine & refinery AND bring it to Target
and after mining the stuff has to be refined (means to get the useful stuff out the dirt)
then transported the goods back to earth


So you need 4 launch for Asteroids mining: Probe with Ion engine, Ion engine Tug, mining machine and refinery with return capsule


alone the conventional Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres cost US$446 million !
goes cheaper ? nope let's take CONTOUR Mission with cost US$159 million, the probe was lost after the main engine was fired.


So this will cost allot of money, but is all this worthiness ?
yes, there stuff needed on earth industry: rare earths aka noble earths
they used in all kind of electronics: mobile phones, computers, big flat Tv, rechargeable batteries
last one has rising demands in electric car industry, but there not enough resource on Earth for that !
and those resource are monopolized by China, while the other country with rare earths deposits think aloud about new version of OPEC
ironically the solar system if full with rare earths like lunar surface and types of asteroids...
 

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The BBC science television program Horizon in the episode "Moon for Sale" suggested mining the lunar regolith for Helium-3 for fuel used in nuclear fusion reactors. The program stated that the goal of Chinese Lunar Exploration Program would be the mining of Helium-3 for electricity production.

There have also been reports claiming that the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has been mapping the lunar surface for Helium-3 containing materials.

The S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia in January 2006 announced that it considers lunar Helium-3 a potential economic resource to be mined.

Sources:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/broadband/tx/moonsale/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helium_3

Lunar Helium-3 mining presumes the building of fusion powerplants and the building of a space infrastructure to mine over 150 million tonnes of lunar regolith for every millions tonnes of Helium-3. Current cost of a liter of Helium-3 is $5,000 per-liter according to a 2011 article in Discover magazine.

Source:
http://news.discovery.com/earth/the-outfall-of-a-helium-3-crisis.html

Current uses of Helium-3 include plutonium detection systems, cryogenics, and lung tissue MRIs and current US consumption is 60,000 liters per year.

Could demand, or potential demand, for Helium-3 result in the establishment of a space infrastructure?

It seems to me that the building of Helium-3-fueled nuclear fusion powerplants and a space infrastructure to exploit the lunar regolith requires the commitment of a nation or nations. I cannot see private enterprise taking the economic and political risk or investing in a space mining, refining, and transportation system, It would be too expensive and too risky a proposition for companies that must financially perform quarterly.

It seems to me that mining for minerals will move to the deep-sea before going out to space due to cost and infrastructure requirements. Current interest is actually in phosphorus nodules that would be used to manufacture artificial fertilizers. Sulfide deposits around active and extinct hydrothermal vents contain precious metals such as silver, gold, copper, manganese, cobalt, and zinc and there are large areas of polymetallic nodules.

Michel Van said:
So this will cost allot of money, but is all this worthiness ?
yes, there stuff needed on earth industry: rare earths aka noble earths
they used in all kind of electronics: mobile phones, computers, big flat Tv, rechargeable batteries
last one has rising demands in electric car industry, but there not enough resource on Earth for that !
and those resource are monopolized by China, while the other country with rare earths deposits think aloud about new version of OPEC
ironically the solar system if full with rare earths like lunar surface and types of asteroids...

I hadn't thought of industrial demand for noble elements, but it makes sense that demand for extremely rare elements on Earth might generate interest in the exploitation of space bodies on an industrial scale.
 

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Has anyone said how they would get the material back, my guess is the shipment would bulk out before it weighs out??

If too much is brought back then the price is going to drop making the projects uneconomic, have any of the backers said what they would regard as a break even price?
 

Michel Van

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PMN1 said:
Has anyone said how they would get the material back, my guess is the shipment would bulk out before it weighs out??

If too much is brought back then the price is going to drop making the projects uneconomic, have any of the backers said what they would regard as a break even price?


i think about Big primitive capsule like Discover/corona sats, with only necessary stuff: navigation, electric, RCS, heat shield and a parachute.
It's internal volume stuff full with the rare earth element.


On price: it depends how rare earth elements price start to rise and who cheap they can run operation in space (including launchs)
 

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Triton said:
The BBC science television program Horizon in the episode "Moon for Sale" suggested mining the lunar regolith for Helium-3 for fuel used in nuclear fusion reactors. The program stated that the goal of Chinese Lunar Exploration Program would be the mining of Helium-3 for electricity production.

Yeah. One problem: they don't exist.
 

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PMN1 said:
Has anyone said how they would get the material back, my guess is the shipment would bulk out before it weighs out??

They have been deliberately vague on the mining aspects because that is all distant.
 

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Michel Van said:
technical is feasible, but is a question about cost

You have to launch a probe like Dawn who scan the Asteroids on there content

The two are linked. I have to watch their press conference, but there is a key aspect of this plan that I have not seen discussed. A couple of years ago I was the study director on a major study of searching for near Earth objects. If I remember correctly, there is a big problem with using telescopes to survey asteroids: you cannot tell what the asteroid is made of using a telescope. They all look pretty much the same.

So work that out. Assume that they build a few of their small telescopes. At best, the telescopes are going to find asteroids and track their orbits. But they won't indicate what the asteroids are made of. How many useless chunks of rock are they going to fly to in order to find good material?
 

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Cameron and his pallies have been watching too much Hollywood. Neither our technology nor the state of our countries' finances can reasonably achieve an Armageddon type of scenario in a not-so-distant-future.

Think of this. The Space Shuttle story ended because it was too costly bringing back a handful of guys from space in their empty orbiter.

What makes these guys think they can bring back from space tons of raw materials at a price that the government will find attractive?

Has anyone put in the balance the costs or is everyone on this project simply on a nostalgia course?

For such a mission to succeed, one needs to take into accounts the costs of developing a new spaceship that can routinely take people out into space with lots of sophisticated material, land them exactly on the moving piece of rock they aim for, and then get them all back safely along with all the stuff they have excavated... On the other side of the scales, one must then consider the costs of digging for the same minerals in the far outreaches of the oceans or further deep in our soils. I would be willing to bet that however costly it would be, it would still be much more of a bargain than this ridiculous space project.
 

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Michel Van said:
i think about Big primitive capsule like Discover/corona sats, with only necessary stuff: navigation, electric, RCS, heat shield and a parachute.

Nope. That's silly. If you want to bring back things like platinum... process the platinum into a sphere... say, a meter in diameter of the stuff. A great big chunk of the stuff. Then clad it a few inches of molten asteroidal rock. Then simply drop it on Earth. Aim for some piece of crap desert... the Mojave, White Sands, Detroit, some place where you can make a crater a few dozen meters wide without bothering anyone. Then go out and pick it up with an excavator and a truck.

The rock would be good enough for heat shielding; instead of parachutes, lithobraking would work quite well enough. If the payload breaks into itty-bitty-bits... so long as they're embedded at the bottom of the crater, who cares?
 

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Stargazer2006 said:
For such a mission to succeed, one needs to take into accounts the costs of developing a new spaceship that can routinely take people out into space with lots of sophisticated material, land them exactly on the moving piece of rock they aim for, and then get them all back safely along with all the stuff they have excavated... On the other side of the scales, one must then consider the costs of digging for the same minerals in the far outreaches of the oceans or further deep in our soils. I would be willing to bet that however costly it would be, it would still be much more of a bargain than this ridiculous space project.

You have to add in all the costs of finding the resources too. What happens if they go to 20 different rocks and none of them have any useful materials? (This is actually very common in the oil business, where companies drill a lot and come up empty.)

As for the actual mining, mining on Earth is very:

-mass intensive (think bulldozers)
-energy intensive
-water intensive

So if you're going to do this on an asteroid, you don't get much help from all the centuries of experience of mining on Earth. You're going to have to re-invent lots of processes.
 
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I hate to sound like the tree hugger here, but wouldn't this be less of a problem if we started recycling the guts of those 10 kazillion iPhones that people buy and throw away every other year?
 

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sublight said:
I hate to sound like the tree hugger here, but wouldn't this be less of a problem if we started recycling the guts of those 10 kazillion iPhones that people buy and throw away every other year?

Define the "problem."

If the materials in the electronics are worth recycling, they will be recycled. And the reality is that rare Earth minerals are not extremely rare, they're difficult to extract without doing a lot of nastiness in the process. Now that's a great argument for doing this stuff in space, but we've shown time and time again that humans are not willing to pay a premium in return for not polluting, we just export the pollution to poorer countries, like China or Africa.
 
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sublight

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Really, this all sounds incredibly laughable, but horribly true. We're pouring rare earth materials into iPhones & iPads, and then people toss the old ones after the new ones inevitably come out. SO NOW, we have to mine the moon and asteroids, so we can pour rare earth materials into iPhones & iPads, so people can toss the old ones after the new ones inevitably come out.

I don't mind the occasional crazy program, but I would rather be mining asteroids and the moon for materials to build a vactrain or a space elevator. Not your momma's iPhone.
 

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sublight said:
Really, this all sounds incredibly laughable, but horribly true. We're pouring rare earth materials into iPhones & iPads, and then people toss the old ones after the new ones inevitably come out. SO NOW, we have to mine the moon and asteroids, so we can pour rare earth materials into iPhones & iPads, so people can toss the old ones after the new ones inevitably come out.

I don't mind the occasional crazy program, but I would rather be mining asteroids and the moon for materials to build a vactrain or a space elevator. Not your momma's iPhone.

Well, we don't have to do any of this. But if by that you mean that their business plan sounds dubious, I agree. The classic problem with any previous proposed space mining plan is that you can always come up with a substitute that may not be as good, but will at least be cheaper than the extreme case. I believe that was what happened back in the 1990s when people were talking about gallium arsenide manufacturing in Earth orbit. Yeah, zero gee seemed like a great way to do it, but somebody found a cheaper way to do it on Earth.

When people start talking all this stuff out, the only way that in-space mining makes sense is if it is supporting an in-space infrastructure, like a base on the Moon. And even then you have to have such a large demand that it doesn't seem realistic. For instance, a large lunar base that requires more water and materials than you can realistically ship up from the Earth.
 

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Orionblamblam said:
Michel Van said:
i think about Big primitive capsule like Discover/corona sats, with only necessary stuff: navigation, electric, RCS, heat shield and a parachute.

Nope. That's silly. If you want to bring back things like platinum... process the platinum into a sphere... say, a meter in diameter of the stuff. A great big chunk of the stuff. Then clad it a few inches of molten asteroidal rock. Then simply drop it on Earth. Aim for some piece of crap desert... the Mojave, White Sands, Detroit, some place where you can make a crater a few dozen meters wide without bothering anyone. Then go out and pick it up with an excavator and a truck.

The rock would be good enough for heat shielding; instead of parachutes, lithobraking would work quite well enough. If the payload breaks into itty-bitty-bits... so long as they're embedded at the bottom of the crater, who cares?


that's dam good Idea !


although the FAA will go ballistic about this idea...


and how to bring Helium/Helium-3 back to to Earth ?
liquid in tanks or even as gas in a Blimp covered with heat shield ?
 

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Michel Van said:
that's dam good Idea !

Of course it's a good idea!
MontyPythonGod.jpg



although the FAA will go ballistic about this idea...

Screw 'em. If they pitch a fit, drop the payload outside FAA jurisdiction.


and how to bring Helium/Helium-3 back to to Earth ?
liquid in tanks or even as gas in a Blimp covered with heat shield ?

Probably in liquid form. Although a mylar balloon of the stuff could probably re-enter with little thermal issue... little mass spread over a relatively vast area equates to a very substantial decelleration but little thermal loading Still, that would be a logistically troublesome approach. You'd have to catch these balloons at high altitude without popping them.
 

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Triton said:
Michel Van said:
...
yes, there stuff needed on earth industry: rare earths aka noble earths

I hadn't thought of industrial demand for noble elements,

I haven't heard the term 'noble earths' used before. It's not quite logical, because in this context 'noble' is used to describe elements that are inert, i.e. don't react with others. This only applies to the noble gases (helium, neon etc.). The rare earth elements are reactive.


Has anyone said how they would get the material back, my guess is the shipment would bulk out before it weighs out??

The other way round. The more it weighs, the slower it'll accelerate using a given amount of fuel or the more fuel you'll need. Transit time isn't much of an issue with raw materials though.
As for bulk: you'll want to create a structure that has low density, so a large area for a given weight. As Orionblamblam says, that way you'll get lots of deceleration without too much heating.
 

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Wondered if this was going to crank up here too, good to see that it has :)

One thing I noted over all the "hype" is that this isn't really about "asteroid-mining" and off-world resources per se but about getting the needed infrastructure up there to ALLOW such activities as time goes on. The telescopes are first and they seem to plan on those being quite popular all on their own with "users" here on Earth. Then they are looking to design and build what amounts to a series of modular survey spacecraft that will be capable of being used just about anywhere in the Solar System to make detailed studies of any object. Follow that up with electric propulsion, on-orbit servicable, "tug" spacecraft and you're well on your way to a robust space utilization infrastructure capable of moving both materials and "other" cargo's all over the place.

By the way, they are currently "Hireing" if anyone is interested. Got to move to Seattle but as they put it; " It’s gorgeous, and anyone who says otherwise is from California!"
http://www.planetaryresources.com/careers/

Randy
 

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I can`t think of any materials on earth that would be so precious as to beg for extra-terrestrial excavation, including distilled unicorn tears that run a perpetual engine. Knowing that such a program would be too costly for privateers, I assume it would be stacked as a burden on naive taxpayers` shoulders. Cost overruns would go beyond goooooogle, and finally the yield would be miniscule besides intangible consolation, which literature is usually considered to be one. The only solution is to kill 2 rabbits with one shot. The same way once you lean down to pick up a dollar, you could do something else there, like tie your shoelaces, or watch out from rear `strugglecuddle`. if such sierra incognita extraction can be managed as extracurricular activity, or as an elective, at least in research phase, we can give it a shot. A drill, a bore, as long as it is not heavy for the spacecraft. And taxpayers. How ` bout those jaywalking gizmos on mars, attach some lightsabers to them, so they can swoosh-swoosh some petrified specimen to be brought home.
 

pathology_doc

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Yes, we can. Yes, we should.

Ask a Neanderthal or even Galileo to build HMS Dreadnought and he'd be lost, but we got there eventually. Humans overcome obstacles. If you want to whine and wring your hands and legalise about them, join some other species. :mad:
 

Stargazer2006

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pathology_doc said:
Yes, we can. Yes, we should.

Ask a Neanderthal or even Galileo to build HMS Dreadnought and he'd be lost, but we got there eventually. Humans overcome obstacles. If you want to whine and wring your hands and legalise about them, join some other species. :mad:

The question is not so much whether we CAN as in "have the built-in ability to"... of course mankind CAN and WILL achieve such things and greater ones given time and money.

Rather, the question is whether we CAN as in "have the possibility, means, appropriate financial stability, and so forth." In the social/economic context that we are currently experiencing, such pharaonic projects are on the verge of indecency.

Lots of people criticize Bill Gates for turning half his wealth over to charity... but heck! I'd rather these industry magnates would follow his example rather than spend even one-tenth of their monies on chasing rainbows.
 

dannydale

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ADVANCEDBOY said:
Yes , we can! And $15.5 T external debt proves it!
What would fifteen trillion dollars of space industry look like? Certainly not stupid crap like elective wars for oil and tax cuts for corporations. They have no bearing on space exploration except to serve as economic sinks and opportunity costs.
 

blackstar

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RanulfC said:
One thing I noted over all the "hype" is that this isn't really about "asteroid-mining" and off-world resources per se but about getting the needed infrastructure up there to ALLOW such activities as time goes on. The telescopes are first and they seem to plan on those being quite popular all on their own with "users" here on Earth. Then they are looking to design and build what amounts to a series of modular survey spacecraft that will be capable of being used just about anywhere in the Solar System to make detailed studies of any object. Follow that up with electric propulsion, on-orbit servicable, "tug" spacecraft and you're well on your way to a robust space utilization infrastructure capable of moving both materials and "other" cargo's all over the place.

Yeah, and just keep spending money for a couple of decades before you are able to return any profit to your investors. How does that business plan make sense?

People who know something about the more "near term" (i.e. less than ten years) aspects of their plan are skeptical. A few comments:

-space-based telescopes for searching for near Earth objects (aka asteroids) are all generally 0.5 to 1.0 meters in diameter. The Arkyd telescope that they're discussing is a lot smaller. If all the experts are talking about bigger telescopes, why are these guys talking about smaller ones? And can they detect anything worthwhile with them?

-their idea about selling telescopes to "amateurs" sounds a lot like a lot of previous space entrepreneur ideas where the entrepreneurs really don't understand how things actually work. Amateur astronomers aren't likely going to want to pay for time/access to a space telescope. Many of them like to build their own scopes, or go out observing at night. It's a hobby. Are they really going to want to fork over a lot of money (for them) simply for the ability to download pictures to their computer? And there's not really a scientific "market" in the true sense. One place where the entrepreneurs always fall down is that they don't understand that scientists don't have their own money, they get it from the US government (NSF, NASA) in the form of grants. Unless NSF and NASA specifically create grants to fund this kind of stuff, then astronomers are not likely to be able to take existing grant money and spend it on such things. That's where a lot of these projects end up--the entrepreneur finds himself trying to get the government to buy his product because there is no real private market for it.
 

Orionblamblam

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dannydale said:
What would fifteen trillion dollars of space industry look like? Certainly not stupid crap like elective wars for oil and tax cuts for corporations.

Really? There are people today who actually believe that cutting corporate tax rates (and thus making the cost of doing business cheaper, thus leading to less overseas outsourcing, more local hiring, and increases in both personal income and income tax revenues) is a bad idea? Must be some fume from the May Day Occupiers that causes dain bramage.
 

Grey Havoc

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http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Luxembourgs_ultimate_offshore_investment_Space_mining_999.html
 

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The problem involves time and energy. How quickly can the metal, or whatever, be located? How much energy to refine it? Where and how to use it? If the US is planning a moon base, it would be nice to use existing metals and materials. There is some water ice on the moon but how much? The Chinese have mentioned setting up solar energy collectors on the moon. If a series of arrays could be set up first to power equipment and the base, then that solves one problem. Plus there will be no meter attached, solving another problem. But what after that? Asteroids? Space tugs? To where? Recovery will be expensive and even with careful planning, complicated. I can see a proof of concept activity, but so far, no vast coordinated plan to mine the local solar system. Assembling very large robotic/remotely operated machines seems the way to go, not lots of men floating in space.

As far as charging cell phones, graphene batteries are available now. https://www.realgrapheneusa.com/graphene
 
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CJGibson

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Better dig out Harrison Schmitt.

I'd suggest prospecting first might be an idea.

Chris
 
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