1 of 5
1
Could this be the next big milestone in human space exploration?
Posted: 24 April 2012 04:09 AM   [ Ignore ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1191
Joined  2011-08-01

Okay, not really exploration; more like exploitation but still…

This is not some crackpots doing it, nor is this the opinion of a crackpot. Read the article.

Private company does indeed plan to mine asteroids… and I think they can do it

 Signature 

Free in Kentucky
—Humanist
“I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.”—Edith Sitwell

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2012 04:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15343
Joined  2006-02-14

This is very, very cool. However this quote gives me pause:

“The investors aren’t making decisions based on a business plan or a return on investment,” he told me. “They’re basing their decisions on our vision.”

So long as ventures such as these aren’t being made for ROI, they are basically throwaways. All we can hope for is that they prove the concept feasible and eventually useful.

Best of luck to them!

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2012 06:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2375
Joined  2007-07-05

Why talk about mining asteroids without talking about “planned obsolescence”?

Wouldn’t eliminating planned obsolescence affect the demand for resources?

psik

 Signature 

Fiziks is Fundamental

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 April 2012 04:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Jr. Member
RankRank
Total Posts:  44
Joined  2012-04-14

Mining asteroids could make perfectly good sense from a business perspective because of the vast amounts of water and precious minerals the asteroids contain.  On the other hand, the companies involved would not do it for profit because it would take a very long time to generate profits.

The current going rate for platinum is approximately $1500/ounce, which could justify going to mine an asteroid for say 200K of platinum.  The problem is that the cost of developing the initial technology would necessitate a long amortization period.

On the other hand, the amortization period would increase at an increasing rate as the price of platinum would decrease at an increasing rate as more and more is brought to Earth.

The companies involved must know their fixed and variable costs and would know that the venture may never be profitable at least not in the short term.  My sense is that they are embarking in the venture because they can and because it is exciting to them.

[ Edited: 24 April 2012 04:59 PM by Quest of Knowledge ]
 Signature 

mens sana in corpore sano

Profile
 
 
Posted: 25 April 2012 05:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3121
Joined  2008-04-07
Quest of Knowledge - 24 April 2012 04:54 PM

The current going rate for platinum is approximately $1500/ounce, which could justify going to mine an asteroid for say 200K of platinum. 

 

I thought the article made it clear that this part of the endeavor was not profitable.

 Signature 

Turn off Fox News - Bad News For America
(Atheists are myth understood)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 25 April 2012 06:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2138
Joined  2007-04-26
Quest of Knowledge - 24 April 2012 04:54 PM

  My sense is that they are embarking in the venture because they can and because it is exciting to them.

I think you are right about this, but I think they are also of the mind that we wont know if it can be made into a viable business until someone takes the risk and these guys have the kind of money where they can afford to do that.

I can’t help wondering how they expect to get the resources they mine down to earth. Not the water of course as the whole purpose of that is to use it in space, but the valuable metals would need to be brought down here to be of any use. The problem is that it requires just as much energy to bring something out of orbit as it takes to put it into orbit. You would need a cargo ship of some sort which would have to be launched into orbit to retrieve specimens and de-orbit them once they were delivered into earth orbit from the asteroid. This in itself would be an expensive proposition especially if we are talking about large amounts of materials.

They could of course cut off small pieces of the asteroid and just send them hurtling through the earths atmosphere and simply accept the fact that some of their precious cargo will burn up in the atmosphere, but that could be a bit dangerous since its harder to predict where it will land. Its surface may be irregular and internal irregularities will no doubt cause it to break up during re entry adding to the unpredictability of things. I’d be curious to see how they would address this issue.

 Signature 

For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious,.... and just plain wrong

Profile
 
 
Posted: 25 April 2012 06:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3121
Joined  2008-04-07
macgyver - 25 April 2012 06:38 AM

They could of course cut off small pieces of the asteroid and just send them hurtling through the earths atmosphere and simply accept the fact that some of their precious cargo will burn up in the atmosphere, but that could be a bit dangerous since its harder to predict where it will land. Its surface may be irregular and internal irregularities will no doubt cause it to break up during re entry adding to the unpredictability of things. I’d be curious to see how they would address this issue.

Rather than find and cut off pieces, why not wrap a heat shield around it? Of course re-entry is still a calculated risk.

 Signature 

Turn off Fox News - Bad News For America
(Atheists are myth understood)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 25 April 2012 08:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2138
Joined  2007-04-26
traveler - 25 April 2012 06:46 AM

Rather than find and cut off pieces, why not wrap a heat shield around it? Of course re-entry is still a calculated risk.

Well that is what i was getting at with the re-entry capsule. The cost of launching these things into space to bring back hundreds of tons of materials would be quite literally astronomical, but perhaps as you say they could make it simpler and lighter in some way by just attaching some sort of ablative shield.

I don’t think its as simple as wrapping it in a “fireproof” blanket though. The pressures and temperatures are enormous. You would need to develop a shield that could withstand all of that and be adapted to fit the irregular chunks of rock you cut off the asteroid. It would also need to have some sort of attitude control so that it would enter the atmosphere in the proper orientation although maybe a simple drag chute could accomplish that once it was lower into the atmosphere.  I don’t think there would be a simple inexpensive way to do that on the large scale you would need in order to deliver massive amounts of payload down to the surface, but I would love to see if they came up with a solution.

 Signature 

For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious,.... and just plain wrong

Profile
 
 
Posted: 25 April 2012 09:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3121
Joined  2008-04-07

Sorry, I didn’t see anything about a re-entry capsule.  smile

 Signature 

Turn off Fox News - Bad News For America
(Atheists are myth understood)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 25 April 2012 10:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2138
Joined  2007-04-26
traveler - 25 April 2012 09:07 AM

Sorry, I didn’t see anything about a re-entry capsule.  smile

Sorry, my bad. That’s because i absentmindedly called it something different tongue laugh . I had mentioned using a cargo ship to de-orbit the stuff but its essentially the same idea. Some sort of vessel to allow a controlled reentry of the material and protect it from being destroyed in the process.

 Signature 

For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious,.... and just plain wrong

Profile
 
 
Posted: 25 April 2012 11:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  348
Joined  2006-11-27

I wonder if it wouldn’t make sense to do most of the refining in space.  Lots of free solar energy available and no pollution legislation.  Smelting processes might possibly be aided by a nearly total vacuum.  The resulting product would be hugely reduced in volume and make costs of getting it back to earth more practical.

 Signature 

If we’re not laughing, they’re winning.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 25 April 2012 12:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2138
Joined  2007-04-26

That’s a good point. It might make it more economical in the long run but of course you first have to invest in launching, manning, and building the manufacturing facility. Also while pollution may be less of an issue in space it is not without some concerns. If the facility is in earth orbit they would have to find a way to dispose of the large amount of left over waste. Leaving it in orbit could pose some real problems over time including the fact that it will eventually fall to earth. Doing it further away would increase the cost to build, supply,maintain, and repair the facility. Interesting stuff to think about though.

 Signature 

For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious,.... and just plain wrong

Profile
 
 
Posted: 25 April 2012 12:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1191
Joined  2011-08-01

Regarding waste disposal, would it take much energy to nudge it out of earth or moon orbit towards the sun? And once started on that trajectory, would it necessarily fall into the sun? Because that’s one hell of a natural incinerator!

 Signature 

Free in Kentucky
—Humanist
“I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.”—Edith Sitwell

Profile
 
 
Posted: 25 April 2012 12:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
Jr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  87
Joined  2010-09-07

You know, all this reads like a science fiction novel by Alastair Reynolds - Pushing Ice!

 Signature 

If you see God, tell Him I’m looking for Him.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 25 April 2012 12:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1191
Joined  2011-08-01

Never read that one but much of today’s science news was yesterday’s SciFi. That’s part of what makes it so cool.

Just yesterday I was watching an episode of Star Trek TNG when Captain Picard was handed a document to sign—on what looked for the world like a tablet computer. And of course, Captain Kirk and crew had the first push-to-talk flip phones.

 Signature 

Free in Kentucky
—Humanist
“I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.”—Edith Sitwell

Profile
 
 
Posted: 25 April 2012 01:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2138
Joined  2007-04-26
FreeInKy - 25 April 2012 12:29 PM

Regarding waste disposal, would it take much energy to nudge it out of earth or moon orbit towards the sun? And once started on that trajectory, would it necessarily fall into the sun? Because that’s one hell of a natural incinerator!

This is actually an interesting point. “Dropping” something into the sun is not as easy as one would think. An object that is orbiting the sun in roughly the same orbit as the earth is traveling at a very high velocity ( about 100,000 kph). In order to move an object in towards the sun you would need to slow it down. It takes a great deal of energy to do that. in fact the messenger probe that went into orbit around mercury last year took an enormous amount of fuel to reach its target and had to take a 7 year circuitous route to get there in order to dissipate enough energy. So in order to get something to fall into the sun you need to slow it down from 100,000 kph to near zero ( well not exactly but you need to get rid of most of that speed) or you need to find someway to change the direction it is traveling in ie: if you could fling the object around a large enough mass to change the direction so that it was headed straight into the sun then it could do so even if it continued traveling 100,000kph but you would have to have a large planet in the right position and not so far away that it would require a great deal of energy just to get there. Those calculations are way beyond my level of knowledge but I don’t think it would be doable in our solar system.

You are right that you wouldn’t have to actually have the sun incinerate the stuff though. The solar system is a big place and it already has a lot of junk orbiting around in it such as the very asteroids we are talking about. We just dont want to junk up the part of the solar system that we are living in with additional flotsam and jetsam. Maybe it would be best just to mine the stuff in its current location and let the waste float away since it wouldn’t migrate very far and you would only be junking up an already junky neighborhood.

 Signature 

For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious,.... and just plain wrong

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 5
1