Skip to comments.Deep-pocket dreamers aim high with space mining
Posted on 04/24/2012 10:48:53 PM PDT by presidio9
Space mining has been a longtime staple of science-fiction films and the companies are almost always the villains.
The transport ship in "Alien" was towing a load of ore when sinister, corporate overlords diverted it into the clutches of the galaxy's baddest monster. "Avatar" was all about saving the inhabitants of Pandora from thugs clawing their home planet to shreds in search of "unobtanium."
Nevertheless, a group of entrepreneurs received a hero's reception Tuesday in Seattle, when they unveiled a new company with the goal of extracting platinum, gold and other valuable resources from asteroids. Director James Cameron, who dreamed up the evil miners of "Avatar," is among the project's supporters.
Called Planetary Resources, the company is based in Bellevue. About two dozen engineers and scientists already are at work on compact space telescopes that would scan for promising targets, co-founder Eric Anderson said.
An audience of business people and space buffs at Seattle's Museum of Flight erupted into applause and hoots when Anderson vowed to launch the first probes within 24 months.
"This company is not about paper studies," he said. "It's about building real hardware, doing real things in space."
If all goes well, Anderson said the company could have its first asteroid target identified and ready for mining within a decade.
But it's a risky enterprise, said Microsoft billionaire Charles Simonyi, one of several tech tycoons bankrolling the work.
He and others at the news conference drew parallels between the birth of space mining and the early days of computing. The first computers were bulky and expensive, Simonyi said, and skeptics doubted individuals would ever want their own.
If space mining gets off the ground, Seattle could be its Silicon Valley,
(Excerpt) Read more at seattletimes.nwsource.com ...
But then they have to come all the way back to Sacramento to assay and file their gold claim before they can mine it.
Naysayers can go back to the Flat Earth Society meetings.
They claim they are going to mine water from asteroids to turn it into fuel (presumably hydrogen and oxygen) but where are they going to get the fuel for electrolysis?
The Sun. There are no clouds to contend with in space, you can collect quite a bit of electricity with solar cells out there. 24/7!
I suspect the winning design will have a very thin reflector focusing light on a solar cell, or maybe an array of cells.
Think along the lines of metallized mylar on a light framework. This is much lighter per sq. foot than the solar cells, and concentrates the sunlight. No need for a mirror with a perfect figure, we are only concentrating the available light.
It was reported that one asteroid would have enough platinum to equal all that has ever been mined by man up to this time. That would be quite the discovery.
Precious metals definitely high on the list, but the rare earths (and possibly other things too rare to be economically feasible to process here on earth) could be the real gold here.
pagine mr Lister! Mr Dave Lister! please pick up the white courtesy phone! NO, THE WHITE ONE YOU SMEG HEAD!!
Ah yea, it sounds great until you get the feds into the act. Not to mention the EPA! Forget it Jake, it’s planet earth and it’s bureaucrats and despots that inhabit it that is the greatest obstacle.
A good (if somewhat dated) read is “The Third Industrial Revolution” by B. Harry Stine. There are all sorts of things which can be done very profitably in space.
Once you are in orbit it makes sense to dust off the pebble bed NERVA engine which we successfully tested in 1971.
It was about the size of a 55 gal. drum and produced about 5 GIGAWATTS of power, IIRC. It is a fission reactor with the fuel contained in ceramic “pebbles”. Fission reaction products are contained in the pebbles.
Using liquid H2 as the fuel, you can get a specific impulse of over 900 seconds vs. 460 sec. for H2/O2 reaction. For you non-aerospace engineers, that improvement in specific impulse is HUGE because of MV2.
That means you can make a ship that can go ANYWHERE in the Solar System in months. You can land such a ship on Luna, Mars, or Mercury and take off again. You can get to Jupiter’s moons in months instead of years.
That’s why a source of hydrogen in orbit is so important. A carbonaceous chondrite asteroid is loaded with water.
BTW, this concept has been around since at least the early 1950s when they did the calculations with slide rules.
We stand on the shoulders of giants.
I believe Fedgov is a signator to a treaty that makes all resources in space the "common property of all mankind", thus not exploitable by mere private entities.Don't know if that treaty ever made it through Senate ratification or not, though actual Constitutional procedure doesn't seem to matter any more.
Personally, if it were me, I'd mine whatever I want and when the UN asks for its cut, I'd say "sure" and drop several tons of iron from space stright down to the UN building in NY.
Space mining will eventually bring untold riches to us all. A single decent-sized asteroid could well contain more iron and other metals than have mined in the history of mankind, and it's all available with zero "environmental impact".
von Braun looked to the sky and stated that if a 1 mile diameter metallic asteroid were mined for its iron ore and nickle ore you would have a 500 year supply of stainless steel.
He and Dr Gerald O'Neil a Princeton Phycist formed the Nation Space Society and Dr O"Neils book "The High Frontier" said that if a proper space program were formed the profit would be out of this world.
That "little" computer that NASA ordered for the Apollo program was put on the shelf when the Apollo program was cancelled by those heads up their butts Congress Critters.
The two Steves bought the computer chip for $550.00 and made the first Apple computer. What resulted was the Greates Jobs program of the 20th century, (get it Jobs= jobs~) How many of the 100 million + people working is the US have jobs resulting form this electronic miracle my guess is 25 - 35 million people.
I say go get that asteroid.
I said it before and it's still Ad Astra!
About time! I’ve been waiting for this to happen since I started reading science fiction in the early 60’s (at 6 years old).
Check out the reactions to Gingrich's Florida speech on space development. The Flat Earth Society are here..
The two Steves bought the computer chip for $550.00 and made the first Apple computer.
Well, that makes for an interesting story, but Apollo was cancelled years before the MOS 6502 was even designed. wiki for 6502
We, the height challenged, stand at the feet of giants.
Despite what the treaty says, is there any dispute that the USA OWNS the Apollo Moon rock samples?
I think the treaty would bar the USA from CLAIMING the Moon in whole.
Asteroids are a different ball game. For example, if you capture your asteroid in a giant mylar bag (which would be a good idea to control pieces drifting off), then you OWN it. If you are productively mining it; you own it.
THAT is established space law regardless of what some UN bureaucrat says.
Maybe if the ra$$holes were not so closed minded an partisan, they would have supported New Gingrich after his Florida speech.
Obama and Romney lack vision, or worse, second term Obama’s dark vision is pushing him to destroy freedom and liberty.
Past due time to be our own giants...