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posted by martyb on Thursday November 09 2017, @08:03PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the it's-over-your-head dept.

One expert... in the field of asteroid mining, has predicted that asteroid mining could begin in 10-20 years:

"Asteroid mining on a regular basis, such as terrestrial mining takes place today, with an established industry and an ecosystem of supporting services businesses for the mining companies, could start anywhere from 20 to 50 years is my personal opinion. But any industry must start somewhere, and I think we will see the first asteroid being mined 10 to 20 years from now, at which point the surrounding ecosystem will begin to grow," [J.L.] Galache said.

However, in order to successfully start asteroid mining, a few obstacles must first be overcome. One of these is insufficient knowledge about certain types of asteroids. Although our understanding of asteroids as a whole is advanced enough, gaining a better understanding of the nature of various types of near-Earth objects could be a critical factor in terms of success. Galache underlined that mining techniques will have to be tailored to specific types of asteroids. "For example, you will not send the same equipment to mine an iron-nickel asteroid as you would a carbonaceous asteroid, and you will not send the same equipment to mine a fine regolith-covered asteroid as a rubble pile. I do believe we have figured out what all the unknowns are and it is just a matter of finding answers and solutions to those unknowns," he noted.

NASA's Psyche mission will visit 16 Psyche, the most massive metallic M-type asteroid in the asteroid belt.


Original Submission

Related Stories

The U.S. Geological Survey is Beginning to Take a Serious Look at Asteroid Mining 22 comments

The US Geological Survey Is Getting Serious About Space Resources and Mining

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is starting to earnestly evaluate space resources for future mining. Since its establishment in the 1870s, the USGS has focused pretty much solely on Earth. But now it's also investigating what benefits may or may not exist in tapping extraterrestrial water, minerals and metals.

[...] This past June, several USGS experts took part in a Space Resources Roundtable held at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. "The space-resources community will benefit greatly from working together with the USGS to assess the location and value of minerals, energy and water on the moon, Mars and asteroids," said Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Center for Space Resources at the Colorado School of Mines. [...] It's also worth noting that the new director of the USGS, Jim Reilly, is a geoscientist and former NASA astronaut. During his 13-year NASA career, Reilly flew on three space shuttle missions, conducted five spacewalks and racked up a total of more than 856 hours in orbit.

[...] [Laszlo Kestay, a research geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona,] pointed to the USGS' participation in space-resource workshops. In addition, there's the 2017 "Feasibility Study for the Quantitative Assessment of Mineral Resources in Asteroids" led by Kestay, which found that the water and metal resources of near-Earth asteroids are sufficient to support humanity should it become a fully spacefaring species. "At this point, we have done enough work to feel confident that the methods the USGS uses to assess mineral, energy and water resources on Earth can be used to assess space resources with minimal modification," Kestay said. "We have also done enough preliminary work to identify some areas where humanity's lack of knowledge will result in exceedingly large uncertainties in assessments undertaken today."

Also at Forbes.

Related: Luxembourg Announces Investment in Asteroid Mining
Asteroid Mining Could Begin in 10-20 Years
Chinese Researchers Propose Asteroid Mining Plan, Including a Heat Shield


Original Submission

Chinese Researchers Propose Asteroid Mining Plan, Including a Heat Shield 16 comments

China's Plan to Seize a Near-Earth Asteroid Sounds Surprisingly Feasible

For centuries, humans have extracted minerals from the Earth with reckless abandon, but it's only a matter of time before our desire for gold, platinum, iron, tungsten, and other useful ores will exceed our planet's ability to provide them. But what if we could look beyond Earth for the raw materials we need to power the engines of industry? We'll spare you the disingenuous prattle about how this sounds like a sci-fi movie, because the fact of the matter is asteroid mining is right over the horizon, and a group of Chinese scientists is already trying to figure out how to snag a near-Earth asteroid out of space to harvest all its goodies on Earth.

"Sounds like science-fiction, but I believe it can be realized," Li Mingtao, Ph.D., a researcher at the National Space Science Center under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, tells Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua. Li and his colleagues introduced their plan at a competition in Shenzhen in which participants proposed innovative future technologies.

Their plan, which involves a constellation of satellites in an orbit around the sun that would search for asteroids, wrap a massive bag around an asteroid, and ferry it back to Earth, has significant engineering obstacles. Even once they get a spacecraft to intercept an asteroid and envelop it in some kind of strong material, they'll still have to get it here. That's where a giant, unfolding heat shield comes in, to keep the asteroid from burning up upon reentry. It may sound crazy, but it's just one of many equally ambitious ideas floating around in the asteroid mining field. And as far as asteroid mining schemes go, it sounds pretty reasonable.

So far, Li and his team have been working with the Qian Xuesen Laboratory of Space Technology, under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, to identify a suitable target, reports Xinhua. This will likely be a near-Earth asteroid about 30 feet in diameter. Even a small asteroid would be hard to wrangle, but it could still potentially contain billions of dollars worth of precious metals.

I'm envisioning two ways of getting asteroid chunks down to Earth without burning them up: either a controlled landing of a small portion (tens or hundreds of tons) of minerals using a BFR or other reusable rocket, or diverting a heat-shielded asteroid (or small chunk of one) into Earth orbit and then controlling its descent. Possibly into a desert instead of an ocean.

Related: Luxembourg Announces Investment in Asteroid Mining
NASA Asteroid Mission -- Metals "Worth" Ten Thousand Quadrillion Dollars
Asteroid Mining Could Begin in 10-20 Years
"Mission Success" for Arkyd-6 Asteroid Prospecting Demonstration Spacecraft (Planetary Resources has since run dry on funding)


Original Submission

Luxembourg Still Interested in Asteroid Mining 67 comments

Luxembourg expands its space resources vision

Étienne Schneider, deputy prime minister of Luxembourg, frequently tells the story of how he got interested in building a space resources industry in the country. His efforts to diversify the country's economy several years ago led to a meeting with Pete Worden, at the time the director of NASA's Ames Research Center and a proponent of many far-reaching space concepts. During an Oct. 22 panel discussion at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Washington, he recalled Worden advocating for commercial space: "Why shouldn't you go for space mining activities?"

"When he explained all this to me, I thought two things," Schneider said. "First of all, what did the guy smoke before coming into the office? And second, how do I get him out of here?"

He eventually bought into Worden's vision, starting a space resources initiative that attracted companies to the country while enacting a space resources law like that in the United States. By the beginning of 2019, though, it looked like it might all be a bad trip. The two major startups in that industry, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, had been acquired by other companies with no interest in space resources. Worse, the Planetary Resources deal wiped out an investment of 12 million euros Luxembourg made in the startup.

Schneider is undaunted by those setbacks as he continues work to make Luxembourg a hotbed of entrepreneurial space, a scope that has expanded beyond, but has not abandoned, space resources. During the IAC, the country's year-old space agency signed an agreement with NASA to explore potential cooperation, building on an agreement Luxembourg signed with the U.S. Commerce Department in May. Just before the conference, Luxembourg announced it would partner with the European Space Agency on a space resources center in the country.

The article includes an interview with Schneider.

Previously: Luxembourg Announces Investment in Asteroid Mining

Related:


Original Submission

Mission to Metal Asteroid Psyche Moved Up a Year 5 comments

NASA's mission to the asteroid 16 Psyche has been moved forward by one year:

"We challenged the mission design team to explore if an earlier launch date could provide a more efficient trajectory to the asteroid Psyche, and they came through in a big way," said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This will enable us to fulfill our science objectives sooner and at a reduced cost."

The Discovery program announcement of opportunity had directed teams to propose missions for launch in either 2021 or 2023. The Lucy mission was selected for the first launch opportunity in 2021, and Psyche was to follow in 2023. Shortly after selection in January, NASA gave the direction to the Psyche team to research earlier opportunities.

"The biggest advantage is the excellent trajectory, which gets us there about twice as fast and is more cost effective," said Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Tempe. "We are all extremely excited that NASA was able to accommodate this earlier launch date. The world will see this amazing metal world so much sooner."

The revised trajectory is more efficient, as it eliminates the need for an Earth gravity assist, which ultimately shortens the cruise time. In addition, the new trajectory stays farther from the sun, reducing the amount of heat protection needed for the spacecraft. The trajectory will still include a Mars gravity assist in 2023.

Now I'm psyched.

Previously: NASA Selects Two Missions to Visit Asteroids


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09 2017, @08:32PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09 2017, @08:32PM (#594816)

    Asteroid mining on a regular basis,... could start anywhere from 20 to 50 years is my personal opinion.

    Argument from authority?
    At least is sincerely disclosed; everyone is entitled to an opinion and true, some opinions will be more informed than others.

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday November 09 2017, @09:37PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 09 2017, @09:37PM (#594852) Journal
      Let's read the article to see what it takes:

      “The first step is always the hardest, but once it is taken and a concept is proven, investment will follow. That is why my partners and I have founded Aten Engineering now, because we want to be there when the industry takes off, with a ready product for the current and future asteroid mining companies,” Galache told Astrowatch.net.

      So it's:

      1. Take the first step.
      2. Prove a concept.
      3. Follow with investment.
      4. Industry takes off.
      5. Ready product for the mining companies
      6. Bamm! Profit

      Sounds trivial. I'll start mining an asteroid this evening after I finish my Masters of Orion game.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by bob_super on Thursday November 09 2017, @08:42PM (14 children)

    by bob_super (1357) on Thursday November 09 2017, @08:42PM (#594824)

    What's the problem you're trying to solve, again?
    What are the odds of success, the odds of catastrophic failure, and the ROI?

    Outside of a few people with extra disposable cash buying space diamonds for their mistress, how does asteroid mining compete with the thousands to millions of tons or ore extracted every year on the planet?

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09 2017, @08:52PM (7 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09 2017, @08:52PM (#594830)

      1. Great source of material for building in space, probably much less fuel needed to mine compared to launching off Earth's surface
      2. Might find some rare materials.
      3. Reduce the environmental impact.
      4. Humanity needs a new goal before we tear ourselves apart.
      5. It is coooool

      • (Score: 2) by requerdanos on Thursday November 09 2017, @09:18PM (6 children)

        by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 09 2017, @09:18PM (#594838) Journal

        3. Reduce the environmental impact.

        Well, no. Relocate the environmental impact from our home planet to the asteroid mining site. It seems the total environmental impact would be greater for a space mining job vs. a local one, but the benefit comes from moving much of that environmental impact to a place where the environment literally doesn't matter to any intelligent life.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by Grishnakh on Thursday November 09 2017, @09:41PM (3 children)

          by Grishnakh (2831) on Thursday November 09 2017, @09:41PM (#594856)

          When we use the word "environment" in this context, we're not using it as a synonym for "vicinity", we're really talking about the ecological impact of something.

          There is no ecology of any kind on an asteroid, so there is no "environmental impact" to asteroid mining (unless you have a big accident when trying to get the refined ores back to Earth...).

          • (Score: 2) by SpockLogic on Friday November 10 2017, @12:59AM

            by SpockLogic (2762) on Friday November 10 2017, @12:59AM (#594951)

            There is no ecology of any kind on an asteroid, so there is no "environmental impact" to asteroid mining (unless you have a big accident when trying to get the refined ores back to Earth...).

            Now what was it that the NOSTROMO accidentally tried to bring back to earth ...

            --
            Overreacting is one thing, sticking your head up your ass hoping the problem goes away is another - edIII
          • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Friday November 10 2017, @06:00PM (1 child)

            by HiThere (866) on Friday November 10 2017, @06:00PM (#595232) Journal

            Actually, once building mines in the asteroids starts, pollution out there *is* going to be undesirable. Too much small stuff really limits the speed you can use.

            That said, it might be possible to solve the matter by giving a hunk that you aren't using a strong electrostatic charge. Not sure whether it should be positive or negative, I tend to think negative, because I think ionizing radiation (i.e., UV) will tend to knock off electrons, so you need a really low power ion emitter that only emits protons (or positrons, but be reasonable). Wouldn't need much power, you could probably run it on solar cells beyond Jupiter's orbit. Then various electrostatic processes would attract all the negatively charged matter and even, I believe, neutral matter (Van der Waals?). You wouldn't want it to be fast, so you don't want something powerful, just enduring. And, of course, it would repel positively charged matter from the area, but that would be less effective.

            --
            Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
            • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Friday November 10 2017, @08:26PM

              by Grishnakh (2831) on Friday November 10 2017, @08:26PM (#595328)

              There's different kinds of pollution. In earth-based mining, one big problem is "tailings": all the leftovers from the earth dug up after the valuable ores are removed. They tend to be full of a lot of other not-so-desirable materials like arsenic and mercury, plus you have to put them somewhere, and so they cause problems with the ecology on the surface. In space, there's no ecosystem to worry about polluting; you just have to dump the tailings somewhere. What you talk of might be a concern for smaller asteroids, but if you're mining on a larger body that has at least a little bit of gravity, it should be OK: the tailings will just stay with the body. Many asteroids are what's called "rubble piles", where they're nothing more than a bunch of small rocks being held together by their mutual gravitation; it doesn't take something the size of the Moon to have enough gravity for stuff to not just fly off into space and create a dust cloud. But I guess it would be a really bad idea to indiscriminately use high explosives to blast smaller asteroids.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by frojack on Friday November 10 2017, @01:55AM (1 child)

          by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 10 2017, @01:55AM (#594982) Journal

          Well, no. Relocate the environmental impact from our home planet to the asteroid mining site.

          Not the way that works.

          The impact on the earth of making and lifting all that equipment will exceed by orders of magnitude the value of the exacted materials.
          And after you mine it, you have to build a factory in space to process it and make it useful for SOMETHING. And of course you have to mine more stuff on earth and lift that into space to build the factory.

          Just about ALL the impact will happen here on earth. Just about none of the benefit will accrue here.

          (Other than separating some Tycoons from their money and spreading that among those working in the mines and factories and rocket industry here on earth - which some would value, right gewg_?).

          We do not now have the ability to get a single person to the moon. The idea that we can land a mining machine on an asteroid is ridiculous. The idea this happens in 10 years is absurd.

          Bad enough you have hopelessly depressed people, who after a life time of someone else wiping their ass, suggesting we need to get off the earth within 600 years because we are all going to burn up when the sun novas. Now we have "experts in an imaginary field" telling us just how to do it.

          FFS people! We are no where near starvation, we use less farmland now world wide than we did 100 or 200 years ago, we have cleaner air and water, we've got millions of tons of metals laying around in our garbage dumps free for re-use, we are getting off of fossil fuels. And some clown pretends to be an expert in something nobody has done, and half of you take it seriously!?? Unbe-fucking-lievable!

          --
          No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
          • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Friday November 10 2017, @06:06PM

            by HiThere (866) on Friday November 10 2017, @06:06PM (#595235) Journal

            You are accurately describing the early phase of the project. Once manufacturing in space takes off it would reduce the need to build stuff on Earth. And lowering something from space to earth isn't nearly as polluting as lifting it off...by several orders of magnitude. But the main effect would probably be on stuff built for use in space, or on other bodies than Earth.

            Once it got going this would have a large effect on aero-space, but probably a lot less on anything else until a *much* later phase. But I wouldn't want to speculate about the time frame, as even the first stage is going to depend on a lot of technical advances.

            --
            Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday November 09 2017, @09:21PM (4 children)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 09 2017, @09:21PM (#594841) Journal

      When Elon Musk started SpaceX he was not expecting any ROI. He thought it might completely fail. I just watched a video about this, and heard it from his own mouth.

      Now it is funny that SpaceX is in an enviable position. It has 16 launches (so far) [wikipedia.org] this year. Commercial launches lined up for years. Seems to be hitting its stride. Setbacks seem to be fewer and lesser. And during all that, SpaceX has also managed to make big plans for the future.

      Will there be someone similar who will pioneer asteroid mining? I suspect so.

      --
      You can not have fun on the weak days but you can on the weakened.
      • (Score: 2) by frojack on Friday November 10 2017, @01:58AM (3 children)

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 10 2017, @01:58AM (#594985) Journal

        Why would they?

        If we could technically do it today, there would still be no economic reason to do so.

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday November 10 2017, @03:03PM (2 children)

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 10 2017, @03:03PM (#595137) Journal

          I don't have numbers to back this up. But I'll suggest two economic reasons for mining asteroids.

          1. Each pound of Iron, Aluminum, etc may be cheap on earth. But it suddenly becomes worth a whole lot more once boosted to orbit and beyond. As we start to construct structures in space, in orbit, or even on other planetary bodies (Mars, Moon) it may be cheaper to mine from asteroids. It may even be cheaper to land asteroid metals on a planetary body than to lift them from Earth.

          2. Rare earth metals are . . . . wait for it . . . Rare! Hard to come by on Earth. It may be economically viable, at some point, to get rare earth metals from an asteroid where they may be far more plentiful. eg, vastly cheaper per pound, even landed on Earth.

          It may not be economically viable today. At some point it will be.

          There is oil that we are extracting today that once was considered not economically viable to drill for.

          --
          You can not have fun on the weak days but you can on the weakened.
          • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Friday November 10 2017, @05:22PM (1 child)

            by bob_super (1357) on Friday November 10 2017, @05:22PM (#595207)

            > But it suddenly becomes worth a whole lot more once boosted to orbit and beyond. As we start to construct structures in space,
            > in orbit, or even on other planetary bodies (Mars, Moon) it may be cheaper to mine from asteroids.

            And you're lifting up there the half-billion dollar transformation plant, which takes the 10%, 1% or even 0.01% concentrated ore, and produces element-pure ingots through complex refining processes, right?
            Just because they're in space doesn't mean that the lumps of rock are pure usable elements.
            Once extracted, you also need to make those elements useful, typically by mixing up alloys... Another dirty specialized resource-intensive process.

            • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday November 10 2017, @08:25PM

              by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 10 2017, @08:25PM (#595325) Journal

              I am aware of that, and have considered it. As we construct structures in space, on a big enough scale, building the infrastructure for refining mined rocks becomes just one small part of a much larger infrastructure of construction. It would inevitably become economically attractive to mine asteroids. At some point.

              --
              You can not have fun on the weak days but you can on the weakened.
    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday November 10 2017, @02:02PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 10 2017, @02:02PM (#595118)

      Millions of tons of what? If (BIG IF) a NEO is covered in relatively pure coltan (currently trading at $120/kg) it could be very economically feasible to just fly out there and redirect a couple of tons of it to fall in the deep Australian interior - and it would make a hell of a military demonstration in the process.

      Of course, gold is trading at $40K/kg, and platinum at $30K/kg, so if you've got an asteroid that's even 1% rich in those, that's another great target for a big earth-fall mining operation.

      The idea of refining the precious metals in space and then soft-landing them would seem to be much further out.

      --
      Україна досі не є частиною Росії.
  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Phoenix666 on Thursday November 09 2017, @08:47PM (3 children)

    by Phoenix666 (552) on Thursday November 09 2017, @08:47PM (#594829) Journal

    How can you be an expert in something that doesn't exist yet?

    It's like saying I'm an expert in warp engine design. Because I say so.

    --
    Washington DC delenda est.
    • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Thursday November 09 2017, @08:55PM (1 child)

      by bob_super (1357) on Thursday November 09 2017, @08:55PM (#594831)

      I am definitely an expert in asteroid mines: I finished Descent 1, 2, 3 and Underground!

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Grishnakh on Thursday November 09 2017, @09:39PM

      by Grishnakh (2831) on Thursday November 09 2017, @09:39PM (#594854)

      It's like saying I'm an expert in warp engine design. Because I say so.

      You're probably not, but I'd argue that Harold White [wikipedia.org] qualifies as an expert in warp engine design.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by DannyB on Thursday November 09 2017, @09:14PM (5 children)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 09 2017, @09:14PM (#594835) Journal

    I remember a time, long, long ago when it was thought to be impossible to land a rocket booster and re-use it.

    We'll never mine asteroids. Just ask the NASA and Congress people who said (1) impossible to re-land a rocket booster, and (2) impossible to re-use it.

    Conclusion: because the odds of failing the first few times are quite high, it should not be attempted. Never. Ever. Just don't even try.

    --
    You can not have fun on the weak days but you can on the weakened.
    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by khallow on Thursday November 09 2017, @09:42PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 09 2017, @09:42PM (#594858) Journal
      You're just not distributing the funding correctly. Such a problem will clearly succeed, if it touches at least 218 House districts and 30 states.
    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by frojack on Friday November 10 2017, @02:27AM (1 child)

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 10 2017, @02:27AM (#594996) Journal

      I remember a time, long, long ago when it was thought to be impossible to land a rocket booster and re-use it.

      You never thought that, stop pretending. You read the same sci-fi about landing rockets as I did as a kid. You saw it right there on the cover.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marooned_on_Mars [wikipedia.org]
      Everybody knew this was possible. There was just little economic incentive to try it. Then government got out of the way.

      Private industry can't waste money forever like governments can.
      It still marginally worth while to do so today. It takes months of refurb to re-fly a stage 1 rocket. It takes months of work to prep a new one too.

      It takes minutes to prep an airliner for another flight. This shit Musk is doing now will be a joke in 50 years. By then, it will be refuel and go again.

      Realistically, rockets are already dead technology.

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday November 10 2017, @02:47PM

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 10 2017, @02:47PM (#595133) Journal

        Realistically, rockets are already dead technology.

        What do you think is going to replace rockets?

        It takes months of refurb to re-fly a stage 1 rocket.

        Just because that is true today doesn't mean it will be true forever.

        When automobiles were introduced, they had all kinds of problems that would make people say they are never going to replace the horse and buggy.

        Automobiles are noisy. Smelly. Travel at dangerously unsafe break-neck speeds of 20 mph! They can break your arm if engine backfires while you are cranking it. And worst of all, automobiles frighten the horses. So I can confidently predict that automobiles are just a fad, and the horse and buggy will be the preferred mode of transportation forever.

        Even a couple decades ago, wind and solar power were not really very economical compared to coal fired generating plants. But technologies improve.

        So far, I like SpaceX's track record.

        You never thought that, stop pretending.

        I'm being funny. By "a long time ago", I mean this decade. And not that I, personally, thought it was impossible. But that there were people who thought it was impossible and probably should have known better. As you point out. It was just a matter of economics and developing the technology. There is no fundamental reason it is impossible to land a booster or to re-use it. Whether it is a good idea, remains to be seen. But I haven't heard of any better ideas yet.

        --
        You can not have fun on the weak days but you can on the weakened.
    • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Friday November 10 2017, @08:33PM (1 child)

      by Grishnakh (2831) on Friday November 10 2017, @08:33PM (#595332)

      I remember a time, long, long ago when it was thought to be impossible to land a rocket booster and re-use it.

      Just ask the NASA and Congress people who said (1) impossible to re-land a rocket booster, and (2) impossible to re-use it.

      Huh? When did they ever say that? Did you forget that's exactly what they did back in 1969 to land on the Moon? They had to use a small rocket engine to land without crashing, and then re-ignite it to take off again.

      They just never bothered on Earth because 1) there's an atmosphere here, so landing here with a rocket is a much, much trickier problem than on the airless Moon, 2) the computing technology to do it reliably didn't exist back in the Apollo days, and 3) they were much more worried about making everything as absolutely safe as possible, with little regard to cost, so they were treating things more like racing car engines, where the engines are only used for one race before being completely rebuilt, rather than like today's cars where you drive them for 200,000 miles doing minimal maintenance and just dealing with it if there's a failure. The high cost of launches was indeed a problem which, given the large number of satellite launches these days, invited new thinking from the private sector.

      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Monday November 13 2017, @04:09PM

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 13 2017, @04:09PM (#596244) Journal

        I don't think it was NASA in an official capacity. But it was someone at NASA who, as you point out, should know better.

        --
        You can not have fun on the weak days but you can on the weakened.
  • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09 2017, @09:48PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09 2017, @09:48PM (#594861)

    In the long run, making programs free is a step toward the postscarcity world, where nobody will have to work very hard just to make a living. People will be free to devote themselves to activities that are fun, such as programming, after spending the necessary ten hours a week on required tasks such as legislation, family counseling, robot repair and asteroid prospecting. There will be no need to be able to make a living from programming.

    http://www.gnu.org/gnu/manifesto.html [gnu.org]

    Richard Motherfucker Stallman really did a number on me. I went to school to earn a master's degree in computer science so I could be a Free Software programmer, and I coded my portfolio of free open source software, and it never ever got me a job in the "tech" industry. Open source IS SHIT. Free software is TOTALLY FUCKING WORTHLESS. I have no job, and I have no prospects. I can't make a living anywhere, because I am a programmer. I wasted my life for absolutely zero return on investment.

    The GNU Manifesto is called a Manifesto for good reason, because it's completely fucking stupid Communist BULLSHIT.

    I've seen Motherfucker Stallman speak, and he's no visionary; he's a fucking dick.

    FUCK RMS, FUCK GNU, FUCK LINUX, and FUCK YOU.

    • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09 2017, @10:19PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09 2017, @10:19PM (#594875)

      Lol, you're doing it wrong. Or, by the seething anger you seem to hold probably every interviewer sees the psychotic break ready to happen in your eyes and thinks "No thanks, I don't wanna be murdered by a disgruntled dev."

      Or perhaps you're such a special fucking snowflake that you won't take a job that is "beneath you" and thus you prevent yourself from developing a career.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09 2017, @10:03PM (6 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09 2017, @10:03PM (#594869)

    Yes, you should send the same equipment to each asteroid. It lands on the asteroid and begins printing worker drones, and everything needed for this specific mining operation. Eventually creating processing facilities, and even launch vehicles to send payloads back to earth. If you are going to mine it, own it.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09 2017, @10:18PM (5 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09 2017, @10:18PM (#594874)

      In response to my own comment :) It's more akin to terraforming an asteroid... Yes -- I am an expert!

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by takyon on Thursday November 09 2017, @10:24PM (4 children)

        by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Thursday November 09 2017, @10:24PM (#594880) Journal

        Bringing chunks of asteroid to the Earth's surface requires propellant and will probably be more expensive than conventional mining for a long time.

        Using the materials such as ice in space, to refuel spacecraft for example, could be a more reasonable goal.

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Friday November 10 2017, @01:38AM (3 children)

          by c0lo (156) on Friday November 10 2017, @01:38AM (#594973) Journal

          Why bring chunks of asteroids on down if you can move (or recreate) the tabs facilities in space?

          If you think the world has an employment problem now, wait until the whole consumer- oriented industries move into space. And "parachutes" the soon-to-be-garbage from orbit.

          --
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 10 2017, @02:08AM (1 child)

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 10 2017, @02:08AM (#594987)

            Sounds like we are really talking about something 50-200 years from now. Where we have mastered autonomous self-maintaining swarms of robots, ability to fabricate on-site and off-site materials “printing”, on and on… However the 50 year mark should amount to some perfection of these techniques on Earth, which would in turn eliminate any manufacturing job. Ideally build X facility should be a push button operation, we simple keep infusing more raw materials in another sci-fi way.

            • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Friday November 10 2017, @06:25PM

              by HiThere (866) on Friday November 10 2017, @06:25PM (#595253) Journal

              Printing materials will probably always have limits. It's my guess that the limits will involve strength, but I'm not sure. Other technologies will be favored for many purposes. This isn't to say that they won't be automated, just that printing will only be one of the approaches used. I suspect that for some purposes large globs of molten metal will be required for ... if not centuries, at least the rest of this one.

              That said, if energy becomes cheap enough I could see refining materials by heating them into a plasma and running them through an advanced form of mass spectroscope. But that takes really cheap energy. Fusion probably wouldn't suffice. (Well, it *would*, stars to it all the time, but not on a human scale, and they don't separate the results.)

              OTOH, one really useful thing to do in space is smelt bodies for their gases, and fractionally distill those. Then you're left with a pile of sand that has lost it's glue, and you don't want to let it spill around freely where you're working, so you might want to melt the surface, and that might .... well, as things get more advanced I can see pulling off nearly all the elements in order of the temperature that they vaporise at. That would include various compounds, which would either disassociate or vaporize. But that takes a LOT of heat, so it's not one of the early steps...and may never be practical.

              But when you've got masses of pure elements, printing isn't the best way to build three dimensional structures. Until you get assemblers you need to rely on machining, and modifications of all the traditional ways of handling them. (Free fall chemistry is likely to be quite different, though, except in really small batches. And nothing that depends on convection unless you spin it.)

              --
              Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 10 2017, @02:11AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 10 2017, @02:11AM (#594991)

            Back to garbage, we could also place printers in orbit creating micro drone swarms, designed to seek out and attach to space garbage, fire their X and send it back to earth.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09 2017, @10:48PM (8 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 09 2017, @10:48PM (#594896)

    I've never seen a realistic accounting model that produces profits. Even if one found an asteroid made of pure gold, it would be more expensive to collect and return from the asteroid belt than it would to mine it on Earth. And of course, no asteroid is going to be so easy to mine. (Nickle and iron perhaps are, but their resale value is far too low to be worth it.)

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by Fluffeh on Thursday November 09 2017, @11:55PM (4 children)

      by Fluffeh (954) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 09 2017, @11:55PM (#594920) Journal

      It can add up if the materials are going to be used to make more space-based products.

      Iron itself might be worth a few bucks per kilo/ton on earth, but it costs a LOT to get it into space. If you want to build a structure on the moon you can pay a few bucks for iron then pay hand over fist to get it into space and then to the moon - or you can pay a bucketload of cash to mine it from an asteroid and basically have free delivery to the moon. Two different cost/benefit analysis, at some point, one overtakes the other at being the most cost effective solution.

      • (Score: 2) by Fluffeh on Thursday November 09 2017, @11:57PM

        by Fluffeh (954) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 09 2017, @11:57PM (#594922) Journal

        While there isn't currently a lot of demand for raw minerals anywhere above the earth's surface, it is slowly headed in that direction. Given companies with profits on their mind are now involved rather than just purely state based actors, give it time. Just give it a bit of time.

      • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Friday November 10 2017, @06:28PM (2 children)

        by HiThere (866) on Friday November 10 2017, @06:28PM (#595258) Journal

        If you're going to use it on the moon, it probably makes more sense to dig it on the moon. Smaller bodies, though, might well have different trade-offs, and for use in space itself, asteroids are probably the best bet. But that seems to depend on automated factories which we are a few years (decades?) from really having.

        So his projection is probably overly optimistic in its time-line.

        --
        Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
        • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Friday November 10 2017, @08:52PM (1 child)

          by Grishnakh (2831) on Friday November 10 2017, @08:52PM (#595340)

          If you're going to use it on the moon, it probably makes more sense to dig it on the moon.

          It certainly does, however that doesn't mean that everything you need will be conveniently available on the Moon. The Moon has very different geology from the Earth. IANAG, but I have read some stuff that poo-poos the idea of large-scale lunar mining somewhere, though this seems misguided to me since the Moon is full of craters from asteroid impacts, so there should be lots of different materials available there. After all, all the valuable materials in Earth's crust that we mine today were put there by asteroid impacts; all the valuable and heavier materials that were in the planet at the time of its creation sunk to the core. The Moon is like that too, except that it hasn't had active geology in a very long time, so all that asteroid material is still there, close to the surface, instead of being buried over time by geological processes. However, if you're interested in particular resources like platinum, it might be more efficient to find an asteroid rich in it and mine that instead of digging up asteroid debris on the Moon.

          • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Saturday November 11 2017, @01:44AM

            by HiThere (866) on Saturday November 11 2017, @01:44AM (#595436) Journal

            If you're after something like iron or cobalt, then an impact crater makes a lot of sense. If you're after something else...well, it depends on what else. A lot of things don't seem to show up in impact craters on earth, so they might be difficult to mine on the moon, also. Some are naturally dispersed as the rock wells up from the magma, and are then concentrated by biologic processes over the aeons. Coal is one good example, but only the most blatant one. Those will be difficult to mine in space, and finding them will probably depend on reprocessing the waste after other, more common, materials have been refined out. Rather the way rhenium is (was until recently?) mined on Earth. I expect a lot of new processes will need to be developed that depend on things like vacuum distillation. So expect mining in space to be generally a lot more difficult and energy intensive than on Earth. Water being a bit expensive there, some other form of separation of ore fragments will be needed. My guess is that it will involve a combination of vacuum distillation and electromagnetic separation. https://www.chemguide.co.uk/analysis/masspec/howitworks.html [chemguide.co.uk]

            --
            Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday November 10 2017, @02:51PM (2 children)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 10 2017, @02:51PM (#595134) Journal

      Someone else already points out that cheap iron becomes not so cheap once lifted to orbit and beyond.

      So I'll point out something else. A half ton of rare earth metals might very well be economically worth mining from an asteroid and landing back on earth.

      --
      You can not have fun on the weak days but you can on the weakened.
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by HiThere on Friday November 10 2017, @06:38PM (1 child)

        by HiThere (866) on Friday November 10 2017, @06:38PM (#595263) Journal

        I really doubt that for the rare earth metals. Remember the asteroids won't have had the same kind on geologic actions concentrating them. If the process happened at all, it will require an explanation that hasn't occurred to me.

        Also, the rare earths aren't really all that rare on Earth, they're just quite hard to refine and separate, so that most ores are unprofitable. I don't know of any reason to think that the asteroids would have concentrated ores. And example of an unprofitable ore (that is easily processed) is : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3758135/ [nih.gov]
        also see: http://web.mit.edu/12.000/www/m2016/finalwebsite/elements/ree.html [mit.edu]

        --
        Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday November 10 2017, @08:26PM

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 10 2017, @08:26PM (#595327) Journal

          Interesting. Thanks

          --
          You can not have fun on the weak days but you can on the weakened.
  • (Score: 2) by MostCynical on Friday November 10 2017, @01:12AM

    by MostCynical (2589) on Friday November 10 2017, @01:12AM (#594958) Journal
    --
    "I guess once you start doubting, there's no end to it." -Batou, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by jman on Friday November 10 2017, @02:46PM

    by jman (6085) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 10 2017, @02:46PM (#595132) Homepage
    With apologies to Ed and Patsy Bruce, here's something I wrote in the 80's after running across the more famous Waylon & Willie version...

    Space is a life that not many can take for too long.
    Cold-hearted asteroids, and too many things to go wrong.
    You try not to think of the lovers that you've left behind on your travels out far.
    Being away from your home for too long, the price of Man reaching the stars.

    Momma's, don't let your babies grow up to be Belters.
    Let 'em drive shuttles, no further the moon.
    If they keep on going you won't see 'em soon.
    Momma's, don't let your babies grow up to be Belters.
    Three years of travel, then working for five, so mankind in space can survive.

    Now, contracted labor has never paid higher before.
    Astronaut miners are trained in those skills, and much more.
    Like how to survive where the sun only gleams, as it radiates death out past Mars.
    Or how to survive when you're back home on Earth, and the groundhogs just stare at your scars.

    Momma's, don't let your babies grow up to be Belters.
    Let 'em drive shuttles, no further the moon.
    If they keep on going you won't see 'em soon.
    Momma's, don't let your babies grow up to be Belters.
    Three years of travel, then working for five, so mankind in space can survive.

    Now I've been a Belter for 30-odd years and it seems,
    Oceans and sunsets are always a part of my dreams.
    Yeah, I made my choice, a long, long time ago, when I signed up for work that one day.
    And ever so often, I think to go back, but somehow I manage to stay.

    Momma's, don't let your babies grow up to be Belters.
    Let 'em drive shuttles, no further the moon.
    If they keep on going you won't see 'em soon.
    Momma's, don't let your babies grow up to be Belters.
    Three years of travel, then working for five, so mankind in space can survive.
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