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posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday December 05, @10:37PM   Printer-friendly
from the hard-to-swing-a-pick-in-zero-G dept.

So, you want to be an asteroid miner?

So [Williams] started talking to Christopher Dreyer, a professor at the Colorado School of Mines' Center for Space Resources, a research and technology development center that's existed within the school for more than a decade.

It was good timing. Because this summer, Mines announced its intention to found the world's first graduate program in Space Resources—the science, technology, policy, and politics of prospecting, mining, and using those resources. The multidisciplinary program would offer Post-Baccalaureate certificates and Masters of Science degrees. Although it's still pending approval for a 2018 start date, the school is running its pilot course, taught by Dreyer, this semester.

The focus seems to be on space colonies mining what they need in place, more than bringing material back to Earth.


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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by meustrus on Tuesday December 05, @10:47PM (36 children)

    by meustrus (4961) <meustrusNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday December 05, @10:47PM (#605864)

    The use case for space mining is using the resources for spacecraft and colonies. It's hugely expensive to get such material off Earth, so materials mined in space would have a huge price advantage.

    If they end up "bringing material back to Earth", it will mean that the economics have failed and we will never reach the stars.

    --
    If there isn't at least one reference or primary source, it's not +1 Informative.
    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday December 05, @11:04PM (9 children)

      by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 05, @11:04PM (#605869)

      If they end up "bringing material back to Earth",

      Dead weight hurling down on Earth at cosmic speed. No economic considerations involved.
      What can this be?

      • (Score: 4, Funny) by Thexalon on Wednesday December 06, @12:46AM (2 children)

        by Thexalon (636) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06, @12:46AM (#605921) Homepage

        A revolt against the Earth by libertarian-minded lunar colonists?

        --
        If you act on pie in the sky, you're likely to get pie in the face.
        • (Score: 3, Funny) by takyon on Wednesday December 06, @12:47AM

          by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday December 06, @12:47AM (#605922) Journal

          Have you ever been punched in the face by a lunar colonist? It's like fighting a baby (RELATABLE).

          --
          [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday December 06, @01:03AM

          by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06, @01:03AM (#605929)

          A revolt against the Earth by libertarian-minded lunar lunatic colonists?

          Does this fit?
          I mean, look, asteroid miners may have ideas of their own (even without having a harsh mistress).
          Furthermore, these ideas may or may not be rational; so, even as only particular case, I thing the reformulation cannot be dismissed.

      • (Score: 1) by jshmlr on Wednesday December 06, @12:53AM (5 children)

        by jshmlr (6606) on Wednesday December 06, @12:53AM (#605927) Journal

        Mass Drivers, but they're outlawed on every civilized planet.

        • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday December 06, @01:10AM (4 children)

          by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06, @01:10AM (#605932)

          Too bad the asteroid miners don't live on planets, much less on civilized ones.

          • (Score: 2, Informative) by jshmlr on Wednesday December 06, @01:49AM (3 children)

            by jshmlr (6606) on Wednesday December 06, @01:49AM (#605943) Journal

            I hear ya. I was making a Babylon 5 reference.

            • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday December 06, @02:11AM (2 children)

              by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06, @02:11AM (#605948)

              Ah, that 'splains.
              Haven't seen any in my youth; now I'm no longer inclined to binge-watching series.

              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @04:57AM

                by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @04:57AM (#605989)

                It's all fun and games until someone pulls out the planet-killing doomsday weapons.

              • (Score: 2) by NotSanguine on Wednesday December 06, @05:32AM

                by NotSanguine (285) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06, @05:32AM (#606002) Homepage Journal

                Ah, that 'splains.
                Haven't seen any in my youth; now I'm no longer inclined to binge-watching series.

                Then don't binge watch. But do watch it. It's worth it. Or don't.

                It's the best Sci-Fi television in the last 30 years, IMNSHO.

                --
                No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical. --Niels Bohr
    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Tuesday December 05, @11:14PM (25 children)

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 05, @11:14PM (#605876) Journal

      The use case for space mining is using the resources for spacecraft and colonies.

      Still, offering a degree for something that has never been done is at best "hopeful" and more likely, simple fraud.

      Unless picking up a scoop of dirt from the moon's surface, or scraping a trench on mars counts as mining, these people simply have nothing to offer. There is no body of knowledge to teach here.

      Mining anything to make a spacecraft is ludicrous. Maybe you should go to a museum and see an actual space craft some time.

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday December 05, @11:22PM (3 children)

        by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 05, @11:22PM (#605881)

        Still, offering a degree for something that has never been done is at best "hopeful" and more likely, simple fraud.

        Ah, the utilitarian view on education. Need to release an inscribed piece of cardboard at the end and that cardboard need to guarantee employment.

        Problem solving skills in restricted condition does not count as education.

        • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday December 06, @12:40AM (2 children)

          by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06, @12:40AM (#605919) Journal

          Chortle.
          Someone who thinks education actually imparts knowledge, rather than filters people who already have knowledge and know how to obtain more. So quaint.

          --
          No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
          • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday December 06, @01:18AM (1 child)

            by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06, @01:18AM (#605937)

            Chortle.
            Someone who thinks education actually imparts knowledge, rather than filters people who already have knowledge and know how to obtain more. So quaint.

            Pshaw... like all the education of this world reduces to the idiotic way of "imparting" most of the US institutions seems to deliver.

            Education is not meant to impart knowledge. Actually, one can see the knowledge only as the "raw material" to consume in building, in the student, the capacity to think and operate with that knowledge - or, for the matter, any other knowledge not delivered by the institution, perhaps even new knowledge that will be discovered in the future. Oh, the horror, even new knowledge that a former student with thinking ability may discover her/himself.

            But, yes, I can imagine all these may sound as heresy for some USian minds.

            • (Score: 2) by meustrus on Wednesday December 06, @06:10PM

              by meustrus (4961) <meustrusNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday December 06, @06:10PM (#606246)

              What you describe is as far from heresy as possible among academics. It's their orthodoxy, in fact. But they lost the battle for the soul of higher education when we started expecting people to take out debt to go to school.

              Because if it's going to cost you your future, you would be a fool not to expect it to guarantee that future will be successful enough to cover the check.

              --
              If there isn't at least one reference or primary source, it's not +1 Informative.
      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by meustrus on Tuesday December 05, @11:26PM (20 children)

        by meustrus (4961) <meustrusNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday December 05, @11:26PM (#605882)

        Yes, spacecraft are made of very complicated highly refined materials. Many of them are rare or otherwise difficult to manufacture.

        The elements exist in space. The kind of industry required to refine it in space may take centuries to build, but the future of travel between celestial bodies is on spacecraft built entirely in space. Building space-bound things inside Earth's gravity well is just too expensive.

        --
        If there isn't at least one reference or primary source, it's not +1 Informative.
        • (Score: 4, Insightful) by bob_super on Wednesday December 06, @12:22AM (14 children)

          by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday December 06, @12:22AM (#605909)

          Building the required commons in space is absurdly expensive.
          Sure, launching stuff out of our gravity well is really really hard. But since the objects that we launch require over half of the Periodic Table in their manufacturing, in various extra-pure molecular forms and in a variety of matter states, thinking you are going to find all the required pieces in a timely manner on asteroids with convenient orbits is ... optimistic bordering on delusional. "Future" is a great word, isn't it?

          • (Score: 5, Insightful) by JNCF on Wednesday December 06, @12:38AM (7 children)

            by JNCF (4317) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06, @12:38AM (#605918) Journal

            But since the objects that we launch require over half of the Periodic Table in their manufacturing, in various extra-pure molecular forms and in a variety of matter states, thinking you are going to find all the required pieces in a timely manner on asteroids with convenient orbits is ... optimistic bordering on delusional.

            As an ignoramus on the matter of spacecraft manufacturing I ask, in what proportion? Are there are some big bulky pieces we could build in space, and launch the remainder from Earth at first? I see no need for an all-or-nothing approach, but again, I'm an ignoramus.

            • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday December 06, @01:15AM (6 children)

              by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday December 06, @01:15AM (#605935)

              It's a good point that it's not all-or-nothing. But because the conditions are so extreme, pretty much everything used in spacecrafts is some exotic materials blend or alloy, or structure that didn't exist 50 years ago.
              Removing the takeoff Gs, and some of the weight constraints (hard because any weight has to be pushed), some of those high-tech materials could be substituted for simpler forms (Fe doesn't rust easily in space), but that's gonna require case-by-case analysis of tradeoffs, and most elements will still be insanely hard to locate/reach/mine/purify, compared to getting a DHL from outer Uzbekistan or Atacama.

              • (Score: 2) by mhajicek on Wednesday December 06, @03:31AM (5 children)

                by mhajicek (51) on Wednesday December 06, @03:31AM (#605979)

                There's plenty of aluminum on the moon...

                • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday December 06, @07:59AM (2 children)

                  by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday December 06, @07:59AM (#606031)

                  Al is pretty weak, on top of requiring massive amount of energy to extract (at least here). Also reacts in funny ways with mundane things.
                  Al alloys are as strong as steel, but much lighter. That's what you want. But that means you need those other pure minerals, and a proper alloy manufacturing plant.

                  The number of people, all around the Earth, who have to do their job right so that assorted raw dirt becomes a working phone, a car, or even a Furby, is absolutely mind-boggling.

                  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @01:36PM (1 child)

                    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @01:36PM (#606122)

                    So how much strength in the construction do we still need after we've already gotten out of our gravitational well? Most of the structural strength is there for surviving launch, not for simply being in space...

                    • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday December 06, @05:10PM

                      by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday December 06, @05:10PM (#606211)

                      In general, probably less, but it depends on where you're going and how fast you want to accelerate to go there.
                      Shielding people and electronics is one thing that doesn't change based on your starting point (unless that starting point is close to Jupiter or Saturn). Attaching that shielding to propulsion still requires a decent amount of mechanical parts.

                • (Score: 2) by JNCF on Wednesday December 06, @04:55PM (1 child)

                  by JNCF (4317) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06, @04:55PM (#606205) Journal

                  ...alumoonum?

          • (Score: 3, Interesting) by c0lo on Wednesday December 06, @01:24AM

            by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06, @01:24AM (#605939)

            Building the required commons in space is absurdly expensive.

            Every bootstrap is expensive. It doesn't mean that it will continue to stay so.

            It's only a matter of available energy and the capability to manipulate that energy**. I reckon both of them are a matter of engineering.

            ---

            ** it doesn't matter if you have petajoules available if the only way you can use them is within a time period of some milliseconds

          • (Score: 2) by NotSanguine on Wednesday December 06, @05:48AM

            by NotSanguine (285) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06, @05:48AM (#606005) Homepage Journal

            Building the required commons in space is absurdly expensive.

            So, we should just give up at least trying to become a space-faring race because it's too expensive? Or is it only worth it if there are military applications?

            Assuming we don't kill ourselves first, there's a big rock, that won't be launched by annoyed asteroid miners, with our name on it that will kill us all one day.

            I, for one, would prefer it if at enough people to repopulate (or at least to thrive elsewhere) survive because they were off-planet.

            --
            No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical. --Niels Bohr
          • (Score: 2) by meustrus on Wednesday December 06, @06:40PM (3 children)

            by meustrus (4961) <meustrusNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday December 06, @06:40PM (#606267)

            I see no reason to believe that the heavy elements we have on Earth are harder to come by off-planet. They were all made in space anyway. As for manufacturing, it should be relatively easy to get everything hot enough for modern refining since vacuum makes an excellent insulator.

            It's all a matter of how expensive it is to bootstrap the process. But since most of the cost of bootstrapping anything in space is in getting it to leave Earth orbit, bootstrapping a Moon or Mars colony would be way, way cheaper if we could do it from an industrial base in space.

            --
            If there isn't at least one reference or primary source, it's not +1 Informative.
            • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday December 06, @07:18PM (2 children)

              by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday December 06, @07:18PM (#606298)

              > I see no reason to believe that the heavy elements we have on Earth are harder to come by off-planet.

              "space is huge. Mind-bogglingly huge"
              The far side of the moon probably offers the same benefits as the Earth when it comes to gathering a random assortment of asteroid-delivered minerals within reasonable distance, plus whatever is in the crust.

              The smaller the planetary body, the less chance you have of finding what you need, and the greater the distance to the next place where you will. The asteroid belt likely has everything you need, but each needed mineral will feel like sending a rowboat to India for extra spices. The modern kind of rowboat, with one worker and twelve layers of management in it.

              • (Score: 2) by meustrus on Wednesday December 06, @07:51PM (1 child)

                by meustrus (4961) <meustrusNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday December 06, @07:51PM (#606340)

                The modern kind of rowboat, with one worker and twelve layers of management in it.

                Given that space travel, and technology in general, involves putting more and more raw power in the hands of machine operators to do even comparatively mundane things, this is probably a good thing. It's bad enough that everyone already drives around a kinetic weapon capable of mass homicide even before you start considering the destructive potential of its fuel source. Every such vehicle in space will also double as a nuclear weapon if allowed to fall to the Earth's surface.

                If you have a way to keep everyone safe from such things without taking away individual liberty, I would really love to hear it. It's the hard problem of decentralized technology, today, and it is only going to keep getting worse.

                --
                If there isn't at least one reference or primary source, it's not +1 Informative.
        • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday December 06, @12:34AM (4 children)

          by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 06, @12:34AM (#605915) Journal

          Building space-bound things inside Earth's gravity well is just too expensive.

          When ever I hear the term Gravity Well, I know I'm talking to an idiot. You sure you wouldn't like to throw out a few random "Faraday Cage" quotes and maybe some Beowulf cluster references?

          It is far less expensive to build space ships here on earth and lift them to orbit than it is to build the necessary infrastructure in space.

          Our lift technology is pathetic. Work on THAT, instead of hand waving it into existence by assuming we can build factories in space and mine asteroids to build space ships. All without any realistic lift.

          You watch too much TV.

          --
          No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
          • (Score: 2) by J053 on Wednesday December 06, @12:42AM

            by J053 (3532) <{dakine} {at} {shangri-la.cx}> on Wednesday December 06, @12:42AM (#605920) Homepage
            Right! we need the Space Elevator NOW. Elon, get on it!!
          • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday December 06, @12:51AM

            by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday December 06, @12:51AM (#605924) Journal

            Well there's little point to landing asteroid material on Earth unless there is more lift, EmDrive-to-orbit, or reusable rockets + nearly free fuel. And even then only the most valuable materials in the asteroids would be viable to bring back.

            Even if you can't build spaceships in space (you say it's expensive, but "never attempted with high unknown costs" is more accurate), many asteroids contain water which could be made into fuel.

            --
            [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
          • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Wednesday December 06, @01:07AM

            by HiThere (866) on Wednesday December 06, @01:07AM (#605930)

            Why? Gravity well is a perfectly good metaphor. All I can guess is that you find the term unesthetic, but that's merely a matter of taste, not accuracy.

            That said, I suspect that the first things mined in space will be gases of various kinds. That's already fairly simple, though you need a good sunshade an a lot of plastic film that won't degrade in a vacuum, at least when cold. Highly refined materials will be a late addition. OTOH, in space you don't need to be strong in multiple directions at once unless you are attached to something that's going to accelerate quickly, so much less pure construction materials would be fine...though I doubt that any of our current cement formulations would work. It'll probably have to be metalized plastic.

            Oh, yes. The second thing mined will be water. We really need to work more on closed ecosystems before space habitats are practical except for really niche purposes.

            --
            Put not your faith in princes.
          • (Score: 2) by meustrus on Wednesday December 06, @06:35PM

            by meustrus (4961) <meustrusNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday December 06, @06:35PM (#606265)

            It is far less expensive to build space ships here on earth and lift them to orbit than it is to build the necessary infrastructure in space.

            The first few times, sure. But if you needed to build 1,000 spaceships or 1,000,000 spaceships, the cost of building the infrastructure in space starts to be less than the cost of lifting all of those spaceships out of Earth gravity. Unless you think a space elevator is realistic within our lifetimes. But you wouldn't, because you don't watch that much TV.

            Also, my main exposure to the idea of gravity wells is XKCD [xkcd.com]. Which I read exclusively from inside my Faraday Cage after my Beowulf cluster calculates and executes opening and closing holes in real time to securely control the CLI [xkcd.com]. It's how real programmers [xkcd.com] do it. There's an emacs command for it [github.com].

            --
            If there isn't at least one reference or primary source, it's not +1 Informative.
  • (Score: 3, Informative) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday December 05, @11:06PM

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday December 05, @11:06PM (#605870)

    Countries spend billions developing high yield bombs and intercontinental delivery systems... If you're in space and you've got a big rock, delivering it to a specific location on the Earth's surface at a specific time should be worth a tremendous amount of money, especially if it enters the atmosphere on a steep trajectory and delivers most of its kinetic energy to the surface.

  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, @11:09PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, @11:09PM (#605872)

    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]

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, @11:28PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, @11:28PM (#605884)

      Not offtopic. See the bold text.

      • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, @11:41PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, @11:41PM (#605890)

        First thing we do is, we mine Stallman's namesake asteroid, 9882 Stallman.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @07:55PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @07:55PM (#606347)

          Why 9882?

  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday December 05, @11:13PM (4 children)

    by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Tuesday December 05, @11:13PM (#605875) Journal

    *Does a 1080° spin*

    --
    [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, @11:34PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, @11:34PM (#605885)

      It's underwater basket-weaving IN SPACE!

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by DECbot on Tuesday December 05, @11:41PM (1 child)

      by DECbot (832) on Tuesday December 05, @11:41PM (#605889) Journal

      Q: What do degrees in Space Mining and Anthropology have in common?
      A: At the end of the program, you're massively in debt and without any job prospects.
       
      Q: What is the difference between Space Mining, Anthropology, Underwater Basket Weaving, and Gender Studies degrees?
      A: The Underwater Basket Weaving degree gives you a viable trade skill.

      --
      cats~$ sudo chown -R us /home/base
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @07:55PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @07:55PM (#606345)

        Space Mining, Anthropology, Underwater Basket Weaving, and Gender Studies

        Likely results of the degree, in order: Delusions of grandeur; inability to unironically interact with modern society; smug zen; depression and/or intense anger.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @02:40AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @02:40AM (#605960)

    Everyone is a mime in space, no air for sound to travel in.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @12:12PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, @12:12PM (#606102)

    Put a bitcoin minning rig in orbit.

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