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Old 23rd April 2012, 10:05 PM   #1
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Project to mine asteroids for water (and precious metals) has begun.

...and by "begun" I mean that it is just off the drawing board.


Billionaire-backed asteroid mining venture starts with space telescopes

Quote:
The venture, which is being formally unveiled Tuesday at Seattle's Museum of Flight, is sufficiently down to Earth to attract funding from such A-list investors

<snip>

"A water-rich asteroid would greatly enhance the large-scale exploration of the solar system," Anderson said in a news release. "Water has many uses in space. For instance, it would not only be used for hydration, but also would be broken down into oxygen and hydrogen, for breathable air and rocket propellant."

But why go to all the trouble, when there's so much water on Earth? "It costs on the order of $20,000 per kilogram to get a liter of water into orbit," Diamandis explained. "If you're able to buy it on orbit for one-hundredth of the cost, that would be transformative."

Asteroids also could yield precious metals such as platinum, gold and rare-earth materials — treasures that are worth bringing back to Earth. Diamandis said a single asteroid in the range of 200 to 500 meters in diameter could contain more platinum-group metals than has ever been mined in the whole of human history.
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Old 23rd April 2012, 10:08 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by OnlyTellsTruths View Post
...and by "begun" I mean that it is just off the drawing board.


Billionaire-backed asteroid mining venture starts with space telescopes
Another one for the OTT "it's science baby" stockpile methinks?

Awesome stuff though.
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Old 23rd April 2012, 10:10 PM   #3
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I'm not sure I will live to see this come to fruition (I'm almost 39) but boy does it conjure up childlike images of awesome spaceships and adventure in the heavens!!!

That's what I always loved about space, the infinite opportunities for exploration!
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Old 23rd April 2012, 10:16 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Lowpro View Post
Another one for the OTT "it's science baby" stockpile methinks?

Awesome stuff though.
I keep getting tricked by the Google News Science section! They look cool there, but when I post them here, not so much.
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Old 23rd April 2012, 10:27 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by OnlyTellsTruths View Post
I keep getting tricked by the Google News Science section! They look cool there, but when I post them here, not so much.
Hey man I totally approve! Keep bringin' the good stuff so we don't have to search for it :P I personally have already tried:

http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=231702

But oh, people could care less about genes.
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Old 23rd April 2012, 11:54 PM   #6
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Personally I think the next wave of wealth creation is going to come from things like this.

Then again a few dudes in a room got facebook to give them a billion dollars so...
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Old 24th April 2012, 12:51 PM   #7
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Good idea, hope they're successful.
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Old 25th April 2012, 03:39 AM   #8
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It seemed like every news site on the web had a version of this article today:

http://news.google.com/news/more?pz=...lJlqzkUn-gpB-M

Not sure how long that link will work.

Here's another company doing a related project on the Moon:

http://www.newsroomamerica.com/story/238648.html
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Old 25th April 2012, 06:49 AM   #9
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Old 25th April 2012, 07:19 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by OnlyTellsTruths View Post
...and by "begun" I mean that it is just off the drawing board.
Reminds me of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dia...ig_as_the_Ritz

Mining water in space seems very reasonable, but grabbing a huge rock made out of any precious metal seems like a good way to make that metal instantly nonprecious.
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Old 25th April 2012, 07:28 AM   #11
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Let's skip the crap and jump to the conclusion.

Politician and cynics: What a waste of money. What good is it used for?

Businessman: Sir, in 20 years, you'll be taxing it.
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Old 25th April 2012, 08:16 AM   #12
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It would be swell if platinum became less precious. Its got lots of fine uses. Same with gold. Its a pity that its mostly stashed away in brick shaped lumps or jewelry.

Both would make fine roofing material.
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Old 25th April 2012, 09:46 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by X View Post
Are they hiring?
Yes.
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Old 25th April 2012, 09:52 AM   #14
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Will be too expensive.
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Old 25th April 2012, 10:19 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by quarky View Post
It would be swell if platinum became less precious. Its got lots of fine uses. Same with gold. Its a pity that its mostly stashed away in brick shaped lumps or jewelry.

Both would make fine roofing material.

And from space, they could express deliver it directly to your roof.
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Old 25th April 2012, 10:27 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by quarky View Post
It would be swell if platinum became less precious. Its got lots of fine uses. Same with gold. Its a pity that its mostly stashed away in brick shaped lumps or jewelry.

Both would make fine roofing material.
Metals like rhodium, platinum, and iridium are far too useful in catalysis to become non-precious, even if enough can be brought in from space to increase the world's supply by a factor of one hundred.
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Old 25th April 2012, 11:06 AM   #17
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Still, we might need to teach these people what a Tautology is first:-

Quote:
"It costs on the order of $20,000 per kilogram to get a liter of water into orbit,"
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Old 25th April 2012, 11:12 AM   #18
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Old 25th April 2012, 11:20 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by paiute View Post
Reminds me of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dia...ig_as_the_Ritz

Mining water in space seems very reasonable, but grabbing a huge rock made out of any precious metal seems like a good way to make that metal instantly nonprecious.
Nah. You just restrict supply to maximize profits. As far as I know there are no laws against space cartels.
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Old 25th April 2012, 11:27 AM   #20
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I wouldn't count these folks out. Everyone is focusing on the financial heavies; but this company has managed to snag the Mars Science Laboratory's chief engineer and the Opportunity and Spirit rovers' FD as their lead project managers. These guys have proven histories of successfully building, launching, and landing things on other celestial objects.
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Old 25th April 2012, 07:05 PM   #21
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I really think this is a huge moment in space exploration. I suppose it started with SpaceX actually getting into the commercial spaceflight business but this is another huge step.

Someday there will be money to be made in space and when that happens space technology and exploration will expand dramtically. It may not (probably will not) turn a profit in the near future, but the strides made in developing the technology and capabilities will be invaluble.

Think of how cost effective it was to send out explorers from Europe to scout new trade routes and discover new lands. It used to take the resources of a nation-state to get a few ships across an ocean and back. Now we can cross an ocean in a couple hours and ship things from one side of the globe to the other cheaply and efficiently.

You hit a critical mass with this sort of thing, and the plan to mine asteroids is an important step. I'm really excited about the possibilities.
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Old 25th April 2012, 08:38 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Madalch View Post
Metals like rhodium, platinum, and iridium are far too useful in catalysis to become non-precious, even if enough can be brought in from space to increase the world's supply by a factor of one hundred.
No doubt.
Any idea of what % of platinum mined goes to catalyst purposes, as opposed to jewelry or simply stashing it in coins and such?
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Old 25th April 2012, 08:56 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by RossFW View Post
Still, we might need to teach these people what a Tautology is first:-

Quote:
"It costs on the order of $20,000 per kilogram to get a liter of water into orbit,"
It depends on the temperature of the water.

Originally Posted by paiute View Post
Reminds me of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dia...ig_as_the_Ritz

Mining water in space seems very reasonable, but grabbing a huge rock made out of any precious metal seems like a good way to make that metal instantly nonprecious.
Originally Posted by lopeyschools View Post
Nah. You just restrict supply to maximize profits. As far as I know there are no laws against space cartels.
Some claim that that premise is already true; that diamonds are hoarded in London or somewhere. I'm not sure how much of a conspiracy theory that is or not. There is probably a thread on it here somewhere.
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Old 25th April 2012, 09:10 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by OnlyTellsTruths View Post
It depends on the temperature of the water.
Yah. You have to put it in some sort of container too. I'd guesstimate that a liter of water delivered to orbit requires at least several grams of tankage per liter that also has to be delivered to orbit. If I was in the business of shipping water out of the gravity well, I'd make sure to do that calculation to great precision. A big tank stores a lot of water, but has to be heavy enough to stand up to its own weight on earth. Little bottles don't have to be nearly as strong, but you need lots of them. I bet the optimum answer looks a lot like an inflated condom in a mesh bag. Of course if it's already in orbit somewhere, and frozen solid the whole calculation is moot. Reminds me of Azimov's novella 'The Martian Way', which addressed the same sort of problem, and the novel thinking that was needed to solve it.
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Old 25th April 2012, 09:27 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by quarky View Post
No doubt.
Any idea of what % of platinum mined goes to catalyst purposes, as opposed to jewelry or simply stashing it in coins and such?
Couldn't give you a number, but I have heard other chemists complain about platinum being "wasted" in jewellry when it could be put to proper use for electrodes, catalysts, and crucibles.

For rhodium, wiki says, "The element's major use (about 81% of world rhodium production) is as one of the catalysts in the three-way catalytic converters of automobiles."
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Old 25th April 2012, 11:34 PM   #26
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Also from wiki: Of the 239 tonnes of platinum sold in 2006, 130 tonnes were used for vehicle emissions control devices, 49 tonnes for jewelry, 13.3 tonnes in electronics, and 11.2 tonnes in the chemical industry as a catalyst. The remaining 35.5 tonnes went to various other minor applications, such as electrodes, anticancer drugs, oxygen sensors, spark plugs and turbine engines.
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Old 26th April 2012, 01:10 AM   #27
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Something I'd like answered: how do they get these masses of metal down to Earth?

To me, finding them, harvesting them and then transporting them to Earth is the easy part. Getting it all through our atmosphere and through our big gravity well until it is safely on the ground seems like the hard part.
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Old 26th April 2012, 01:18 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Travis View Post
Something I'd like answered: how do they get these masses of metal down to Earth?

To me, finding them, harvesting them and then transporting them to Earth is the easy part. Getting it all through our atmosphere and through our big gravity well until it is safely on the ground seems like the hard part.
i reckon they will break them down and encapsulate them and fly them through the atmosphere inside the ships. They might even have vehicles designed to do nothing else but run transport sorties day after day
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Old 26th April 2012, 01:33 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by Travis View Post
Something I'd like answered: how do they get these masses of metal down to Earth?

To me, finding them, harvesting them and then transporting them to Earth is the easy part. Getting it all through our atmosphere and through our big gravity well until it is safely on the ground seems like the hard part.
If you didn't care about getting them down intact and can afford to waste a bit of metal, just buy a big open stretch of desert someplace, dig a big conical pit and drop meteors into it. (the pit might even be self digging, but the first few meteors would have higher losses. After the pit gets deep enough, most of the splatter gets intercepted by the walls) After a year of bombardment of one particular place, bring in conventional mining equipment to dig out the metal, and move the bombardment area to another patch of desert.
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Old 26th April 2012, 01:50 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Andrew Wiggin View Post
If you didn't care about getting them down intact and can afford to waste a bit of metal, just buy a big open stretch of desert someplace, dig a big conical pit and drop meteors into it. (the pit might even be self digging, but the first few meteors would have higher losses. After the pit gets deep enough, most of the splatter gets intercepted by the walls) After a year of bombardment of one particular place, bring in conventional mining equipment to dig out the metal, and move the bombardment area to another patch of desert.
Might scatter a load of dust into the air. This would have several side effects, such as cooling of the lower atmosphere.
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Old 26th April 2012, 02:11 AM   #31
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How do you legally claim an asteroid?
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Old 26th April 2012, 02:20 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by nvidiot View Post
How do you legally claim an asteroid?
Hey, ya'all. That's MY asteroid!
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Old 26th April 2012, 02:23 AM   #33
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Two miners from different corporations land on the same rock, one minutes before the other, but the later one starts mining operations first. Who owns the resource?

I don't know if it's possible to claim solar system bodies, but their legal department will have a good time.
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Old 26th April 2012, 02:30 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by rjh01 View Post
Might scatter a load of dust into the air. This would have several side effects, such as cooling of the lower atmosphere.
I can think of some technical workarounds. Make the hole really deep, and roof it over with thin plastic sheeting, patched between drops? Big fans to make a downdraft in the hole? Water spray to entrain dust and make it rain back out? It's worth tinkering with.

Another possibility might be to put a manufacturing facility in orbit, and make some pretty conventional reentry vehicles (the flat bottomed cone type we used before the space shuttle) out of platinum-iridium alloy, with foamed rock and carbon ablative heat shields. You wouldn't need much in the way of a parachute because it's unmanned and you're just going to throw it into a smelter when it lands. All it needs to do is slow down enough not to shed metal mass in the atmosphere and not to vaporize itself or the ground when it lands. The guidance computers we used on those early reentry capsules could probably be replicated on a single chip these days.
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Old 26th April 2012, 02:35 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by nvidiot View Post
How do you legally claim an asteroid?
You stick a flag into it, I guess...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extrate...al_real_estate

As I understand it: You don't.
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Old 26th April 2012, 02:40 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by nvidiot View Post
Two miners from different corporations land on the same rock, one minutes before the other, but the later one starts mining operations first. Who owns the resource?

I don't know if it's possible to claim solar system bodies, but their legal department will have a good time.
I think legally it would be a lot simpler to just move the rock, drop it on land you already own, and then mine the land. The ownership then becomes pretty obvious. The only precedent we have for actually marking an extraterrestrial body are the flags the USA put on the moon, but the russians followed that up with a grenade, its shell made of prefragmented claim markers, each one engraved with the hammer and sickle. A bit harder to recover or obliterate that sort of mark than to disappear a few flags.

ETA the russians dropped their grenade on the moon from their 'luna 2' mission, before we planted a flag. I guess that makes it even more a grey area.
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Last edited by Andrew Wiggin; 26th April 2012 at 02:43 AM.
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Old 26th April 2012, 03:31 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by Andrew Wiggin View Post
If you didn't care about getting them down intact and can afford to waste a bit of metal, just buy a big open stretch of desert someplace, dig a big conical pit and drop meteors into it. (the pit might even be self digging, but the first few meteors would have higher losses. After the pit gets deep enough, most of the splatter gets intercepted by the walls) After a year of bombardment of one particular place, bring in conventional mining equipment to dig out the metal, and move the bombardment area to another patch of desert.
I seriously doubt hitting a target from space with "meteors" is easy or even possible. Unless this pit you are talking about is tens of thousands of square miles.
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Old 26th April 2012, 03:32 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

My inner 6 year old is telling me to apply immediately.
My inner 30-something year old is trying to come up with a rationalization still...
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Old 26th April 2012, 04:46 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by nvidiot View Post
How do you legally claim an asteroid?
This is well-defined historically. You go there and plant your flag on it.


The arrogant assumption that this is all owned by peoples of Earth, and therefore may be carved up by the power hungry in exchange for "donations" by businessmen in exchange for getting the officials back out of the way is humanity's historical Fail.

DO NOT ASSUME THAT IS THE CURRENT, OR PROPER, STATE OF THINGS.
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Old 26th April 2012, 05:33 AM   #40
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Has it occurred to anyone that these lumps of rock cause mass extinction events?
Quite a liability.
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