Turning asteroids into spaceships could spur off-Earth mining

Discussion in 'Astronomy, Exobiology, & Cosmology' started by Plazma Inferno!, Jun 7, 2016.

  1. Plazma Inferno! Ding Ding Ding Ding Administrator

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    A few decades from now, asteroids may be flying themselves to mining outposts in space, nobly sacrificing their abundant resources to help open the final frontier to humanity.
    That's the vision of California-based company Made In Space, which was recently awarded NASA funding to investigate how to turn asteroids into giant, autonomous spacecraft.
    The project, known as RAMA (Reconstituting Asteroids into Mechanical Automata), is part of Made In Space's long-term plan to enable space colonization by helping make off-Earth manufacturing efficient and economically viable.

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    Diagram of an asteroid that has been converted into a mechanical spacecraft by a robotic "Seed Craft."

    http://www.space.com/33079-turning-asteroids-into-spaceships-made-in-space.html
     
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  3. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

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    The more the merrier!
    I am all for the mining of Asteroids as technology allows: Another player of course is the Planetary Resources Co
    http://www.planetaryresources.com/#news
     
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  5. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

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    That's just steampunk art.
     
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  7. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    Technology already allows that - It is economics that stands in the way. There is nothing on the moon or any asteroid than is not dozens of times cheaper to produce from & on Earth.

    Some have suggested He3 from solar wind hitting the moon might be economically recovered from the moon dust on surface.* They seem to be ignorant of the fact that helium is used to test for leaks in vacuum systems as it is even smaller than atomic hydrogen, and easily passes thru the smallest holes. The surface of the moon becomes very hot (more than 100C) and even it there were some He3 briefly absorbed from the solar wind, it would rapidly "out gas" into the vacuum from that hot surface.

    AGAIN: There is NOTHING in space that can economically be brought to Earth as cheaply as producing it from and on the Earth.

    Yes one can make money from space:
    Set up a space exploitation company and sell stock in it, or get funding from the taxpayers, via NASA, etc.
    As Barnum said: "There is an ignorant sucker born every minute."

    * That assumes Second Generation Fusion has become a success as it uses He3 fuel so there is a need for He3.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2016
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  8. Nacho Registered Senior Member

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    At least this reminded me that I still need to read the 3rd volume of The Expanse trilogy! They didn't lift this idea out of the 1st volume did they? (it has a 2011 copyright date) ....
     
  9. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

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    That is false: nobody has ever created a fully autonomous (robotic) mining operation, let alone one that can work in low gravity.
     
  10. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    In West Virginia, "sunshine mining" - no men underground was being practiced more than four decades ago (when I lived there). The mining machine may have had men on the surface adding new conveyer belt sections as the mining machine progressed deeper into the earth. Many coal seams are less than two feet thick - can only be mined economically this way.

    As for low gravity, that should reduce the energy required to extract the ore. If some gravity is desired that could be achieved by spin of the asteroid being mined. Spin produced gravity would be away from the mass center of the asteroid. I. e. The automating mining machine could operate under a fine net, that would catch the ore as it was loosened and slowly drifted up into the net.

    Yes this has not been done, but that technology is simple modifications from what has been done. "Child's play" compared to getting to the fast moving asteroid and landing the mining equipment on the asterroid and securing it to the surface as it pushes on the ore.

    Technology is not the problem; but even if it were, nothing of significant economic value can be returned to earth.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2016
  11. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

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    And locally monitoring, maintaining and positioning the equipment.
    Maybe*! You should invent that technology to see if it works!

    *Only maybe if you improperly ignore the fuel cost, of course. If you include the fuel cost, definitely not.
     
  12. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    I don't think people did that, but I am not sure. I only saw newspaper articles when it was being introduced. I think the machine tracked the coal seam and that was based on the difference in cutting resistance of the coal compared to the rock layers. That is the information that would be available to humans guiding it also as it was all in the dark and easy to automate. West Virginia's coal is “soft coal” not like the anthracite in PA, so there is a big difference in its resistance to cutting compared to most rock layers above and below the coal seam. The guidance logic would be very simple: stay on the path with least resistance.
     
  13. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

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    They had to. The robots don't wake themselves up in the morning, shower, shave and drive themselves to the job site. Someone has to ship them there, set them up, position them, probably drill pilot holes, turn them on, retrieve them when they finish their task or break, perform maintenance and set them up for the next task.

    What you are saying is like suggesting car assembly lines use robots so they don't need people. It simply isn't true.
     
  14. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, agreed, economically too. The point is though while certainly initial costs will be very high, once the methodology is established that will be reduced.
    And of course, in time, like anything else that is a preferred option and within the laws of physics, it will be done.
    Far better than the continuing mining of planet Earth and all that it entails.
    Obviously others also agree.
     
  15. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

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