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  1. #1
    Senior Member darlets's Avatar
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    Default Mining Asteroids

    "The scarcity of the precious metals is not really that there are not lots of them on Earth, it is just that over 4 billion years of tectonic mixing they have mostly moved to Earth's core. What little is near the surface is hard to find and therefore expensive (like $10,000 per pound for platinum). These same metals are not hidden on asteroids, since there has been no tectonic action and almost no gravity. There is more precious metals in one asteroid than we could every hope to mine from all the crust of the Earth."

    Mining Asteroids
    SPACE.com -- Asteroid Mining: Key to the Space Economy

    "Even without a manned mission to do a full-scale study of an asteroid, scientists know a lot about what asteroids contain. Astronomers use telescopic spectroscopy, which analyzes light reflected from the asteroid's surface, to find out what might be there. In addition to iron, nickel and magnesium, scientists think water, oxygen, gold and platinum also exist on some asteroids.

    Water interests space explorers most because it could help keep a space colony alive. Without water, there is really no way to move forward with human exploration of space. Water could also be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen to form rocket engine propellant. The metal ore on the asteroids could be mined and used for building spacecraft and other structures for a space colony.

    Corporations that might not be interested in exploring space for the adventure and science could be interested in the treasures that a space mining operation could send back to Earth. One NASA report estimates that the mineral wealth of the asteroids in the asteroid belt might exceed $100 billion for each of the six billion people on Earth. John S. Lewis, author of the space mining book Mining the Sky, has said that an asteroid with a diameter of one kilometer would have a mass of about two billion tons. There are perhaps one million asteroids of this size in the solar system. One of these asteroids, according to Lewis, would contain 30 million tons of nickel, 1.5 million tons of metal cobalt and 7,500 tons of platinum. The platinum alone would have a value of more than $150 billion!

    Asteroids have amazing potential for industry. But what will it take to land on an asteroid, find these valuable materials, extract them and process them? In the next section, you will find out how asteroid mining operations might supply the Earth and its colonies on other planets with a plenitude of materials. "

    Howstuffworks "How Asteroid Mining Will Work"
    "The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."
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  2. #2
    Member Beyonder's Avatar
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    Hey, cool. I've been thinking about extraplanetary mining and wastedisposal for a while now... Seems to solve a lot of problems back home, so to speak.
    "I determined nothing."
    -Sceptical expression

  3. #3
    Senior Member darlets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beyonder View Post
    Hey, cool. I've been thinking about extraplanetary mining and wastedisposal for a while now... Seems to solve a lot of problems back home, so to speak.
    This was really pipedream stuff only a few years ago, but companies are now seriously looking into it. They'll reach a point where it becomes viable.

    "WASHINGTON � Mention the word "asteroid" to most people and thoughts of Armageddon and doomsday come to mind.

    But to entrepreneur Jim Benson, these space rocks are this millennium�s Holy Grail.

    Benson is chief executive of SpaceDev, a Poway, California-based commercial space exploration and development company that plans to one day launch a robot craft, or a Near Earth Asteroid Prospector (NEAP), to an asteroid. Once there, it would land instruments to take photographs and scientific readings to detect the presence of such precious commodities as platinum, gold, cobalt and water.

    "The wealth out there is beyond imagination," Benson said."

    Asteroids: Gold Mine or Pile of Rubble?

    "But how much will it cost to get there, land and eventually mine these heavenly bodies?

    Benson said the cost would be under $50 million, about $200 million less than an asteroid mission designed and launched by NASA.

    University of Arizona�s Lewis adds that many of these asteroids are relatively inexpensive to reach because they have orbits that are remarkably accessible from Earth. And, because they have such low-gravity, leaving them to come back home is much easier than the more gravity-heavy moon."
    "The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."
    Bertrand Russell

    http://rayofsolar.blogspot.com/
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  4. #4
    Member Beyonder's Avatar
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    It'll become really exiting once we get to the point of extrasolar travel (yeah, even further away than asteroid mining, I know )... Mining other planets will be more lucrative in my opinion, sending out probes to check if there are valuable minerals, then mining a giant heap... With asteroids, it really is about getting lucky... I mean, finding one with valuable minerals. Considering that a planet has a lot more surface area, getting that 'lucky' break would be more likely, wouldn't it? I don't know enough about astrophysics to tell, though...

    To any physics geniusses out there, would it take more energy to haul those minerals back to earth, considering the increase of mass of the spacevessel? I only know a bit about theoretical physics, nothing about it's application though
    "I determined nothing."
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  5. #5
    Senior Member darlets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beyonder View Post
    It'll become really exiting once we get to the point of extrasolar travel (yeah, even further away than asteroid mining, I know )... Mining other planets will be more lucrative in my opinion, sending out probes to check if there are valuable minerals, then mining a giant heap... With asteroids, it really is about getting lucky... I mean, finding one with valuable minerals. Considering that a planet has a lot more surface area, getting that 'lucky' break would be more likely, wouldn't it? I don't know enough about astrophysics to tell, though...

    To any physics geniusses out there, would it take more energy to haul those minerals back to earth, considering the increase of mass of the spacevessel? I only know a bit about theoretical physics, nothing about it's application though
    Tectonic activity tends to shift all the heavy metals down away from the crust.
    Asteriods don't suffer from that.

    "To get an idea of just how much wealth is to be had from asteroids, one can examine 3554 Amun, a mile wide lump of iron, nickel, cobalt, platinum, and other metals that has an orbit closely resembling that of Earth's. Though it is one of the smallest known metallic asteroids, 3554 Amun contains thirty times as much metal as has ever been mined by human beings in the history of Earth. It's value, at current prices and if mined slowly to keep commodity prices level, is estimated to be 20 trillion dollars."
    "The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."
    Bertrand Russell

    http://rayofsolar.blogspot.com/
    http://zeropointseven.blogspot.com/

  6. #6
    Member Beyonder's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by darlets View Post
    Tectonic activity tends to shift all the heavy metals down away from the crust.
    Asteriods don't suffer from that.

    "To get an idea of just how much wealth is to be had from asteroids, one can examine 3554 Amun, a mile wide lump of iron, nickel, cobalt, platinum, and other metals that has an orbit closely resembling that of Earth's. Though it is one of the smallest known metallic asteroids, 3554 Amun contains thirty times as much metal as has ever been mined by human beings in the history of Earth. It's value, at current prices and if mined slowly to keep commodity prices level, is estimated to be 20 trillion dollars."
    Did I already mention that I also know next-to-nothing about geology (except for some paradigm shifts, but with me that's more from a philosophy of science perspective)?

    Wow. didn't know that about 3554 Amun... Cool stuff. And 20 trillion dollars... w00t. But won't the value of minerals plummet once we get to the stage of actually bringing 'em over here? Well, maybe that will be a good incentive to write some criticisms on cappitalism lol
    "I determined nothing."
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Langrenus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beyonder View Post
    Wow. didn't know that about 3554 Amun... Cool stuff. And 20 trillion dollars... w00t. But won't the value of minerals plummet once we get to the stage of actually bringing 'em over here?
    Exactly what I was thinking. Although extraction costs would be high initially, and never overlook the tendency for companies that extract natural resources to form cartels and limit the feed on to the market.

    Some companies are going to become staggeringly rich out of this - high tech extraction using minimal human resources (outside of the design and development stage). It's not difficult to imagine a fully automated mining rig depositing minerals into an automated return capsule that lands or drops onto a field somewhere...the only human contact is to physically shift the stuff across land and to work the raw materials into consumer goods (which is pretty robot-intensive already). And some kind of command and control center being staffed with some techies. No striking workers to worry about. No downing of tools. And no individual prospectors daring to try and take a small slice of the pie for themselves (unless they're already rich enough to launch a space mining operation, so...)

    I'm sure the bickering over access to this wealth won't cause any conflict whatsoever...half the resources will probably be used up in building weapons to protect access to said resources.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member htb's Avatar
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    Yield speculation aside, any civilization capable of sustaining operations for interplanetary mining and transportation -- especially considering the physical masses involved -- would likely have a demand for heavier metals high enough to reconcile increased supply.

    As to whether this is possible: simulations suggest that it is.

  9. #9
    Lallygag Moderator Geoff's Avatar
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    Hmm. As someone involved in the mining industry (as a professional adviser), pricing is often much more about restricting supply than it is lack of availability.

    So... finding billions in platinum that is minable probably won't make billions for the founder. Either, the platinum price will plummet, or it will be heavily restricted.

    One possibility will be finding things that genuinely are rare in the planet for which demand outstrips supply. Err, oil on asteroids, is there?

  10. #10
    Senior Member kuranes's Avatar
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    I heard that Helium 3 might be something that such expeditions would mine.
    Helium-3 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    "The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
    Reichsfuhrer Herman Goering at the Nuremburg trials.

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