Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 24th Apr 2012 08:51 UTC
In the News "A newly unveiled company with some high-profile backers - including filmmaker James Cameron and Google co-founder Larry Page - is set to announce plans to mine near-Earth asteroids for resources such as precious metals and water." Amazingly cool. Even if it never makes a dime of money, at least these people are contributing to space exploration now that the US has pretty much cut NASA to death. Come to think of it, it's pretty sad we've been relying on a single government for much of our space exploration.
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zima
Member since:
2005-07-06

No one is talking about going out and herding cats... The trick is to find an asteroid that:
[...]

So, from that list, the trick seems to be: dream about a series of highly unlikely occurrences, bordering on fantasising...

1 & 2 - we have a decent idea about the composition of asteroids, plenty of samples. So: either a poorly differentiated pile of rubble, or (somewhat more likely in that size range) a chunk of shattered, largely differentiated body (but without much of any further geological processes, of a kind responsible for many deposits or veins on Earth; hence fairly homogenized, common stuff)

2, 3, 4, & "just nudge it [...] Match speed, attach to it, and use a small low power propulsion system (ion thruster maybe) to push it into the right approach [...] it is possible with current technology" - such orbits are highly unstable naturally, over billions of years such bodies tend be swept clean. Approach speeds of NEA are multi km/s - just matching them a monumental task in delta-V required, with present tech.

Nudging? Yeah, in a decade or two we might do a test (I know of one such ESA project, for example) of changing the orbit of an asteroid, so we'll be better prepared when one comes hurling our way - with minuscule change of orbit accumulating over time.

Intercepting, with feasible tech? Better think in the timescale of centuries, at least.


We'll probably have in-situ manufacturing faster (I'd guess starting actually on the Moon, with some scientists figuring out that by building many structural elements of their upcoming telescope from locally available materials, they can have much better instrument for the same price)

In the meantime we have insanely more hospitable and reachable options, like Sahara (with much more water than this venture can find) - but somehow it's not an industrial powerhouse of the planet, it's in fact quite barren.

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