With all the recent information and stories about some rich billionaires getting ready to get  even richer by mining both asteroids and other planets, the majority of doubters out there don’t think it is either possible or profitable.  Imagine that!  Lets look at some facts.

First, look at some the links, this one is real mainstream and is CNN.

333b60ac4b7a489b85a30602d6b191af

The Arkyd-100 telescope.

Seattle-area’s Planetary Resources, backed by big-money investors including filmmaker James Cameron and Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, said Tuesday it plans to develop and launch a series of robotic systems and unmanned spacecraft, starting with its Arkyd-100 Earth-orbiting space telescopes that it hopes to launch by the end of 2013 to identify candidate near-Earth asteroids.

They also make the Arkyd-300 robotic spacecraft for mining asteroids.  That’s right, you heard me.

This company, Arkyd Astronautics, doesn’t really have much detail to be known…Interesting.

They plan to find, get to, and return minerals from asteroids.  Sounds far fetched? Expensive? (yeah probably, but you have spend money to make money),  Think again!  Lets just do some simple reasoning as they obviously already have.

First, I need to rant a bit…. A country of 300,000,000 of the richest people on the planet, can’t afford to fund ANY space program, yet 2 guys who run web sites can.  Right.  The argument that they could better spend their money ‘feeding the poor’ sounds stupid when applied to individuals but seems perfectly logical when applied to the collective (us).  Stupid.   They will be paid back a THOUSAND FOLD on any investment in minerals, new technology, and PATENTS!!!.  So would we (the public) if we funded it.    This is basically a no-brainer.  We won’t, because 98% of the population are idiots.  End of rant.

Now back to the science!

Well, if one did not know any better,  you would think that we do not have any real technology to go out to these asteroids and return.  You would be wrong.  We are there and poking around right now!  We normally think of  our inter-stellar craft as just fly bys and sling-shoting  around planets.  Which is true, mostly.  It is RARE to have something come back!   What is even more rare, is going out there and just kind of motoring around.  This takes the kind of engine we just don’t have.  But we DO! 

From NASA: I would have you note MAGNETIC and ANTIMATTER propulsion systems since theoretically, they don’t exist yet, but there they are!

CR-1845

The ion thruster is powered by large solar panels. The power ionizes the fuel (Xenon) and then accelerates it with an electric field between two grids. Electrons are injected into the beam after acceleration to maintain a neutral plasma.

CR-863

The DAWN space craft has just visited VESTA ( a very large asteroid that is 330 miles wide) .  Launched in 2007, this craft uses the above engine design.  It can get very close to surface and then fly up again.  It will then travel to CERES (a dwarf plant, about the size of Pluto, also in the asteroid belt).   We have NEVER had a space craft capable of just wandering about, willy nilly,  but we do now!

ion_head

Just some interesting facts about VESTA before we continue on:

Data reveal temperatures can vary from as warm as minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 degrees Celsius) in the sunniest spots to as cold as minus 150 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 100 degrees Celsius) in the shadows. This is the lowest temperature measurable by Dawn’s visible and infrared mapping spectrometer. These findings show the surface responds quickly to illumination with no mitigating effect of an atmosphere.

Sounds pretty cold, but actually not much colder than Antarctica!

So, given that the technology already exists to get there and back.  Could these guys actually make money?  Well SURE!  Once you have the machinery in space, you just need fuel to keep going.  The fuel can be mined right on the asteroids.  You just build ‘gas stations’ there and back from the stuff you are mining.  We already know this is quite possible since there is WATER on these asteroids!  Once you do that, you can freely (and cheaply) move material back to Earth orbit.  And get this, no competition!  These asteroids will be easy to mine!  Like using a snow blower (low gravity).   To send to earth surface, you just let the material fall down.  That’s it. easy as.  Oh, you think they would burn up?  No, not really.  See the  Virgin Galactic low earth orbiter!  It returns to Earth with NO HEAT SHEILD and has done so in its winning the coveted X prize!   How? simply using drag and aerodynamics.  It literally is not a mystery!

So no new technology is necessary.  Once a craft is in space, it stays in space.  You only have to shoot them up there ONCE.  From then on,  mine your own fuel.  No royalties, no taxes.  Robot workers. Unlimited supply.   Will cost a few billion.  Will make TRILLIONS, probably much, much more.

And this is the cool part!  YOU PAID FOR IT but decided it was better to ‘feed the hungry’ and in so doing (i.e. cut space budgets, gut programs, etc), we did not feed the hungry, we did not create new jobs, we gave up FOR FREE all of our investment with no return, and let others (individuals) benefit from our magnanimous donation to their pocketbooks.  Our species is very, very strange.

Post Script – Under development, a complete game changer!

_52918043_skylon464

Key tests for Skylon spaceplane project

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17864782

The proposed Skylon vehicle would operate like an airliner, taking off and landing at a conventional runway.

To be able to have such a Space Plane, it is ALL ABOUT THE ENGINE!!!!

_infog624

The pre-cooler that is being tested and is the key technology to allow this process to work.

_52918042_sabre464

The actual jet/rocket engine.  Up and back to space like any other jetliner..

 

Sabre is part jet engine, part rocket engine. It burns hydrogen and oxygen to provide thrust – but in the lower atmosphere this oxygen is taken from the atmosphere.

The approach should save weight and allow Skylon to go straight to orbit without the need for the multiple propellant stages seen in today’s throw-away rockets.

 

So far, 85% of the funding for Reaction Engines’ endeavours has come from private investors, but the company may need some specific government support if it is to raise all of the £250m needed to initiate every next-phase activity.

"What we have learned is that a little bit of government money goes a long way," said Mr Bond.

"It gives people confidence that what we’re doing is meaningful and real – that it’s not science fiction. So, government money is a very powerful tool to lever private investment."

This public seed fund approach to space has certainly found favour recently within government.

POST SCRIPT – May 3, 2012

mg21428611_000-1_300

New Scientist published an article about secret earth moons .   What it is really about is that asteroids are caught in Earth orbits, all the time!.  Getting to these is relatively easy.  Can be done in under a week.

What is an asteroid made of?

Asteroids come in three basic types. M-types are largely metal and were once at the hearts of now-shattered protoplanets. S-types are stony asteroids but are noticeably rich in metals such as iron, nickel and magnesium. C-types are the most common and are composed of elements in their average cosmic abundances but without the hydrogen and helium gases. Even though C-types are not notably enriched, they still contain enough precious metals to make them extremely valuable if they were brought to Earth.

What is an asteroid worth?

Back in 1994, William Hartmann at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, estimated that a 2-kilometre-wide asteroid would be worth $25 trillion in metal and mineral resources (see diagram). That’s enough to pay off the US’s $15 trillion national debt, use the loose change to settle up for Greece and still make the investors very rich indeed. "I don’t see how you can look at any economic study of Earth and not think about the potential resources of the inner solar system," says Hartmann.

28611001

That would pay for the ENTIRE WORLD DEBT, and a cash payment to each man, woman and child of about $10,000 with what is left over.  That’s just ONE.

Others reaching for the stars

Space| In-Depth Articles

I’ll put millions of people on Mars, says Elon Musk

And he means it. He owns PayPal and has tons of money.  He now runs the company SpaceX and the electric car company Tesla Motors.  SpaceX is a private company that will be the first private vehicle to go to the space station in May.   Wouldn’t you want to be the only person on the planet capable of sending up rockets to planets (asteroids) for profit?  Time will tell, but the rich do get richer so maybe time to invest.

We will see…

Later!

Advertisements