Izawwlgood wrote:I really wish they changed their goals to instead of bringing resources back to Earth, simply utilized them in space. Say, construct something in orbit around the moon.
Actually, They are planning on doing stuff for utilization in space first. This article has some good information:http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badas ... can-do-it/
Once a suitable asteroid is found, the idea is not to mine it right away for precious metals to return to Earth, Lewicki told me, but instead to tap it for volatiles — materials with low boiling points such as water, oxygen, nitrogen, and so on, which also happen to be critical supplies for use in space.
The idea behind this is to gather these materials up and create in situ space supply depots. Water is very heavy and incompressible, so it’s very difficult to launch from Earth into space (Lewicki quoted a current price of roughly $20,000 per liter to get water into space). But water should be abundant on some asteroids, locked up in minerals or even as ice, and in theory it shouldn’t be difficult to collect it and create a depot. Future astronauts can then use these supplies to enable longer stays in space — the depots could be put in Earthbound trajectories for astronauts, or could be placed in strategic orbits for future crewed missions to asteroids. Lewicki didn’t say specifically, but these supplies could be sold to NASA — Planetary Resources would make quite a bit money while saving NASA quite a bit. Win-win.
morriswalters wrote:Let me see if I get what all the excitement is about. A group of men want to attempt to jump beyond the orbit of mars, match orbits with a chunk of something, and attempt to reduce it to something that can be transported, and return it to earth. Is that correct? So let me see if I understand how that would work. We boost it out of the gravity well to LEO, we then inject it into an orbit that would carry it to the region between Mars and Jupiter. Once there it visits the some object that is visible from here or they make it smart enough to find an object that we can't see. They then must assay the object to see if it's worth the effort to return. Then they would mine it and return with the ore or maybe a semi-refined product. Everything must be on board or we must use multiple launches with fuel. Without doing any calculations it seems like a very pricy way to mine anything. And kind of iffy if you take into account the amount of technology flying around in one state or another that didn't make it to various destinations.
It would seem like a better idea to beat down the cost to LEO, get back to the moon and then build Mars probes and mining machines out of native Lunar Materials on the Moon. Can anybody tell me how much you gain launching from the moon or Lunar orbit?
Actually, there are quite a few asteroids that are easier to get to than either than those. Remember, not all asteroids are between Mars and Jupiter, there are quite a few asteroids in the inner system, that cross Earth's orbit, or come close to it. The presentation said 4000 asteroids that require less energy to reach than Mars, and 1200 that take less to reach than the moon, from what I heard (haven't watched it myself yet). Also a lot of that is the Energy cost to land or take off from the surface. Larger objects have more gravity, and it takes a lot more energy to land or take off from the Moon, or Mars, than it does a small asteroid. (Or to move material off of it for that matter.)
Sending stuff from an asteroid back to Earth orbit for example, would take much much less energy or fuel than lifting it up from the surface of the Earth. And if you can get your propellent from the stuff that you're mining, then it's all reusable. I mean, right now, practically all the stuff we launch from Earth is one-time use, everything just gets tossed away to burn up in the atmosphere (or with manned craft, everything but a tiny capsule). That's the primary cost of getting stuff into orbit, that we throw the thing away after using it one time. For example, SpaceX's Falcon 9 costs about $50 million to make, but only about $200k to fuel. Which is why they're trying to figure out a way to return the rocket stages to the ground intact in a powered landing, since if you can manage to do so, you've cut the cost to orbit dramatically. And in the same way, if you can get your propellent from space, and your energy from solar panels, you can just keep re-using the same craft in space for a long time.
Not to mention, being in space, you can make use of low thrust, high efficiency engines, stuff like the ion drive, low thrust, but an order of magnitude more efficient at least in terms of propellent use. Their very low thrust however, means you wouldn't be able to use them to take off from a planet. But maybe you can get off a small asteroid with them, or if not, it would only take a small propulsion system to get far enough away from an asteroid for it to be useful.
Also, as far as rarer materials go, asteroids have an advantage. Larger bodies, big enough to once be molten for some time, and with significant gravity, had their heavier elements sink down towards the core, while lighter elements ended up closer to the surface. For something like an asteroid that didn't even have enough mass to be spherical, that wouldn't have happened. Elements which are rarer on planets because they mostly sunk down towards the core, would be more abundant in accessible locations at an asteroid's surface.
Edit: more stuff
Oh yeah, and for their plans in the short term:http://www.planetaryresources.com/technology/
Looks like the first thing they're going to launch are small telescopes that can be used both for space observations, and for observing Earth. That they'll then attach small rocket motors to, to kick them out of orbit to meet up with a near-earth asteroid.http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badas ... can-do-it/
Instead, they’ll make a series of calculated smaller missions that will grow in size and scope. The first is to make a series of small space telescopes to observe and characterize asteroids. Lewicki said the first of these is the Arkyd 101, a 22 cm (9″) telescope in low-Earth orbit that will be aboard a tiny spacecraft just 40 x 40 cm (16″) in size. It can hitch a ride with other satellites being placed in orbit, sharing launch costs and saving money (an idea that will come up again and again in their plans). This telescope will be used both to look for and observe known Near-Earth asteroids, and can also be pointed down to Earth for remote sensing operations.
I’ll note Lewicki said they expect to launch the first of these telescopes by the end of next year, 2013. They’re already building them (what’s referred to as “cutting metal”). They could launch on already-existing rockets — an Atlas or Delta, for example, Europe’s Ariane, India’s GSLV, or Space X’s Falcon 9.
After that, once they’re flight-tested, more of these small spacecraft can be launched equipped with rocket motors. If they hitch a ride with a satellite destined for a 40,000 km (24,000 mile) geosynchronous orbit, the motor can be used to take the telescope — now a space probe — out of Earth orbit and set on course for a pre-determined asteroid destination. Technical bit: orbital velocity at geosync is about 3 km/sec, so only about an additional 1 km/sec is needed to send a probe away from Earth, easily within the capability of a small motor attached to a light-weight probe.
Many asteroids pass close to the Earth with a low enough velocity that one of these probes could reach them. Heck, some are easier to reach in that sense than the Moon! Any asteroid-directed probe can be equipped with sensors to make detailed observations, including composition. It could even be designed to land on the asteroid and return samples back to Earth, or leave when the observations are complete and head off to observe more asteroids up close and personal.
Even if they aren't profitable, it looks like there will be useful stuff produced from it, and it should be interesting to watch.