NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Apr 11, 2013 5:52 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
Zamfir wrote:Cause asteroids of this size are not the ones to worry about. If your talking 'species-threatening': the dinosaur killer was about a billion times larger than this. The apophis asteroid you sometime hear about is more than 20000 times smaller than that, but that still a lot more than this by orders of magnitude. The asteroid that hit Russia was still estimated as 20 times larger than this plan, and that one could apparently hit a city without catastrophic consequences.

Edit: the numbers I used

This plan: 500 ton
Chelyabinsk: 11,000 ton
Tunguska: +- 100,000 ton
Apophis: 300 meters -> order of 20 million ton
dinosaurs: 10km -> order of 500 billion ton


Reasonable. But even if you put aside the fact that this particular asteroid would burn up on entry if it fell to earth, the technology that we use to move this asteroid is still the technology we would use to deflect this asteroid if for some reason we had need to do so, which invalidates the "we shouldn't screw with it until we have a way to protect ourselves from it" argument.

As for the species extinction thing, there's something to be said for practicing on small targets. Figuring out how to move a 500 ton asteroid around on a whim seems, to me, like the first step toward figuring out how to move muti-million ton asteroids around.


Pretty much. No technology emerges fully mature. There's always the beta version with all it's foibles, and you learn all manner of stuff actually working with tech in practice. That's gonna happen regardless of when the first time is. So, the question really is, do you want the first time to be a small little rock with fairly minor consequences for failure, or do you want to hold off the first time until all of humanity is on the line?

There is always a potential downside for progress....but focusing on the downside alone without considering the real, practical tradeoffs involved is simply unfair(though it seems baked into human nature). So, I'm pretty stoked about this idea.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby J Thomas » Thu Apr 11, 2013 6:31 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:No technology emerges fully mature. There's always the beta version with all it's foibles, and you learn all manner of stuff actually working with tech in practice. That's gonna happen regardless of when the first time is. So, the question really is, do you want the first time to be a small little rock with fairly minor consequences for failure, or do you want to hold off the first time until all of humanity is on the line?


Let's hold off until the technology gets considerably cheaper. Energy costs are high now, and various other early-stage technologies will help with this one. So do this after energy costs go down to a reasonable level and we have more enabling technologies online.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby sardia » Thu Apr 11, 2013 7:45 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:No technology emerges fully mature. There's always the beta version with all it's foibles, and you learn all manner of stuff actually working with tech in practice. That's gonna happen regardless of when the first time is. So, the question really is, do you want the first time to be a small little rock with fairly minor consequences for failure, or do you want to hold off the first time until all of humanity is on the line?


Let's hold off until the technology gets considerably cheaper. Energy costs are high now, and various other early-stage technologies will help with this one. So do this after energy costs go down to a reasonable level and we have more enabling technologies online.

Don't be so cautious, early adopters pave the way to lower costs with their blood, sweat, and tears. Oh and money, they pave the way with lots of money.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:49 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:No technology emerges fully mature. There's always the beta version with all it's foibles, and you learn all manner of stuff actually working with tech in practice. That's gonna happen regardless of when the first time is. So, the question really is, do you want the first time to be a small little rock with fairly minor consequences for failure, or do you want to hold off the first time until all of humanity is on the line?


Let's hold off until the technology gets considerably cheaper. Energy costs are high now, and various other early-stage technologies will help with this one. So do this after energy costs go down to a reasonable level and we have more enabling technologies online.


Why do you expect energy costs to automatically decrease? Have a giant lake of oil socked away somewhere that you haven't told us about?

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Xenomortis » Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:54 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:Let's hold off until the technology gets considerably cheaper.


Technology doesn't get cheap without development.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Apr 11, 2013 9:04 pm UTC

Even if we waited until other countries developed the tech(likely a significant delay), would all of them be willing to share it with us?

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby J Thomas » Thu Apr 11, 2013 9:44 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
J Thomas wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:No technology emerges fully mature. There's always the beta version with all it's foibles, and you learn all manner of stuff actually working with tech in practice. That's gonna happen regardless of when the first time is. So, the question really is, do you want the first time to be a small little rock with fairly minor consequences for failure, or do you want to hold off the first time until all of humanity is on the line?


Let's hold off until the technology gets considerably cheaper. Energy costs are high now, and various other early-stage technologies will help with this one. So do this after energy costs go down to a reasonable level and we have more enabling technologies online.


Why do you expect energy costs to automatically decrease? Have a giant lake of oil socked away somewhere that you haven't told us about?


If we put the money into things to get cheap energy first, then we get asteroid-rustling cheaper.
If we put the money into asteroid-rustling first, then assuming we scale up fast enough we don't get clobbered by an asteroid and it's that much more expensive to work on cheap energy later.

So if we put off the asteroids for say 50 years, it will increase our risk of getting hit by an asteroid by about the same as the last 50 years and the 50 years before that and the 50 years before that etc. I think we should take that risk and do the more important stuff first.

Given time, we will have stronger and lighter materials to work with. Better robotics. Maybe some important advances I can't predict at all. The other research we do will have spin-offs that will make space stuff cheaper.

So, when was the last asteroid bombardment that was big enough to justify a giant space program? (Other things equal, the bigger the asteroid the bigger the effort required to deflect it.)

I've heard stories that one in North America ended civilization there a long time ago, creating the Carolina Bays. But now the Bays appear not to have formed that way. If we knew how often to expect expensive meteorites that would give us an idea what we're insuring.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Iulus Cofield » Thu Apr 11, 2013 10:12 pm UTC

There's no reason to think energy costs will go down in the future unless fusion power is developed and we have working fusion powered spacecraft. We're closer to that than we've ever been before, but in the mean time we're facing significant opportunity costs. In general, it is actually cheaper to just go for broke on new technology than it is to wait in hopes of other developments that will make it seemingly cheaper. As an added bonus, new tech developments tend to hasten other tech developments. The incentive to make fusion powered spacecraft is far higher if you have something to do with it that gives you tangible benefits, like asteroid mining, than it is if all you're gonna do is cool stuff, like going to Mars more quickly.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Fire Brns » Thu Apr 11, 2013 10:18 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:I've heard stories that one in North America ended civilization there a long time ago, creating the Carolina Bays. But now the Bays appear not to have formed that way. If we knew how often to expect expensive meteorites that would give us an idea what we're insuring.

The rest of that is sound but the Carolina impact theory is generally considered false.

If we are talking about nuclear blast sized ones those happen quite frequently. If we are talking about events that cause decades of crop failure then we are talking about at the most frequent 10k year spans.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby blackened45 » Fri Apr 12, 2013 1:46 am UTC

I'm actually really interested to see what will become of this. I support anything related to space exploration and I think this may be a big step. I for one would love to see more photography of space and even more news about it.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Arancaytar » Fri Apr 12, 2013 1:57 am UTC

Yo, I heard you like moons, so I put a moon in orbit around your moon so you can science while you science.

(Sorry.)
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Apr 12, 2013 12:35 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:
J Thomas wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:No technology emerges fully mature. There's always the beta version with all it's foibles, and you learn all manner of stuff actually working with tech in practice. That's gonna happen regardless of when the first time is. So, the question really is, do you want the first time to be a small little rock with fairly minor consequences for failure, or do you want to hold off the first time until all of humanity is on the line?


Let's hold off until the technology gets considerably cheaper. Energy costs are high now, and various other early-stage technologies will help with this one. So do this after energy costs go down to a reasonable level and we have more enabling technologies online.


Why do you expect energy costs to automatically decrease? Have a giant lake of oil socked away somewhere that you haven't told us about?


If we put the money into things to get cheap energy first, then we get asteroid-rustling cheaper.
If we put the money into asteroid-rustling first, then assuming we scale up fast enough we don't get clobbered by an asteroid and it's that much more expensive to work on cheap energy later.

So if we put off the asteroids for say 50 years, it will increase our risk of getting hit by an asteroid by about the same as the last 50 years and the 50 years before that and the 50 years before that etc. I think we should take that risk and do the more important stuff first.


What on earth could be more important than, yknow, the continuity and safety of humanity? That seems like it'd be up there, anyway.

Anyway, I've heard that the risk of a city getting flattened by an asteroid is roughly akin to the risk of dying in an earthquake if you live in so ca. Stats are fuzzy for things of this nature, but there's a LOT of rocks up there, and as urbanization increases, the likelihood of one of them coming down somewhere important increases. So, it isn't actually true that the risk is the same every 50 years.

Given time, we will have stronger and lighter materials to work with. Better robotics. Maybe some important advances I can't predict at all. The other research we do will have spin-offs that will make space stuff cheaper.


Most of that kind of tech IS spin-off from space tech.

So, when was the last asteroid bombardment that was big enough to justify a giant space program? (Other things equal, the bigger the asteroid the bigger the effort required to deflect it.)

I've heard stories that one in North America ended civilization there a long time ago, creating the Carolina Bays. But now the Bays appear not to have formed that way. If we knew how often to expect expensive meteorites that would give us an idea what we're insuring.


Tunguska Event was considered pretty big. Had another one in russia of late that you may have heard of.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Fire Brns » Fri Apr 12, 2013 2:25 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:So, it isn't actually true that the risk is the same every 50 years.
Of course, I thought that was what the original post mentioning "50 years" said, every million years that pass the likelihood of another 90% extinction rate event will happen, the statistical increase in 50 years is negligible. However astronomers are relatively confident in their ability to detect any rock large enough to be a threat to civilization and would give us sufficient heads up to halt it.
Most of that kind of tech IS spin-off from space tech.
And the space industry will continue to improve upon it with all it's other projects. We have ESA(who's primary goal is science, not manned spaceflight), FKA(ruscosmos), NASA, and private companies including plans by the founder of amazon[?] who's intentions are for the betterment and continuation of humanity. Point is, the science will continue and on more immediate concerns.

Tunguska Event was considered pretty big. Had another one in russia of late that you may have heard of.
Tunguska level events are posited to happen every year but most go undetected and they usually occur at high atmosphere. And even with industrialization it leaves 90% of the planet uninhabited.
The other one was relatively harmless, is just public sensationalism, like how everyone wanted a asteroid defense system after Deep Impact and Armageddon.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby induction » Fri Apr 12, 2013 4:22 pm UTC

Fire Brns wrote:However astronomers are relatively confident in their ability to detect any rock large enough to be a threat to civilization and would give us sufficient heads up to halt it.


No. Anything coming from the direction of the sun is undetectable except to a space telescope, and there is no space telescope that is currently used for hunting asteroids. The object that exploded over Russia is a good example. Nobody had any idea it was coming, and if it had been bigger, we still wouldn't have seen it. (Anything larger than 1 km across is likely to wipe out most life on the planet.)

There is also currently no program for monitoring most of the southern hemisphere, although one in Chile is expected to be in place sometime around 2019 (funded by contributions).

Here's a decent non-technical article about a meeting of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee only a few weeks ago. Some highlights:
That rock caught NASA as off-guard as the Siberian residents.

“It came out of the sun,” John Holdren, director of the White House office of science and technology policy, told the House Science, Space and Technology Committee today. “It came from a direction where our telescopes could not look. We cannot look into the sun.”

“We had no insight in that at all,” said Gen. William Shelton, commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command. “We were aware of the event when it occurred.”

...

Under questioning from Smith, Holdren said current capabilities have detected less than 10 percent of 100-meter asteroids — an estimated 13,000 to 20,000 “city destroyers.”

“The number of undetected potential city killers is — is very large. It’s in the range of 10,000 or more,” Holdren said.


Even if we saw it coming, it would take around 20 years of dedicated work to put a program in place to deflect it. This would probably be accomplished by nudging the object with robotic space vehicles, which currently don't exist.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby J Thomas » Fri Apr 12, 2013 6:16 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
J Thomas wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:
J Thomas wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:No technology emerges fully mature. There's always the beta version with all it's foibles, and you learn all manner of stuff actually working with tech in practice. That's gonna happen regardless of when the first time is. So, the question really is, do you want the first time to be a small little rock with fairly minor consequences for failure, or do you want to hold off the first time until all of humanity is on the line?


Let's hold off until the technology gets considerably cheaper. Energy costs are high now, and various other early-stage technologies will help with this one. So do this after energy costs go down to a reasonable level and we have more enabling technologies online.


Why do you expect energy costs to automatically decrease? Have a giant lake of oil socked away somewhere that you haven't told us about?


If we put the money into things to get cheap energy first, then we get asteroid-rustling cheaper.
If we put the money into asteroid-rustling first, then assuming we scale up fast enough we don't get clobbered by an asteroid and it's that much more expensive to work on cheap energy later.

So if we put off the asteroids for say 50 years, it will increase our risk of getting hit by an asteroid by about the same as the last 50 years and the 50 years before that and the 50 years before that etc. I think we should take that risk and do the more important stuff first.


What on earth could be more important than, yknow, the continuity and safety of humanity? That seems like it'd be up there, anyway.


Bad reasoning in a good cause is still bad reasoning. Try to do better.

Anyway, I've heard that the risk of a city getting flattened by an asteroid is roughly akin to the risk of dying in an earthquake if you live in so ca.


Would you like to follow that up? Find out who's saying it, and what basis they have to say it? I heard that if we can just get solid gun control in the USA for 50 years we will save more lives than we will with asteroid control for 50 years, and far far cheaper. But I don't remember where I heard it.

Stats are fuzzy for things of this nature, but there's a LOT of rocks up there, and as urbanization increases, the likelihood of one of them coming down somewhere important increases. So, it isn't actually true that the risk is the same every 50 years.


It looks like the risk of a meteor strike with drastic consequences is about the same for 50 years.

Given time, we will have stronger and lighter materials to work with. Better robotics. Maybe some important advances I can't predict at all. The other research we do will have spin-offs that will make space stuff cheaper.


Most of that kind of tech IS spin-off from space tech.


Again, bad reasoning in a good cause is still bad reasoning. Let's do research on this other tech and then we can mostly run the space program on spin-offs from that.

So, when was the last asteroid bombardment that was big enough to justify a giant space program? (Other things equal, the bigger the asteroid the bigger the effort required to deflect it.)

I've heard stories that one in North America ended civilization there a long time ago, creating the Carolina Bays. But now the Bays appear not to have formed that way. If we knew how often to expect expensive meteorites that would give us an idea what we're insuring.


Tunguska Event was considered pretty big. Had another one in russia of late that you may have heard of.


Neither of those had a cost that would begin to justify a space program.

Look -- on a scale of hundreds of millions of years, extinction-level meteor events are pretty common. Our descendents need to be ready for that. And if we get good at space exploration, if it turns out we can live OK in space, then within a few thousand years it plain won't make sense to live on a planet. People up there can drop big rocks on you and there's nothing you can do about it. It's like being at the bottom of a well and trying to defend yourself from people on top. Nobody but peasants will live on planets.

But on a scale of 50 years it just does not make sense. And in the timescale of a US government budget? (I mean, in times when the US government actually has a budget.) It's absurd to spend significant money on this in that timescale.

Put it this way -- if we want to maintain a continuing effort to block big meteors, launch costs will go up as we set up a force that can handle problems of increasing size. And then when we decide the upper limit of the size of asteroid we are willing to prepare for, then launch costs will stabilize and not go down until we develop new technology that makes them cheaper.

If we can't afford it now, why would we be able to afford it every year for 50 years, or 100 years?

Put the money into getting it cheaper first, and then we can catch up for far less cost. If we put our money into cheap energy first, we can fund space off the profits. And if cheap energy doesn't happen? Then we can't afford space.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Garm » Fri Apr 12, 2013 7:58 pm UTC

We can't really rely on corporations to do pure R&D. That's why the space program is important.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby nitePhyyre » Fri Apr 12, 2013 7:59 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:Let's hold off until the technology gets considerably cheaper. Energy costs are high now, and various other early-stage technologies will help with this one. So do this after energy costs go down to a reasonable level and we have more enabling technologies online.
J Thomas wrote:Bad reasoning in a good cause is still bad reasoning. Try to do better.
J Thomas wrote:If we put the money into things to get cheap energy first, then we get asteroid-rustling cheaper.
If we put the money into asteroid-rustling first, then assuming we scale up fast enough we don't get clobbered by an asteroid and it's that much more expensive to work on cheap energy later.

So if we put off the asteroids for say 50 years, it will increase our risk of getting hit by an asteroid by about the same as the last 50 years and the 50 years before that and the 50 years before that etc. I think we should take that risk and do the more important stuff first.
J Thomas wrote:Again, bad reasoning in a good cause is still bad reasoning. Let's do research on this other tech and then we can mostly run the space program on spin-offs from that.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby morriswalters » Fri Apr 12, 2013 8:40 pm UTC

Kill two birds with one stone. Waiting won't do anything useful. Waiting for technologies that may never materialize is foolish. Launch costs will go down by the virtue of a reduction in the mass we won't have to loft. This is one of the first things I have seen from NASA in the last years that make any sense. If asteroids contain volatiles, than you can process fuel in space. You develop the skills you need to deflect asteroids and make a profit doing it. It's easy to get men to LEO. But everything you take other than men, assuming that you can get it out there, is wasted. Transfer vehicles fueled from volatiles mined either on the moon or from asteroids should be cheaper in the long term to go anywhere you want to go, rather than trying to loft all that mass from this deep in the well. People who wait get left behind.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby J Thomas » Fri Apr 12, 2013 11:57 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Kill two birds with one stone. Waiting won't do anything useful. Waiting for technologies that may never materialize is foolish. Launch costs will go down by the virtue of a reduction in the mass we won't have to loft. This is one of the first things I have seen from NASA in the last years that make any sense. If asteroids contain volatiles, than you can process fuel in space.


That makes sense. So if it turns out that way, we can build refineries in space, and we cheaply acquire asteroids that are full of oil and use it there, and we don't have to bring fuel from sea level at $10,000/pound.

That would be very good. How big an effort would it be to find out whether that works?

You develop the skills you need to deflect asteroids and make a profit doing it. It's easy to get men to LEO. But everything you take other than men, assuming that you can get it out there, is wasted.


Mostly men are wasted there. Send light-weight robots instead. When you reach the point you can build robots there using materials you get there, then it gets cheap.

Transfer vehicles fueled from volatiles mined either on the moon or from asteroids should be cheaper in the long term to go anywhere you want to go, rather than trying to loft all that mass from this deep in the well. People who wait get left behind.


That does sound good. You say "volatiles". What are the proven reserves on the moon? Proven reserves in the asteroid belt?
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby morriswalters » Sat Apr 13, 2013 1:13 am UTC

J Thomas wrote:That would be very good. How big an effort would it be to find out whether that works?
I have no idea. If I did I wouldn't be talking to you. I would be researching venture capital and attempting to do it.

Proven reserves? Surely you jest. We have a good idea about the moon. but who knows about the rest? If you knew what was there you wouldn't need to look. But to all intents and purposes it doesn't matter. If push came to shove, you could vaporize rocks as reaction mass. But at least cometary material has hydrocarbons. And who said you wouldn't send robots to fetch the goods? Of course you would. Why would you send men? Bring it here. That's where it's needed. But it will never be possible to build the ships that could put the planets in reach by launching from down here. If you think some magic technology is going to fall out of some research lab that will make it as cheap to LEO as it is to ship coal from the coalfields we don't have anything to discuss. From my point of view if you can't do that then forget it and stay home. But if you think there is value in doing it, then do it.

J Thomas wrote:Mostly men are wasted there. Send light-weight robots instead. When you reach the point you can build robots there using materials you get there, then it gets cheap.
If you aren't going to send men then why do it at all. You presume that you will be able to create technology that is reliable enough to do what we need it to do. We haven't done it yet. Maybe that singularity AI will. Or then again maybe it won't. Historically we started trying to do things as soon as we thought about it, not when we were sure we could do it. Of course that takes a toll, but people are the cheapest part of the machine. They are well developed and have the best intelligence for exploring that exists. Dangle some gold coins at the end of the stick and humans will fall all over themselves to go.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby induction » Sat Apr 13, 2013 1:25 am UTC

J Thomas wrote: asteroids that are full of oil


That's funny.

That does sound good. You say "volatiles". What are the proven reserves on the moon? Proven reserves in the asteroid belt?


Generally we would be mining for metals (both industrial and precious) and water (which would be split into oxygen for breathing and hydrogen for fuel).

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby sardia » Sat Apr 13, 2013 1:43 am UTC

The magic technology that Morris is describing, is of course, a space elevator.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Kulantan » Sat Apr 13, 2013 2:49 am UTC

Or a launch loop.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby dudiobugtron » Sat Apr 13, 2013 4:00 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:What on earth could be more important than, yknow, the continuity and safety of humanity?

Um, the continuity and safety of America? ;)
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Belial » Sat Apr 13, 2013 4:05 am UTC

That's what yankee-doodle-dilophosaurus said. And look how that worked out.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby morriswalters » Sat Apr 13, 2013 9:21 am UTC

I laugh at your launch loop and I whoop at your space elevator. I can write about a star ship but I can't ride in one. I'm all for either, and for mom and apple pie to. A space elevator presumes you can get the launch costs down to where it's practical to loft enough into orbit enough of the raw materials to kick start the process, even assuming that materials science can make something with high enough tensile strengths, unless that is, you can go mine the materials in space. Seems like a cart before the horse problem. A launch loop on the other hand seems a bit more doable, Why aren't we building one? Difficult or perhaps unsolvable technical issues perhaps? That's the problem with difficult technical issues, it's easier to think about them than to do them. You need to convince a sugar daddy to fund research into something with a high probability of failure.

A little quote from the launch loop site. Sounds like a serious feller. Seems to need better people skills though.
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Suggestions" without detailed analysis. 99.99% of all ideas are stupid, and if you don't have the technical capability - that is, the time and the fortitude to learn and analyze and do math and risk disappointment - then don't expect me or anyone else to provide it.

Free computer time on your home computer (or your bosses computer). If you can write an accurate simulation, wonderful, we can probably find someplace to run it. Raw cpu cycles are far less useful than a good plan for using them.

Money in small amounts. If you can locate enough money to keep a number of researchers busy for months or years, lets talk. If you want to send 20 bucks somewhere, buy a calculus book and learn how to help. Or give it to some educational charity and tell them it is from the space program - bolix up the folks that say "fix problems on Earth first"
.
Praise. Accomplishment is its own reward. Don't let us rest at a halfway point on empty praise. Swollen egos have destroyed more projects than any hurdles mere nature can create.

Demands for time and attention. What is sad about this is that the arrogant twits that think nothing of wasting hours of other's time will ignore this message and pester me, while the quiet thoughtful people with something useful to add will probably be scared off by this ranting. A useful yardstick might be - are you self-critical? Would you rather be anonymously right rather than be rich and famous? If your ego is small, and your capacity for self-examination is high, you may well have something to contribute.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby J Thomas » Sat Apr 13, 2013 5:58 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:I laugh at your launch loop and I whoop at your space elevator. I can write about a star ship but I can't ride in one. I'm all for either, and for mom and apple pie to. A space elevator presumes you can get the launch costs down to where it's practical to loft enough into orbit enough of the raw materials to kick start the process, even assuming that materials science can make something with high enough tensile strengths, unless that is, you can go mine the materials in space. Seems like a cart before the horse problem.


Exactly. And we have the same problem with asteroid mining. At present it takes far more resources than we can afford, to find out whether it could pay off.

A launch loop on the other hand seems a bit more doable, Why aren't we building one? Difficult or perhaps unsolvable technical issues perhaps? That's the problem with difficult technical issues, it's easier to think about them than to do them. You need to convince a sugar daddy to fund research into something with a high probability of failure.


Yes. Don't spend much of my tax dollars on this when government research money has far more plausible targets. But if you can get enough venture capital then the sky's the limit.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby PolakoVoador » Sat Apr 13, 2013 7:21 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:At present it takes far more resources than we can afford, to find out whether it could pay off.

A launch loop on the other hand seems a bit more doable, Why aren't we building one? Difficult or perhaps unsolvable technical issues perhaps? That's the problem with difficult technical issues, it's easier to think about them than to do them. You need to convince a sugar daddy to fund research into something with a high probability of failure.


Yes. Don't spend much of my tax dollars on this when government research money has far more plausible targets. But if you can get enough venture capital then the sky's the limit.


I'm sure your tax dollars are of having lots of fun warring around the globe.

NASA budget: around 0.5% of federal outlays.
DoD budget: around 15% of federal outlays.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Fire Brns » Sat Apr 13, 2013 9:56 pm UTC

PolakoVoador wrote:I'm sure your tax dollars are of having lots of fun warring around the globe.
I'm sure he's against that waste of tax dollars as well.
And I think the most important part of his statement was this:
J Thomas wrote:when government research money has far more plausible targets.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby morriswalters » Sat Apr 13, 2013 10:28 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:Exactly. And we have the same problem with asteroid mining. At present it takes far more resources than we can afford, to find out whether it could pay off.
Don't think so. Government has always funded these things. Don't mistake my ridicule of technological solutions that aren't ready for prime time for the position that we shouldn't push into space. There is a point of view that if we are going to do it at all, that it needs to be now, with what we have. Not you or me or anybody can predict the future. Smart money says push while we can, as hard as we can. Or run the risk of never doing it at all. In any case the military will go and they won't ask, better they get the technology from NASA than to have NASA trying to yank it from the Military.

You seem to suffer from the idea that if it wasn't spent by NASA that it could be put to better use. That gets a rather large probably not. My guess it it would go to the Military or it would become part of the black budget. I doubt that widows and orphans would see a penny. And we are doing research with it, research far more valuable than you evidently are willing to give credit for. We have a lot of sensors aimed at the planet and if we can conquer the high ground we can do it better. We are going to have a gap in sensor coverage because of an unwillingness to budget NASA evenly and give them projects that could make the process self funding.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby J Thomas » Sat Apr 13, 2013 11:27 pm UTC

PolakoVoador wrote:
J Thomas wrote:At present it takes far more resources than we can afford, to find out whether it could pay off.

A launch loop on the other hand seems a bit more doable, Why aren't we building one? Difficult or perhaps unsolvable technical issues perhaps? That's the problem with difficult technical issues, it's easier to think about them than to do them. You need to convince a sugar daddy to fund research into something with a high probability of failure.


Yes. Don't spend much of my tax dollars on this when government research money has far more plausible targets. But if you can get enough venture capital then the sky's the limit.


I'm sure your tax dollars are of having lots of fun warring around the globe.

NASA budget: around 0.5% of federal outlays.
DoD budget: around 15% of federal outlays.


Yeah, I hate that.

Plus probably around half of NASA budget should be counted as military too.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Iulus Cofield » Sat Apr 13, 2013 11:45 pm UTC

Once we have an armada of asteroids, we won't need to spend so much on the conventional military.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby J Thomas » Sun Apr 14, 2013 12:19 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:
J Thomas wrote:Exactly. And we have the same problem with asteroid mining. At present it takes far more resources than we can afford, to find out whether it could pay off.
Don't think so. Government has always funded these things. Don't mistake my ridicule of technological solutions that aren't ready for prime time for the position that we shouldn't push into space. There is a point of view that if we are going to do it at all, that it needs to be now, with what we have.


I will fill in the blanks you left out. With current methods it will take a tremendous amount of energy to get the possibility of a self-sustaining culture in space. If we don't do it now, we might use up so much fossil fuel that we can never do it. If we never get good alternate fuels we will be energy-poor forever and so we will never get into space. So the alternative is to burn as much of our fossil fuels as we can to get into space. Then if the guys in space manage to find what they need to survive there in the long run, they will be in space! Success! And if they get *more* than they need, they can trade stuff with the people left behind down on poor old Earth. They might even feel generous and send Earth good stuff that we can't pay for with stuff sent up on rockets.

Who knows, if things work out fantastically well the guys in space might even solve problems here on Earth. They might produce surplus energy up there and beam it down to us! They might even give us so much great stuff that they more than pay off what we spent giving them their start.

But the important thing is that people make a go of it in space, because there's a strong chance that Earth will turn into a place that nobody in his right mind would want to be. So we need to use as many resources as we can getting the Chosen Ones into space where they belong, before things collapse permanently here.

Not you or me or anybody can predict the future. Smart money says push while we can, as hard as we can. Or run the risk of never doing it at all. In any case the military will go and they won't ask, better they get the technology from NASA than to have NASA trying to yank it from the Military.


Until there is some sort of independent presence in space, the military's interest will be attacking things in LEO and lower. I doubt they will be interested in going to the moon or asteroid belt until you are already living there and they need to be able to attack you.

You seem to suffer from the idea that if it wasn't spent by NASA that it could be put to better use. That gets a rather large probably not. My guess it it would go to the Military or it would become part of the black budget. I doubt that widows and orphans would see a penny. And we are doing research with it, research far more valuable than you evidently are willing to give credit for. We have a lot of sensors aimed at the planet and if we can conquer the high ground we can do it better. We are going to have a gap in sensor coverage because of an unwillingness to budget NASA evenly and give them projects that could make the process self funding.


Yes, but money sunk into trying to deflect asteroids and mine asteroids is currently money that comes out of NASA's budget. It tends to starve other NASA projects. And if the funding ramps up to do those projects in ways that could become adequate someday, that will suck money out of other research areas. It won't take money from the military budget, but from other research.

Asteroid mining might pay off handsomely in the long run. We don't know whether it can ever become economical. If it doesn't work, how much research money should we spend on it before we give up?
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby sardia » Sun Apr 14, 2013 12:20 am UTC

Iulus Cofield wrote:Once we have an armada of asteroids, we won't need to spend so much on the conventional military.

Man, all that will accomplish will be a new arms race as each country hoard bigger and bigger asteroids. And then we need to worry about the asteroid gap...

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby morriswalters » Sun Apr 14, 2013 10:53 am UTC

J Thomas wrote:But the important thing is that people make a go of it in space, because there's a strong chance that Earth will turn into a place that nobody in his right mind would want to be. So we need to use as many resources as we can getting the Chosen Ones into space where they belong, before things collapse permanently here.
The future is unknown. We could die many ways, or not at all. But it's within our grasp now to go so we should. It's like the shiny new tool for your toolbox, it something you might need, and if you do than you have it.

J Thomas wrote:Until there is some sort of independent presence in space, the military's interest will be attacking things in LEO and lower. I doubt they will be interested in going to the moon or asteroid belt until you are already living there and they need to be able to attack you.
Again I don't read minds or tea leaves. What the Military does best is keep secrets. It's foolish to believe that they don't. They have their own version on the space program, how much do you or anyone else know about it?
J Thomas wrote:Yes, but money sunk into trying to deflect asteroids and mine asteroids is currently money that comes out of NASA's budget. It tends to starve other NASA projects. And if the funding ramps up to do those projects in ways that could become adequate someday, that will suck money out of other research areas. It won't take money from the military budget, but from other research.

Asteroid mining might pay off handsomely in the long run. We don't know whether it can ever become economical. If it doesn't work, how much research money should we spend on it before we give up?
The same technology that brings an asteroid to the moon, is the same technology that does science. It isn't an all or nothing thing. Regardless of the fairy dust and glimmer passed out around here, we aren't going anywhere. We may put outposts on the moon or Mars, but mommas children aren't migrating to the stars. There is no place in the solar system that will ever be able to sustain life as we like it, if someplace did, chances are good that we would have seen them waving by now.

@Sardia
The Military doesn't need to throw rocks, poor use of resources. Put enough stealthy warheads in orbit a 120 miles up and it's better than a Sub with a load of warheads parked off the coast of fantasy land. No defense is possible. No time. Make fuel cheap enough so they can maneuver at will and you have target you can't hit. Heinlein did better fiction than he did prediction.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Apr 15, 2013 8:50 pm UTC

Fire Brns wrote:
PolakoVoador wrote:I'm sure your tax dollars are of having lots of fun warring around the globe.
I'm sure he's against that waste of tax dollars as well.
And I think the most important part of his statement was this:
J Thomas wrote:when government research money has far more plausible targets.


The easy stuff doesn't really require government money for research. Discovering "hey, this compound does x, let's make a pill from that"....that kind of stuff is what corporations are pretty good at. They accomplish it pretty reliably.

The stuff that we don't really know for sure if it's possible, and it's gonna be big? Like, say, the LHC...those would be really challenging for an all-private solution to come up with.

If you're going to spend government money on research at all...spend it on the latter part. And when you do, make the products of that research a common good for all to use. Personally, I'd say we've gotten a better return on government research than most things that government has spent money on, so it doesn't seem to be a great place to start cutting.

We don't need to embrace a path of "chosen ones"...the science to divert a meteor from hitting earth has obvious applications for all of us. Ie, not being hit by a giant ball o' rock.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby sardia » Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:13 pm UTC

I think my Dr. Strangelove reference was too vague, because I don't recognize Heinlich.

Unfortunately, government R&D is the first thing that gets cut in any year, the only exceptions is weapons research. Promise a new weapon and people double down if it goes overbudget.

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby morriswalters » Mon Apr 15, 2013 11:21 pm UTC

"The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress". Lunar rebels bombard earth with containers of rocks from the moon. Heinlein was a Libertarian, excellent writer, and a mainstay of 60's counter culture. Also invented a character called Micheal Valentine Smith. Do you grok?

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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby J Thomas » Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:52 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
Fire Brns wrote:
PolakoVoador wrote:I'm sure your tax dollars are of having lots of fun warring around the globe.
I'm sure he's against that waste of tax dollars as well.
And I think the most important part of his statement was this:
J Thomas wrote:when government research money has far more plausible targets.


We don't need to embrace a path of "chosen ones"...the science to divert a meteor from hitting earth has obvious applications for all of us. Ie, not being hit by a giant ball o' rock.


Assuming we were to put up an asteroid defense using the technology which is plausible in the next 10 years or so. How much do you think it would cost to do it effectively? How much would we save by not getting hit by giant balls of rock?

OK, how many cities did we lose to giant balls of rock in the last 50 years? The last 100 years? The last 500 years? It really looks like asteroid strikes have caused occasional mass extinctions -- maybe as many as a dozen of them over the last 200 million years or so. Does that mean we need a great big program to prevent them over the next 50 years?

Maybe I shouldn't complain. The anti-abortion people make up junk all the time. Creation science guys lie every which way. Maybe I should be happy when the good guys do it. But I don't like it. The bad guys come up with stupid lies and nobody expects anything different. Catch the good guys doing it and they can get hurt.

And it isn't a big step from diverting asteroids to aiming them. When we get that capability will the chances of a whole lot of damage from asteroids go down or will it go up?

Let's find some better reason to throw money into space. And then when we're there maybe we can set up asteroid protection programs from the spinoffs.
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Re: NASA plans to rassle an asteroid

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Apr 16, 2013 10:50 am UTC

J Thomas wrote:Assuming we were to put up an asteroid defense using the technology which is plausible in the next 10 years or so. How much do you think it would cost to do it effectively? How much would we save by not getting hit by giant balls of rock?


It wouldn't be a physical object, almost certainly. It'd be a tracking system with tailored intercept missions for those with a high probability of hitting us.

OK, how many cities did we lose to giant balls of rock in the last 50 years? The last 100 years? The last 500 years? It really looks like asteroid strikes have caused occasional mass extinctions -- maybe as many as a dozen of them over the last 200 million years or so. Does that mean we need a great big program to prevent them over the next 50 years?


Maybe, maybe not. That's the issue with low frequency, high magnitude events. We could easily go 50 years without a major city being hit. Or, a big ol' asteroid could park itself somewhere vital. The question is one of risk, and the penalty for not pursuing and it being a wrong guess is high. The penalty for wrongly pursuing it, on the other hand, is fairly modest. It's a slightly higher cost of implementation because it's researching new stuff. However, the tech involved will mostly be re-used for other things, so overall cost isn't likely that bad.

And it isn't a big step from diverting asteroids to aiming them. When we get that capability will the chances of a whole lot of damage from asteroids go down or will it go up?


Probably down. Asteroids tend to arrive on their own schedule, and will most likely require a diversion well in advance. In addition, they're rarely great ballistic objects, so there's a certain degree of inaccuracy once they hit atmo. This makes them fairly unsuited for weapons currently. I mean, we already have ICBMs, and we don't use those...yet those provide far better capabilities than a meteor generally would.


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