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New insight into asteroids providing new mining techniques?

Posted by: Ekkehard Augustin - Wed Dec 01, 2004 12:27 pm
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New insight into asteroids providing new mining techniques? 
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Post New insight into asteroids providing new mining techniques?   Posted on: Wed Dec 01, 2004 12:27 pm
Last Friday I read an article saying that there is evidence that impacts of smaller asteroids on greater asteroids are the cause for stones and dust to glide down into lower regions of that great asteroid.

This is working because the small size of asteroids compared to big planets like Earth or Mars lead to higher concentrations of seismic energy in asteroid after the impact.

One conclusion may be that many small asteroids (Eros-size for example) are not compact but assembled rocks, stones and dust indeed - hold together by micro-gravity and extremly similar velocities and orbits only.

More interesting - may it be the best technique to mine an asteroid to cause seismic waves? By controlled impacts or pulses? And may it be possible to classify asteroids by their sizes into those which can be mined this way by small equipment, not so small equipment, large equiment and those which cannot be mined this way?

The article refers to www.sciencemag.org or vol. 306, p. 1526 of the printed version.



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Post    Posted on: Wed Dec 01, 2004 3:54 pm
The best way to mine a rather small asteroid is to get it either onto earth or refine it on a space station which encapsulates the asteroid so you can at least create some sort of controlled environment.

I dont think that asteroids are just clouds of rocks, any change in gravity would rip it all apart and the asteroid would be reshaped imo.

About mining the asteroid. You can't use one technique if you have a dozen sorts of asteroids. You could have asteroids made out of steel and another just pure ice. If you would use a technique where you can mine an asteroid made out of steel, you would simply blow-up and/or destroy the asteroid made out of ice, thus loosing the asteroid and valuable resources.

Since mining asteroids will not be done for some time, it's best to test any mining techniques on the moon first. Then you could send a spacesattion to the asteroid field and mine everything you can get. Which will take a long time before that asteroid field is depleated.


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Post    Posted on: Wed Dec 01, 2004 11:21 pm
Stefan wrote:
Since mining asteroids will not be done for some time, it's best to test any mining techniques on the moon first. Then you could send a spacesattion to the asteroid field and mine everything you can get. Which will take a long time before that asteroid field is depleated.


hah, that's the understatement of the.... well of the week at least. i'd say we can rely on several thousand years of mining the asteroid belt at least, even taking into account exponential growth of industry! really though, it's alot more trouble to mine the belt than it is to just mine NEOs, and probably will be for quite some time. personally, i think limited moon mining will probably start up fairly soon after a moon base, though asteroid mining could start before then if someone has a good idea and gets the capital to do it. my hope for that is that it will become realistic to think about implementing one of the various mining solutions about 15 years from now, with the goal of launching somewhere between 25 and 30 years from now. enough time after i learn all my astronautical engineering to draw up some plans to mine an asteroid.... 8) . after all, if you succeed in that, it'll be amazingly profitable.

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Post    Posted on: Thu Dec 02, 2004 5:46 pm
TerraMrs wrote:
. after all, if you succeed in that, it'll be amazingly profitable.


Well, that is thé question isn't?

Off course it will be profitable once we can get there and all resources on earth will be depleated. But, when will it be profitable? Nobody will attempt to do anything of mining only when they got a real advantage out of it. And since we can screw up the planet for just a bit longer, i doubt we will see any serious mining in the forseeable future, unless the moon will prove to be valuable of resources needed to build an encampement for a moonbase. Only then will it be immediately an advantage. If you can make an automated unit which will drill, mine and process the materials for construction, then you can build a moonbase rather quickly.

Anywayz, i doubt technology will ever be a problem. It's the human (*cough* of some at least *cough*) need for power and/or money (basis of our society) which will make mining troublesome and it wont happen anytime soon. Unfortunately.


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Post    Posted on: Fri Dec 03, 2004 8:13 am
My original question was wether the new insights into the nature of asteroids provide new possible techniques to mine them.

Now the thread has turned to the chances to reach them and to get profits from mining them.

Alright - I have some thoughts concerning that. First there are many Near-Earth-Objects that could be used for experimental mining. Second the amateur-organization AMSAT will launch a probe called P5A to Mars between 2007 and 2009 - if they succeed they may be able to send a private probe to an asteroid too. It could be an experimental mining probe for example. Its mining activities could be science-oriented.

The difference is that asteroids so much smaller than Mars - it will be much harder to keep the right course to one of them and they have to be observed and spied suspiciously because their courses are less stable and often not as well known as the orbit od Mars is.

This seems to be the relevant obstacles. But this may be a good challenge for private space entrepreneurs. Many NEOs are known and there past courses and orbits are catalogued. These catalogues can be used as basises for observations to detect them. Private telescopes including Radar could be installed above LEO privately and the mining probe could be launched when a NEO reaches a sufficient close point - the criteria could be security of detection, sufficient probability that the course is calculated correctly and sufficient navigation capabilities of the probe.

This probe then should test mining techniques that are based on the new insights.

What about this last proposal?



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Post    Posted on: Sat Dec 04, 2004 9:42 am
Now i read your first post again, i think i understood it wrong. If in case an asteroid has a place which has dust and small rocks simply lying there, you can simply collect those. So no need to mine. Question will be how valuable these small samples will be. So in that perspective a mining robot will be nothing more the 'cleaning' an asteroid from all dust and small rocks.


I dont think the NEOs can be used for testing grounds. Sure, they're close. But what if something goes wrong close to earth? And the probe should have extremely sensitive moving rockets to change its course.

Yes asteroids are hard to get at, so lets start mining at the moon and then there will be techniques to mine in very small areas and when the moon is 'depleated', we should allready have a solid base for mining on an asteroid. And since we are allready planning on going to the moon, we can do two things in one project.


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Post    Posted on: Sun Dec 05, 2004 5:57 pm
Let's first return to the question of mining asteroids based on the new insights and second after that compare it to mines at the moon.

The rocks created by the seismic energy caused by collisions and highly concentrated because of the small size of asteroids may be too large to be collected in simply. In this case artificial seismic energy would reduce the size of such rocks. The initial rock that is too large could be surrounded by a robust net. At the open side of the net something could cause very exactly calculated pulse similar to a collision. This would cause the seismic waves and brake the rock into peaces that have the right size to transport the rock(s). During the transport the rocks can be divided further and they can be melt to separte the different metals and materials they are containing.

There a substantial difference between mining an asteroid and mines at the moon. Like on earth om the moon caves have to be digged into the surface if it's not a "Tagebau" (I'm missing the english term for this german word). The caves have to secured and made safe which requres special equipment. Then there are required large machines like on earth to get all the rocks out of the caves. all will look quite similar to earthian mines - and it will have similar high costs and investments as on earth including all the sunk costs.

To mine an asteroid no such caves are required. If into an asteroid of the size of Eros caves are digged the difference to dividing the asteroid into peaces will not be very big - the asteroid may break because of the digging. It's only a hundredth as "large" as the moon. Instead of digging caves all the materials can be got simply by braking the asteroid - which cannot be done with the moon (and shouldn't).



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