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Community asteroid mining  the advocates of space exploration | Upload Society

Asteroid Mining: The Advocates Of Space Exploration

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by: Sharai Hoekema
asteroid mining  the advocates of space exploration | Upload

Earlier instalments of this four-part series of articles on asteroid mining dealt with the concept and its feasibility. As we are looking to space for obtaining minerals and heavy metals that are growing scarce on Earth, we are running into the technical difficulties of mining on asteroids - which host a wide variety of resources. 

The previous article highlighted the infrastructure needs and the advanced robotics required to make asteroid mining a reality - and looked at the techniques that could be used to actually mine some of those 150 million + asteroids in our inner solar system. Now, we will shift gears and look at the advocates of this concept, who are ready and willing to invest heavily in this costly expedition.

To kick off with the most obvious sentiment people experience when finding out more about the concept of asteroid mining: yes, please. There is a large group of people eager to get started and grab their piece of this potentially enormous pie, from billionaires like Elon Musk to presidents like Donald Trump - whose Space Force will be happy to get in the ‘business’ of space colonisation. (part 3 of 4)

Reducing Industry On Earth

Scientists are eager to get a move on as well, especially now that climate change is becoming an urgent, pressing issue. After all, moving our heavy industry abroad would mean that Earth could become a designated ‘residential zone’, so to speak. And that is what we are looking at: getting the majority of industry off the surface of our planet. 
With asteroid mining, we will be able to handle the raw materials directly at their source, in space. The supply chain could become virtually self-sufficient and self-replicating, meaning that operations will grow exponentially while not requiring any input from us, down on Earth. Hence, all kinds of factories and resource generation activities could quite literally be outsourced to space.

As Phil Metzger, a planetary scientist, aptly put it: “The solar system can support a billion times greater industry than we have on Earth. We would be able to promote healthy societies all over the world at the same time that we would be reducing the environmental burden on the Earth. 

Recommended: Consumerism In ‘The West’: A Society Built On Exploitation

Solar Panels 'Covering The Earth'

What if we install solar panels in the Sahara?
Large-scale wind and solar power 'could green the Sahara' Installing huge numbers of solar panels and wind turbines in the Sahara desert would have a major impact on rainfall, vegetation and temperatures, researchers say. As a result, vegetation cover fraction increases by about 20%.

One thing is undeniable. We will not be able to continue down here, on Earth, at the rate that we are currently at. Our energy sources are limited, that is a fact. Yes, renewable energy is virtually inexhaustible, but if we want to power our lives with this source of energy alone in a 'few hundred years’ time', we would have to cover the 'entire surface of the Earth with solar panels'. All of our land mass would be covered in solar cells, barely leaving space for anything else. In 2030 we have to cover the total landmass of Spain to supply worlds energy need.

solar panels at night

Estimated global energy consumption by 2030 is 678 quadrillion Btu = 198,721,800,000,000 kilowatt-hours (simple conversion) divided by 400 kilowatt-hours of solar-energy production per square meter of land (based on 20% efficiency, 70% sunshine days per year and the fact that 1,000 watts of solar energy strikes each square meter of land on Earth) = 496,805 square kilometres of solar panels (191,817 square miles)

This is hardly realistic. And especially when looking out into the vast depths of space all around us, it simply begs the question why we are not more eager to move out there, explore, and find ways of expanding without burdening our home planet to the breaking point.

Recommended: Renewables In Danger! Solar And Wind Energy: Start Digging

Who’s Up For The Challenge?

There is a rather boring answer to this question, as there are a bunch of companies, governments and ventures actively pursuing asteroid mining - with all the corresponding space industries - as a feasible business model. Over the last couple of years, these popped up left, right and center, sponsored by advocates, investors and industrialists alike. Just to get an idea of what they are doing, take a look at the following three startups.

Deep Space Industries

One of these enterprises is Deep Space Industries, an American company founded in 2013 by a group of ambitious scientists and entrepreneurs. They spent five years researching a large number of technologies that were meant to reduce the costs of travelling to high Earth orbits and deep space. Additionally, they came up with the initial design for a fleet of worthy spacecraft. After being acquired by Bradford Space, Inc. last year, their focus somewhat shifted to deep space exploration, water-based propulsion and space station facilities.



                                                    Asteroid Mining: The Advocates Of Space Exploration
                                Mine asteroids for resources, like Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources

Planetary Resources

Another American company, aptly named Planetary Resources, used to draw on extensive aerospace experience as well. With high-profile names such as Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and filmmaker James Cameron backing its activities, they succeeded in launching two test satellites. Although it was a huge success, the company started experiencing financial difficulties last year and was acquired by tech company ConsenSys.

 

What are the benefits of asteroid mining?
Asteroids are enticing for several reasons. They have small gravity fields, so it makes it easier to place spacecraft and mining equipment on the surface. It's also easier to launch off an asteroid than say the Earth or the Moon.

Trans Astronautica Corporation

A company that famously claimed that it would 'build the transcontinental railroad of space to open the solar system to humanity', and received funding from NASA for doing so. Their Mini Bee concept, a 250 kilo weighing robotic mining flight system, is designed to capture asteroids between 10 and 40 meters in diameter. It comes equipped with all kinds of advanced technologies like optical mining, laser mining, solar reflectors and asteroid containment systems. 

Trans Astronautica Corporation mini bee in action
Trans Astronautica Corporation Mini Bee

Even better, it would use resources drawn directly from asteroids - including water ice and other volatile compounds - as a propellant, making it fully self-sufficient and, in theory, allowing it to mine indefinitely.

Respecting The ‘Wilderness’ 

As with any major development, there are voices cautioning against hasty space expansion. This question was posed in a recent paper with the title ‘How much of the Solar System should we leave as Wilderness?’ The recommendation was to exercise restraint and already, before going ‘out there’, start setting limits for expansion activities such as asteroid mining.

This will be quite a challenge, as we are desperate to accommodate our growing industry and population. How and why asteroid mining will make a difference in this will be examined in the fourth and final article in this series. 

Before you go!

Recommended: The Illusions Of Renewables. Solar And Wind Will Not Save Our Climate

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We try to respond the same day.

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Click on 'Register' or push the button 'Write An Article' on the 'HomePage'

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Asteroid Mining: The Advocates Of Space Exploration

Earlier instalments of this four-part series of articles on asteroid mining dealt with the concept and its feasibility. As we are looking to space for obtaining minerals and heavy metals that are growing scarce on Earth, we are running into the technical difficulties of mining on asteroids - which host a wide variety of resources.   The previous article highlighted the infrastructure needs and the advanced robotics required to make asteroid mining a reality - and looked at the techniques that could be used to actually mine some of those 150 million + asteroids in our inner solar system. Now, we will shift gears and look at the advocates of this concept, who are ready and willing to invest heavily in this costly expedition. To kick off with the most obvious sentiment people experience when finding out more about the concept of asteroid mining: yes, please. There is a large group of people eager to get started and grab their piece of this potentially enormous pie, from billionaires like Elon Musk to presidents like Donald Trump - whose Space Force will be happy to get in the ‘business’ of space colonisation. (part 3 of 4) Reducing Industry On Earth Scientists are eager to get a move on as well, especially now that climate change is becoming an urgent, pressing issue. After all, moving our heavy industry abroad would mean that Earth could become a designated ‘residential zone’, so to speak. And that is what we are looking at: getting the majority of industry off the surface of our planet.   With asteroid mining, we will be able to handle the raw materials directly at their source, in space. The supply chain could become virtually self-sufficient and self-replicating, meaning that operations will grow exponentially while not requiring any input from us, down on Earth. Hence, all kinds of factories and resource generation activities could quite literally be outsourced to space. As Phil Metzger, a planetary scientist, aptly put it: “ The solar system can support a billion times greater industry than we have on Earth. We would be able to promote healthy societies all over the world at the same time that we would be reducing the environmental burden on the Earth. ”   Recommended:  Consumerism In ‘The West’: A Society Built On Exploitation Solar Panels 'Covering The Earth' What if we install solar panels in the Sahara? Large-scale wind and solar power 'could green the Sahara' Installing huge numbers of solar panels and wind turbines in the Sahara desert would have a major impact on rainfall, vegetation and temperatures, researchers say. As a result, vegetation cover fraction increases by about 20%. One thing is undeniable. We will not be able to continue down here, on Earth, at the rate that we are currently at. Our energy sources are limited, that is a fact. Yes, renewable energy is virtually inexhaustible, but if we want to power our lives with this source of energy alone in a ' few hundred years’ time ', we would have to cover the 'entire surface of the Earth with solar panels'. All of our land mass would be covered in solar cells, barely leaving space for anything else. In 2030 we have to cover the total landmass of Spain to supply worlds energy need. Estimated global energy consumption by 2030 is 678 quadrillion Btu = 198,721,800,000,000 kilowatt-hours (simple conversion) divided by 400 kilowatt-hours of solar-energy production per square meter of land (based on 20% efficiency, 70% sunshine days per year and the fact that 1,000 watts of solar energy strikes each square meter of land on Earth) = 496,805 square kilometres of solar panels (191,817 square miles) This is hardly realistic. And especially when looking out into the vast depths of space all around us, it simply begs the question why we are not more eager to move out there, explore, and find ways of expanding without burdening our home planet to the breaking point. Recommended:  Renewables In Danger! Solar And Wind Energy: Start Digging Who’s Up For The Challenge? There is a rather boring answer to this question, as there are a bunch of companies, governments and ventures actively pursuing asteroid mining - with all the corresponding space industries - as a feasible business model. Over the last couple of years, these popped up left, right and center, sponsored by advocates, investors and industrialists alike. Just to get an idea of what they are doing, take a look at the following three startups. Deep Space Industries One of these enterprises is Deep Space Industries, an American company founded in 2013 by a group of ambitious scientists and entrepreneurs. They spent five years researching a large number of technologies that were meant to reduce the costs of travelling to high Earth orbits and deep space. Additionally, they came up with the initial design for a fleet of worthy spacecraft.   After being acquired by Bradford Space, Inc. last year, their focus somewhat shifted to deep space exploration, water-based propulsion and space station facilities. {youtube}                                                     Asteroid Mining: The Advocates Of Space Exploration                                 Mine asteroids for resources, like Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources Planetary Resources Another American company, aptly named Planetary Resources, used to draw on extensive aerospace experience as well. With high-profile names such as Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and filmmaker James Cameron backing its activities, they succeeded in launching two test satellites.   Although it was a huge success, the company started experiencing financial difficulties last year and was acquired by tech company ConsenSys.   What are the benefits of asteroid mining? Asteroids are enticing for several reasons. They have small gravity fields, so it makes it easier to place spacecraft and mining equipment on the surface. It's also easier to launch off an asteroid than say the Earth or the Moon. Trans Astronautica Corporation A company that famously claimed that it would ' build the transcontinental railroad of space to open the solar system to humanity' , and received funding from NASA for doing so. Their Mini Bee concept, a 250 kilo weighing robotic mining flight system, is designed to capture asteroids between 10 and 40 meters in diameter. It comes equipped with all kinds of advanced technologies like optical mining, laser mining, solar reflectors and asteroid containment systems.   Trans Astronautica Corporation Mini Bee Even better, it would use resources drawn directly from asteroids - including water ice and other volatile compounds - as a propellant, making it fully self-sufficient and, in theory, allowing it to mine indefinitely. Respecting The ‘Wilderness’   As with any major development, there are voices cautioning against hasty space expansion. This question was posed in a recent paper with the title ‘How much of the Solar System should we leave as Wilderness?’ The recommendation was to exercise restraint and already, before going ‘out there’, start setting limits for expansion activities such as asteroid mining. This will be quite a challenge, as we are desperate to accommodate our growing industry and population. How and why asteroid mining will make a difference in this will be examined in the fourth and final article in this series.   Before you go! Recommended:  The Illusions Of Renewables. Solar And Wind Will Not Save Our Climate Did you find this an interesting article or do you have a question or remark? Leave a comment below. We try to respond the same day. Like to write your own article about sustainability? Click on  'Register'  or push the button 'Write An Article' on the  'HomePage'
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