# B Asteroid/Near Earth object mining

#### 1oldman2

It seems as if while others are out chasing asteroids, someone will be digging up earths backyard. This should be an interesting test of just how well humans are going to do at sharing extraterrestrial resources.
From, http://www.space.com/33632-moon-express-private-lunar-landing-approval.html

"We're still shooting for the end of 2017," Richards said of the maiden MX-1
moon mission. "A lot has to go right, but at least we have a shot at our moon
shot, given this regulatory approval."

If all goes according to plan, future Moon Express missions will help assess,
extract and exploit lunar resources such as water ice, helping to launch a new
era in space exploration, company representatives have said.

"Space travel is our only path forward to ensure our survival and create a
limitless future for our children," Moon Express co-founder and Chairman
Naveen Jain said in a statement today. "In the immediate future, we envision
bringing precious resources, metals and moon rocks back to Earth. In 15
years, the moon will be an important part of Earth’s economy, and potentially
our second home."

#### 1oldman2

It's interesting to see this project develop, once it gets into the private sector investor funded stage I expect the pace of tech advancement is going to surprise a lot of people.

I often see references to ARM as being a technology mainly focused on Mars mission preparation and training, While It's obvious some of the tasks would be good experience on a mars mission, the use of a captured boulder plus the spacecrafts mass to "tractor" a much larger asteroids mass with its gravity is going to be very useful for transporting and processing asteroids etc.

From, http://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasas-asteroid-redirect-mission-completes-robotic-design-milestone
The robotic ARM will demonstrate advanced, high-power,
autonomous high-speed proximity operations at a
low-gravity planetary body; controlled touchdown and liftoff
with a multi-ton mass from a low-gravity planetary body,
astronaut spacewalk activities for sample selection,
extraction, containment and return; and mission operations
of integrated robotic and crewed vehicle stack;all key
components of future in-space operations for human
missions to Mars.

A target asteroid such as 2008 EV5 is particularly
appealing to the scientific, exploration, and industrial
communities because it is a primitive, C-type
(carbonaceous) asteroid, believed to be rich in volatiles,
water, and organic compounds. The ability to extract core
samples from the captured boulder will allow us to evaluate
how its composition varies with depth and could unlock
clues to the origins of our solar system. Astronaut sampling
and potential commercial activities could indicate the value
of C-type asteroids for commercial mining purposes,
which in turn could have significant impacts on how deep
space missions are designed in the future.

#### Recycler

I am in no way predicting disaster.I am advocating a lot of caution in these solar-system exploits,especially with for-profit enterprises.Some past examples on Earth of environmental effects:The Columbian Exchange of life between America and Europe;effects of fracking for oil;widespread mercury contamination;unexplained rapid rise of CO2 in the atmosphere.In the Solar System,a shifting dynamic balance based on orbits and gravitational interaction between masses already exists..Shifting enough mass,or bringing significant amounts of water to earth,or bringing enough mined material to have large economic effects,would all change the balance,or status quo,if you wish,The possible results should be carefully considered BEFORE we do it.Just following the profit motive is not very prudent if one wants to be safe.Yes,let's explore,and colonize cautiously-it's a glorious human adventure.Just keep in mind what we've learned,and be wiser than in the past.

#### Astronuc

Staff Emeritus
So here are a few more links involving the topic, I threw in the arXiv link as a demonstration that not everyone agrees with the projections, but there are a lot of optimists doing R&D.
With respect to the video by Planetary Resources, "Lewicki’s team has been working on developing a fleet of low-cost spacecraft named Arkyd, equipped with advanced spectral sensors and new technologies for onboard computing. Planetary Resources—which last year deployed a demonstration vehicle into low-Earth orbit to test core avionics, navigation, and computing systems—is soon to deploy another vehicle to test remote sensing capacities. A first prospective mission is planned to take place in a couple of years. The company has also been working on getting its transformative technologies into more immediate markets on Earth through the deployment of Ceres, an orbiting infrared and hyperspectral sensor system that aims to provide information to the oil, gas, and agriculture industries to better manage the natural resources on this planet."
Ref: http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2016/07/looking-space-asteroid-miner
http://www.planetaryresources.com/#home-asteroids

http://www.planetaryresources.com/2015/07/planetary-resources-first-spacecraft-deployed/

There are a lot of paper studies on mining the moon and asteroids. There has been interest for a number of decades, and there is a long way to go.

#### russ_watters

Mentor
With respect to the video by Planetary Resources, "Lewicki’s team has been working on developing a fleet of low-cost spacecraft named Arkyd, equipped with advanced spectral sensors and new technologies for onboard computing. Planetary Resources—which last year deployed a demonstration vehicle into low-Earth orbit to test core avionics, navigation, and computing systems—is soon to deploy another vehicle to test remote sensing capacities...
As a reminder, that "vehicle" is a cubesat, and given the meaningless technobabble description could well have been an iPhone...which I think would fit if you mount it in the cube at an angle (half serious). At that level of commitment, this cannot be considered a real commercial project. It is about at the level of a college project. For example:
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/AAUSAT-II

#### 1oldman2

There are a lot of paper studies on mining the moon and asteroids. There has been interest for a number of decades, and there is a long way to go.
You pretty much have said it all in that sentence, the main point being "A long way to go". It will happen though, as sure as we went to the moon and we will go to mars.
(One shouldn't judge tomorrows missions based on today's tech, those cell phone cubesats are pretty impressive according to NASA)

#### Recycler

Your name is a bit ironic, considering the post =P

I agree with your premise (I believe). However, in order to survive as a species, long term, we need to get off of the earth. That requires either a) finding a planet that is sustainable for us (and solar system), or b) altering the environment to make it so. a) is unlikely in my opinion, so then the question becomes: how much altering is OK? Maybe I'm just being naïve, but considering the fact that in a few billion years the sun is going to die, and no life will be possible in this solar system afterwards, and also the fact that it will take a long, looonnnggg time to find a new solar system that's young enough and with a planet in the inhabitable region of said start and also get there, I'm less than concerned about mining the asteroid belt to get us there. I highly doubt, even if we scrapped the entire earth, that we would have enough resources to get us all out of here.
(run-on sentence continues to run on, sorry)
Your point is well-taken.If immediate survival is an issue,we might have to do a lot of disruptive things.It would be scary but grand to get off the Earth to other locations.Having done a bit of experimentation myself,I think that the worst expression in the world is "oops!" Unexpected consequences due to carelessness could come back and bite us.We now have the science to at least estimate the effects of transferring mass in the Solar system and to foresee what alterations might do,for the sake of safety.

#### Recycler

What would be the possible repercussions of bringing a small comet or icy body back to the Earth's surface for the purpose of increasing the fresh water supply?This is one aspect of asteroid mining that I envisioned as a response to local water supply inequities,For basic survival,everybody needs sufficient water.

#### 1oldman2

What would be the possible repercussions of bringing a small comet or icy body back to the Earth's surface
The icy bodies are far more valuable in space where they can be processed for fuel etc. the other problem would be small bodies wouldn't survive reentry and large ones tend to be rather catastrophic on impact.

#### russ_watters

Mentor
What would be the possible repercussions of bringing a small comet or icy body back to the Earth's surface for the purpose of increasing the fresh water supply?
Bankruptcy? Water currently costs me about $10 per thousand gallons. #### mfb Mentor I think that the worst expression in the world is "oops!" Many discoveries were "oops" moments. You don't want them all the time, but completely without it doesn't work either. What would be the possible repercussions of bringing a small comet or icy body back to the Earth's surface for the purpose of increasing the fresh water supply?This is one aspect of asteroid mining that I envisioned as a response to local water supply inequities,For basic survival,everybody needs sufficient water. By mass (and spaceflight is always about mass), water is one of the cheapest things on Earth, even in the middle of deserts. Everything that de-orbits without a spacecraft around it either disintegrates in the atmosphere or leads to damage on the ground, both are not useful with water. And landing a spacecraft costs orders of magnitude more energy than recycling water and/or getting fresh water from oceans. #### Recycler Many discoveries were "oops" moments. You don't want them all the time, but completely without it doesn't work either.By mass (and spaceflight is always about mass), water is one of the cheapest things on Earth, even in the middle of deserts. Everything that de-orbits without a spacecraft around it either disintegrates in the atmosphere or leads to damage on the ground, both are not useful with water. And landing a spacecraft costs orders of magnitude more energy than recycling water and/or getting fresh water from oceans. And yet,regional water scarcity is causing major political instability in a number of locations.I don't have the entire technical method envisioned,but if it were feasible to "rain" water from space,perhaps water could be supplied to those in dire need.My original question,a serious one,is what bad effects would adding this extra water to the environment be likely to cause? #### Recycler Referring to my last comment,reduce an icy body gradually to chunks small enough to drop into a body of water at terminal velocity for a falling object with no additional remnant velocity.I grant this needs to be actually developed as a method,and I throw it out only as a possibility.It seems that this would both prevent complete vaporization and would also minimize disruption on the ground. #### mfb Mentor And yet,regional water scarcity is causing major political instability in a number of locations. Yes, but getting water with earth-based methods is orders of magnitude cheaper than getting it from space, no matter how do you do it. If there is not enough money to get it on Earth, space-based solutions won't work at all. #### 1oldman2 #### 1oldman2 You know, the water could be worth considerably more than the Nickel/Iron ore. From, http://www.astrowatch.net/2016/10/psyche-unexpected-discoveries-on-metal.html Astronomers have discovered possible evidence for water on the surface of the largest metallic asteroid in the solar system. Named 16 Psyche, the bolide is one of the most massive in the Asteroid Belt, measuring 186 miles across and consisting of almost pure nickel-iron metal. It is thought to be the remnant core of a planetary embryo that was mostly destroyed by impacts billions of years ago. "We did not expect a metallic asteroid like Psyche to be covered by water and/or hydroxyl," said Reddy, second author on the paper led by Driss Takir at the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Arizona. "Metal-rich asteroids like Psyche are thought to have formed under dry conditions without the presence of water or hydroxyl, so we were puzzled by our observations at first." The findings are interesting in the context of a proposed$500 million mission to send a spacecraft to Psyche, currently under review by NASA. Images taken by a spacecraft orbiting Psyche would enable us to distinguish between water and hydroxyl on the surface.

Asteroids are remaining fragments from the formation of the solar system that today orbit the sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Most of them fall into two broad categories: those rich in silicates, and those rich in carbon and volatiles. Metallic asteroids such as Psyche are extremely rare, making it a laboratory to study how planets formed.

While the source of this water on Psyche remains a mystery, Reddy and his colleagues propose two possible mechanisms for its formation.

"We think the water we see on Psyche might have been delivered to its surface by carbonaceous asteroids that impacted Psyche in the distant past," Reddy says.

"Our discovery of carbon and water on an asteroid that isn't supposed to have those compounds supports the notion that these building blocks of life could have been delivered to our Earth early in the history of our solar system history," said Reddy, who discovered similar dark, carbonaceous impactors rich in volatiles on the surface of asteroid Vesta by studying the images from NASA's Dawn mission. Alternatively, the hydroxyl could be the product of solar wind interacting with silicate minerals on Psyche's surface.

To further explore the hypothesis of carbon and water delivered to protoplanetary bodies by asteroids in the early solar system, the UA is leading NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission to bring back a sample from carbonaceous asteroid (101955) Bennu in 2023.

Reddy presented the findings at the joint 48th meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences and 11th European Planetary Science Congress in Pasadena, California. His research on Psyche is funded by NASA's Planetary Science Division's Planetary Geology and Geophysics program. The research paper is available online.

Credit: arizona.edu

#### 1oldman2

An excerpt from,
http://europlanet-scinet.fi/index.php?id=asime16

A lot of thought going into this industry.
http://www.space.com/34473-looting-asteroids-water-will-make-launches-cheaper.html

There are hundreds of satellites in geostationary orbit, meaning that they orbit the Earth at roughly the same pace that our planet spins. It's a long way from where humans currently roam in space; while the International Space Station is about 250 miles above Earth, geostationary orbit is about 10 times higher - at 27,000 miles.

So how do you get one of these satellites up to this extreme altitude? The traditional methods include strapping on an extra rocket or rocket stage to kick them into high orbit, or using a lightweight electric thruster on the spacecraft that slowly pushes the satellite to the right spot. Both options are expensive, especially when you factor in the lost time as companies wait for their satellites to get up and running.

Surprisingly, an answer to this dilemma could come from an asteroid mining concept. Joel Sercel, who heads startup mining company TransAstra, and Phil Metzger, a planetary physicist at the Florida Space Institute, are among the advocates for a spacecraft that would fly back and forth, from Earth and then out to a propellant depot. This so-called "space tug" could not only provide a ride for satellites, but also extract valuable resources from asteroids.

Scientists and engineers recently came together at the Asteroid Science Intersections with In-Space Mine Engineering (ASIME) conference in Luxembourg to discuss the best paths to our potential asteroid mining future and how to make it more cost-effective for customers. The space tug is one of those ideas. The depot idea has actually been kicking around for a few decades, but coupling the idea with asteroid mining is relatively new.

"We agree that there is a business case," Metzger told Seeker. "You can recover the capital investment and deliver the spacecraft at a cost savings and make a profit."

While the exact locations of the spacecraft network are being worked out, this is the bare bones of the proposal: Deep in space on a mission in a few decades' time, a mining spacecraft would head out to an asteroid and extract water from it (along with other materials and precious metals). Once its mission is complete, the mining spacecraft would come back to the Earth-moon system with the water on board.

A propellant depot somewhere near Earth would then accept the water. It would break down the water into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen gas, which are both excellent rocket fuels. And this is the genius of the plan - space launch companies don't need launch fuel into space; the fuel is already there, waiting in the depot to refuel any spacecraft that requires it.

Now comes the space tug. Once a satellite is launched, the space tug nabs the satellite and brings it up to the propellant depot to pick up a load of fuel. Then the tug zooms up to geosynchronous orbit, where it releases the satellite to do its mission.

With such a network in place, argues Sercel, we could greatly reduce the costs associated with our current method of sending satellites to high orbits and accessing deep space. Currently, if we want to break free of Earth's orbit, the only option we have is to launch a mission with everything we need on board -- all the fuel, the electronics, and in the future astronauts. With this space tug infrastructure, we at least don't need to launch huge quantities of fuel out of Earth's gravitational well.

NASA is currently developing a large rocket called the Space Launch System that is supposed to better open up the solar system to the agency and its astronauts. SLS could be used for future missions to Mars, if NASA's plans to get there materialize as planned in the 2030s. The SLS concept is currently envisioned as an "all in one" rocket where everything, including all the fuel for the entire Mars mission's lifetime, is transmorted from Earth's surface. An obviously expensive undertaking.

Sercel argues that it's time for NASA to embrace other methods, just like it does with services to the International Space Station. NASA has a commercial cargo program with SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, and is developing a commercial crew program with SpaceX and Boeing.

"They can build the capsules in the traditional method and have the astronauts, but the NASA rocket and transportation systems are too expensive," Sercel said. He argues that by using rockets such as SpaceX's Falcon 9 - a rocket that is designed to land and be re-used again in space, although the technology is still being tested and developed - that there will be an immense cost savings in space transportation compared to government services. It will be increased "even more than that if all the propellant comes from asteroids," he added.

How much of a cost savings is hard to determine, however, because SpaceX is a private company and does not release all its figures. Earlier this year, Space News' Peter B. de Selding pointed out that SpaceX isn't the first to try to reuse space hardware. The space shuttle's main engines were designed to be re-used 55 times, but it cost far more money than what designers expected, the article said.

"In March, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the company could expect a 30 percent cost savings from reusing the first stage," de Selding wrote, then quoted the base prices of the Falcon 9 to launch a satellite to geostationary transfer orbit. Anything higher would naturally cost more.

"If this translated into a 30 percent price reduction to customers," de Selding added, "that would drop Falcon 9's advertised price to $42.8 million from today's$61.2 million."

Space mining itself is still in the early stages, with several startup companies eager to get going. However, the industry right now is mostly focused on technology development and identifying candidate asteroids. So it'll be a few years or decades before the space tug idea ever is implemented in space, if it is, indeed, found to be the best path. But it's interesting to think that a key asteroid mining infrastructure can be used to also drive down the costs of launching satellites and getting humanity into deep space.

#### Charles Kottler

the International Space Station is about 250 miles above Earth, geostationary orbit is about 10 times higher - at 27,000 miles.
Nit-picking, but isn't that a little over 100 times higher

#### mfb

Mentor
If SpaceX's plans for the next rocket generation work out, they will launch bulk mass to space at less than $100/kg, potentially as low as$10/kg. I would be surprised if any asteroid mining operation can get water to Earth orbit for that price. They key point is the reusability - if you can use the rocket 100 times, construction costs go down by a factor 100 (maintenance costs have to be added, but those can be smaller).

#### Bystander

Homework Helper
Gold Member
A propellant depot somewhere near Earth would then accept the water. It would break down the water into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen gas, which are both excellent rocket fuels. And this is the genius of the plan - space launch companies don't need launch fuel into space; the fuel is already there, waiting in the depot to refuel any spacecraft that requires it.
Anybody see a flaw?

#### rootone

Anybody see a flaw?
I suppose you are thinking of what is going to supply the energy needed to split the water.
Solar panels wouldn't be adequate, that would need a collector of several km, maybe hundreds of km in size, to produce H2 and O2 in useful amounts.
Also, any kind of industrial plant needs regular checkups servicing and maintenance, (and especially so if what it produces is explosive)

Gold Member

#### 1oldman2

Nit-picking, but isn't that a little over 100 times higher
A "nit" this big deserves to be picked, good point. This also demonstrates the basic flaw of my "copy paste" journalism, their mistakes become my mistakes.

#### 1oldman2

Anybody see a flaw?
Does the Oxygen count as a "fuel" or only an oxidizer for the fuel ? (not meaning to bring up a "dumb-assed" question but I never did learn the distinction so thought I'd ask, everything I come up with says they are different components.)

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#### Bystander

Homework Helper
Gold Member
count as a "fuel" or only an oxidizer
The "fuel" is hydrogen, and oxygen is the oxidizer. Water is the combustion product, or "ash."

"Asteroid/Near Earth object mining"

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