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Outer space mining

  1. May 24, 2004 #1
    this is going to seem like a strange question, but do you think it would be possible to send a large-scale mining campaign in space? (specifically mining the asteroids in the asteroid belt?) what are the pros and cons? would the cons out way the pros? when could we see financial return on this type of investment if we began soon?
     
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  3. May 24, 2004 #2

    enigma

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    There are many problems.

    If it's a manned mission, you'd need to supply a multi year mission
    If it's unmanned, then you'd be in trouble if anything breaks
    In either case, you'd need to bring propellants along to bring the stuff back
    If you manage to get the stuff back, then you'd have to de-orbit it.

    The only way it would be in any way, shape, or form feasible would be to use the minerals in orbit (or at least not on Earth). There's no reason to go out to the asteroid belt to get what you can get for pennies on the dollar here on Earth.

    If you're interested, one book you may want to check out is this. It's the book which helped me decide that I wanted to go into aerospace. It has sections on the feasibility of asteroid mining, along with many other extra-terrestrial resources (Water from Mars or its moons, Helium from the Jovian planets, etc.)
     
  4. May 26, 2004 #3

    Phobos

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    Carl Sagan's book "Pale Blue Dot" briefly discusses this too. Technically, it is possible to do such mining. The questions are (1) is it economically viable (2) is it politically viable, and (3) is it safe?

    1 - There's a lot of valuable materials in near-Earth asteroids (closer than the main belt asteroids) but some it is here on Earth (easier/cheaper to obtain in most cases) and bringing in huge quantities from asteroids would lower market value back here on Earth. Better (cheaper) space technology is needed to make it economically viable in any case.

    2 - Space technology is close to military technology. Sensitive subject for governments. And then there's ownership issues.

    3 - Once we start messing with asteroids, it will be feasible to move them (e.g., bring them closer so they're easier/cheaper to mine). This would increase the risk of an impact with Earth (if not through an engineering error, then through a malevolent act).
     
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