4
$\begingroup$

In this video from Kurzgesagt they said that one would need to disassemble a whole planet to build a Dyson swarm around the sun.

The video went on about mining Mercury and using the materials available on it.

If one wanted to mine Mercury in the future, I bet many people would be upset about it, so that is why I thought that asteroids might be better.

My question: Could we use the material of the asteroids in the inner asteroid belt instead of mining Mercury?

$\endgroup$

1 Answer 1

3
$\begingroup$

No

Or at least, we could use the materials, but it wouldn't be enough:

Body Estimated Mass
Inner asteroid belt 2.4E21 kg $^{[1]}$
Planet Mercury 3.3E23 kg $^{[2]}$

The total mass of the inner asteroid belt is only equivalent to about 0.7% of Mercury's mass, so according to the material requirements from the video, you would not be able to complete the construction project of a Dyson swarm using only materials/mass from the inner asteroid belt.

As an additional note, you wrote:

If one wanted to mine Mercury in the future, I bet many people would be upset about it

While there would probably be some people upset about this, I don't think it would be "many" in a percent-of-population or even percent-of-experts sense. Mercury, as far as we can tell, is mostly just a sun-blasted hunk of material, and unlike Venus or Mars, much less interesting from a scientific perspective (basically no life prospects). It has had comparatively few missions to it (only three, one currently in progress).

Also, while hard to quantify, I don't think that Mercury has the necessary amount of "social capital" associated with it to prevent disassembly if there were a good reason to do so (unlike, for example, Mars or Luna which have many cultural and social bonds to protect them from planet-scale mining operations).

$\endgroup$
4
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting! I guess there isn’t enough material in the inner asteroid belt. Maybe in the Kuiper asteroid belt or Oort Cloud, there would be enough material, but as you said there is no proper reason to mine stuff there, since the fuel costs would just increase and Mercury is anyway at the right area with the right amount of material. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ @TheRocketfan according to wikipedia the Kuiper belt is still only a third of the mass of mercury (1.1E23 kg), the Oort cloud does have much more mass, 5 earths in the outer cloud alone $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ @AlanBirtles so that means we could get the material from the Oort cloud, but the energy requirements to send the material to the Sun in the right orbital plane would be immense. We may as well just mine Mercury instead. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ @TheRocketfan If you are in the Ooort cloud, sending material down towards the sun is easy (everything is quite slow out there, and you are basically making a comet), stopping it from going out again is the hard part – you basically have to brake when you get into the inner solar system. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 0:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.