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40

The United States (along with Russia, China, Japan, India, and most other space-faring nations) did not sign (or in some cases, ratify) the Moon Treaty, and so companies that are registered in any of these countries are also not bound by it. So, that treaty is essentially pointless for anyone who actually has the ability to get to the moon in the first ...


37

NASA has actually published a study on this. This study was the primary motivator for Planetary Resources to start its work on mining an asteroid. And there is more work being done by NASA to learn more as well. And there's the approach that Planetary Resources has set in place, which seems to be the best overall approach. The first thing that should be ...


19

With all the hype in the news this was surprisingly hard to research for specifically 2011 UW158. I never did find a source for the claim on the value, though the Slooh Community Observatory put the claim at "\$300 billion to as much as \$5.4 trillion dollars worth of precious metals and minerals". The answer basically seems to come down to: we've analyzed ...


16

This answer is outdated. The Dawn flyby in February 2015 added a lot of information which was not known at the writing of this answer. We don't actually know much about Ceres. All we know about it is from earth-based or earth-orbit-based observation. Until now it wasn't visited by a probe, but the Dawn spacecraft will do so in February 2015. This will ...


12

Yes. Planetary Differentiation is the key here. When enough smaller asteroids smash together and form a big enough body, the heavy stuff sinks to the bottom (iron and other metals), middle layers tend to be formed of silicates (i.e. sand and rocks), and the lighter stuff floats on top (water, methane). (Mind you, the examples here are based on the ...


12

For a Hohmann transfer to Saturn, I get 15.7 km/s for both burns. The transfer time is also a simple formula. I obtain roughly 6 years. Compare to the lunar ice. It is roughly 2.8 km/s to get to, and the trip time would be a few days, even from Low Earth Orbit. As suggested by the other answer, you could compare to Earth's surface. If we're using some ...


11

There is one such article here, based on a NASA paper: Most Earth mining depends upon gravity to hold the cutting edge against the ore. (However, for many Earth mining operations this is not enough, and other means are employed, e.g., cables and reels.) Scraping away at the surface of the asteroid requires holding the cutting edge against the outer surface ...


10

Well we don't yet have the actual proof that there's an "abundance" of 3He (Helium-3) embedded in the Lunar regolith that would make any "mining" worth our trouble. All we have so far is the indication that there might be, as shown by the trace amounts of 3He detected in the regolith samples extracted by the Apollo missions. Current estimates are that there ...


10

If gravity was repulsive between the Earth and the asteroid, this could at least make sense in principle. In that case, getting close is like pushing on a spring, and with a carefully managed trajectory, you might be able to finish the trajectory on the surface, with zero gravity. But gravity isn't like a pushing spring, it's like a pulling spring. That ...


10

Sorry to spoil everyone’s excitement, but one claim, credited to Mining.com, that the kilometer-wide asteroid might contain “up to 90 million metric tons of platinum and other precious metals” is wrong and is orders of magnitude too high. Assuming the asteroid to be roughly spherical and 3280 feet (1 kilometer) across and being the more uncommon “nickel-...


10

Two big ifs here. IF we achieved viable commercial fusion power (other than the sun) and IF He3 was an indispensable part of this process. But for the sake of argument, let's say He3 is the fusion fuel of the future. I'll quote John Schilling's comment from Rand Simberg's Transterrestrial Musings blog. Helium-3 mining on the moon simply does not pass ...


10

That sounds like a terrible idea. The article says that: Lastly, Both planets contain high concentrations of methane. Like graphite, it too can actually transform into various forms of complex hydrocarbons given enough heat and pressure. Consider this: Pressure is high enough to make diamonds, so any mining equipment would need to sustain even ...


10

Given your constraints I can't see it being worthwhile, period, even if it were our own moon. Lets throw some numbers at it: Current cost to deliver a kilogram of payload to the moon: \$1.2 million. Price of a kilogram of gold: \$40k. In other words, for every kilogram you land on the target you need to bring back 30kg of gold just to pay your launch ...


9

In terms of delta-v budget there could be large savings in transporting required materials from the Moon to LEO (∆V ~ 2.74 km/s) instead of Earth to LEO (∆V ~ 9.3 - 10 km/s) [1], assuming you can reduce excess orbit insertion velocity (~ 3.3 km/s from about 11 km/s reentry speed to 7.7 km/s for ISS) that builds up due to Earth's larger Hill sphere with ...


9

It is highly likely it was known that the upper stage would could be overshot into the asteroid belt, but it may be within the upper-bounds of expectations. The reason for this is that Elon commented in the Falcon Heavy post-launch press conference that the propellant left in the upper stage was "within 0.3% of expected values". This means they knew how ...


9

On Earth, before a mineral or petroleum resource is mined/extracted, the deposit is delineated and evaluated. Briefly, the process involves sending a some geologists and some drill rigs and their operators to a deposit and drilling holes through the deposit on a predetermined grid pattern. The drill cuttings or core (depending on the type of drill used) ...


8

The oblateness of Ceres seems to indicate water. Moreover water geysers were recently detected by Herschel Space telescope. Hopefully we'll learn more when the Dawn spacecraft arrives February of 2015. Planetary chauvinists like to point out mass of the Main Belt is small compared to Earth or Mars. But most of a planet's mass is inaccessible. As we burrow ...


8

Shallow gravity wells with a healthy angular velocity are much more amenable to space elevators. The elevators can be be much shorter. The stress is much less so the tether could be an ordinary material like Kevlar. P. K. Aravind outlined the equations for an elevator's length and taper ratio: The physics of the space elevator. I attempted to incorporate ...


8

NASA [1] indicates that helium-3 can be assessed indirectly by measuring the presence of titanium dioxide and soil characteristics ("maturity"), the correlation having been derived from the study of Apollo lunar rock samples. The helium-3 is "detected" through remote analysis for these favorable mineral and soil characteristics. Using data on the titanium ...


7

According to current space law, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty: (in Article 6) “The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty. ” Which means that any company that wants to operate in space must ...


7

I think the current philosophy is somewhat different. It was said that asteroids are so small that they barely match the definition of territory. They are more like an object. Furthermore, if you equip them with any propulsion system and change their trajectory or orbit, respectively, they literally become space-crafts. Based in this train of thought, the ...


7

NASA actually have looked into mining the gas giants, http://mdcampbell.com/TM-2006-214122AtmosphericMining.pdf, this paper outlines some the methods they might use, whether they will or not is a different question. They were considering mining methods, of Uranus due to its relatively low wind speeds (compared to Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune, such as ...


7

While AlanSE did a fine job of addressing it I think I can do a better job of addressing where she's going wrong: Yes, I think an orbit as she is envisioning exists. The problem is that Earth has mass and will pull it out of solar orbit. It won't be in that nice orbit when it hits. The closest you could theoretically come to a soft landing would be to ...


7

There are several issues at play here. Are the raw materials needed to be found on the moon? Can the raw materials be realistically harvested on the moon? Can the raw materials be processed into a rocket propellant on the moon? Are rocket engines which use this propellant feasible? Are there more suitable materials for this purpose to be found on the moon? ...


7

The Moon would be a much better place most likely. As you said, 220 pounds of Helium-3 in a mass of many many tons of rock, makes it so that even a few tons of equipment to be dropped on the Moon would vastly reduce the price to return it home. Lifting 220 pounds from the Moon to return to Earth is relatively easy, all of the Apollo missions did it, and then ...


7

Lunar regolith may contain not only the lightest noble gas helium, but also hydrogen and other noble gases like neon, argon, krypton and xenon. The concentration of helium is much higher than that of the other noble gases. More than 99 % of lunar soil are oxides of silicon and some metals like iron and aluminum, see table 7.15 on page 62 of the Pdf. Source ...


7

tl;dr: There's a fair bit of wiggle room in density estimates, macroporosity is a thing to consider, you could still feasibly find a lot of material on this rock I first want to clarify that asteroids are typed according to their spectral properties. In the case of 129 Antigone (at least according to the paper linked in the Wikipedia reference section), its ...


6

This is tough to answer because it's of course politically convoluted. Currently, we have the Outer Space Treaty and the Moon Treaty, but while OST seems more formal, the Moon Treaty is really more of a gentlemen's agreements and not ratified by any major space-faring nation. So in reality, there is currently no globally agreed on legislation regarding ...


6

I can think of three generalized trajectories, actually: “More direct” routes, by which I mean quicker than a plain transfer. More Δv is required, and thus more expensive. Unless you have live cargo or other radiation-sensitive materials, this will be rarely used. Hohmann transfers, which will be the route of only the most highly valued resources. Finally, ...


6

Your best bet is mining the smallest single rock that provides as much material as you need. Suppose you mine a bunch of little rocks--you have to expend Δv to move between each rock--energy that you don't expend when you're mining a single rock. On the other hand the bigger the rock the more Δv you will expend lifting your cargo against it. Note that the ...


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