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Thread: mine elements from outer space?

  1. #1 mine elements from outer space? 
    Forum Freshman adikboy's Avatar
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    if we can mine gold from earth what can we mine on outer-space? that we can bring here back on earth for good? imagine if we can dig something as much and more worth than any rare earth element. how much would that benefit astronomers?


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    Forum Professor pyoko's Avatar
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    The problem at the moment it that it is so expensive to get equipment up into space that it outweighs any profit you can make from the resources you bring back to Earth. If we had an easy way to get equipment up there and to what you wish to mine and back, then sure, it would be great. We are just nowhere near that level yet.


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  4. #3  
    Forum Bachelors Degree Kerling's Avatar
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    If in the future we'd have a permanent moon base we could use that. Mining of these elements (most likely valuable elements) is only as effective as to how well we can steer them as meteorites to crash somewhere in Siberia for instance. For now it would be just asteroid mining. Using ion engine satellites with a certain mass to use the gravitational pull to steer a meteorite to hit the moon, or directly the earth but the moon is safer for now. And then see what is useful, extract it, and let it crash somewhere in Siberia.

    This is however very expensive. And probably synthetically creating atoms is more cheap. But certain rare-earth materials might be possible. Maybe it will be a more relevant idea in a year or 40 from now.
    In the information age ignorance is a choice.
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard icewendigo's Avatar
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    Off the top of my head I think its more advantageous to process (and recycle) the matter we already have on earth (carbon -> nanotubes) than to import additional raw minerals from space. Space mines in places with less gravity (asteroid, moon) might be useful for providing materials for space colonies since they could potentially transport the material into space more easily (or to the local colony itself more easily than having it shipped from earth).
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  6. #5  
    Forum Bachelors Degree Kerling's Avatar
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    Well there is a good argument in that. For instance if we'd want to make the world depended on solar energy alone. And we use the Gallium Arsenide solar cells with almost 30 percent revenue then. Well, there isn't enough Gallium in the world to do so. Even if we'd make them only a few nanometres thick. Some rare earth materials (the name has a reason) might be mined from space in the future. (or synthesized)
    In the information age ignorance is a choice.
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  7. #6  
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    from discussions on another forum it has been pointed out that a lot of refining techniques use gravity in the process. plus there is the fact that some metals are worth a lot because of their rarity, if we mine an asteroid and bring tonnes of these metals back to earth then will it still be profitable? can we value add to make it so?
    Sometimes it is better not knowing than having an answer that may be wrong.
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  8. #7  
    Forum Freshman adikboy's Avatar
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    I think the future car which fly/float uses materials from outer space? or anything else you can think that futuristic gadget will be made of?
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    I suggest that it would be technically easier and more productive to reverse the process : Throw in the space all the stuff that we don't want anymore on earth :
    • nuclear wastes,
    • CO2,
    • empty plastic bottles,
    • old fashioned ladies cloths,
    • religious fundamentalists,
    • guys how pretend to have discovered perpetual movement,
    • ...
    You can add your own items to the list.

    Of course, this proposal may raise some issues : For instance, there is an international treaty that forbid to send nuclear wastes in the space. So, the first thing we will have to send to jupiter will be that treaty. Second, a part the junk may fall just in the middle of a space colony...
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrispen Evan View Post
    from discussions on another forum it has been pointed out that a lot of refining techniques use gravity in the process. plus there is the fact that some metals are worth a lot because of their rarity, if we mine an asteroid and bring tonnes of these metals back to earth then will it still be profitable? can we value add to make it so?
    That's why it will never happen. Real estate moguls will be up in arms if their gold mines suddenly become worthless because there's too much material coming down from space.

    Some materials would be valuable regardless of scarcity because of their practical usefulness. Platinum group metals come to mind. Almost any chemical process that requires a catalyst (such as the catalytic converter in your automobile) uses platinum if its available. Also hydrogen or methanol fuel cells would require platinum to be efficient. Also if we can find Uranium up there and react it, then well..... the nuclear waste from reacting it would already be in space.

    Probably the most valuable thing we can find up there, however, is solar electricity. The moon is basically covered in silicon, so if we could produce solar panels up there of any quality, they'd be getting hit by unblocked Sunlight at all hours of the day.
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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  11. #10  
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    Bit of unsupported negative speculation in the posts so far.

    In fact, there is nothing to prevent economic and profitable mining operations off Earth. The logical place to start is an asteroid that orbits the sun in such a way as to pass near the Earth from time to time. A New Scientist article reviewed this possibility in a positive way, saying that it will be possible in the near future. They estimated, from remote studies, that a 20 kilometer diameter asteroid will contain $US 80 trillion worth of minerals.

    There is even a company, with some famous names investing in it, that is planning an asteroid mining operation.
    Planetary Resources – The Asteroid Mining Company
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  12. #11  
    Forum Professor pyoko's Avatar
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    Yeah, baseless positive speculation is what it looks like to me. Ignoring the fact that you have to pump the trillions of dollars in it to start up such an operation is being falsely positive; just as bad as "baseless" negative "speculation".
    It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
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  13. #12  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    pyoko

    Check out the names of the investors.
    These are not idiots. They are aware that this is a long term investment, but they are smart people who expect to make money in the long term.
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  14. #13  
    Forum Professor pyoko's Avatar
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    Well, long term is the key words. What the posters were saying is that it's not viable at all at the moment. Of course we will get there in the end.
    It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
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  15. #14  
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    i have my doubts that Planetary Resources will ever mine an asteroid. it is a company set up to get the idea out there, get some investment and then sell the "idea" to someone else to actually do the work.
    Sometimes it is better not knowing than having an answer that may be wrong.
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  16. #15  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    Which matters not at all, Chrispen. The point is that the idea has merit, and looks to be potentially both economic and profitable.
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  17. #16  
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    The point is that the idea has merit, and looks to be potentially both economic and profitable.
    i think i'd like to see an independent cost benefit analysis first before i commit myself to saying it is a good idea.
    Sometimes it is better not knowing than having an answer that may be wrong.
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  18. #17  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    Chrispen,
    A cost benefit analysis today would be meaningless. This idea depends on some projects currently under development, like the use of private enterprise to take over launching objects into orbit. Several such launches have now happened, to resupply the ISS. so we know that private enterprise can do it. But more work is required before a proper analysis can be carried out.
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  19. #18  
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    A cost benefit analysis today would be meaningless.
    so you're saying that Planetary Resources haven't done one to see if this project is worth doing?
    Sometimes it is better not knowing than having an answer that may be wrong.
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  20. #19  
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    Planetary Resources and I do not exactly communicate regularly.

    I am saying that the project will depend on future developments, and exact calculations would not be possible.
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  21. #20  
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    but you see where i am coming from? a cost analysis will have to be done a some point and really the only thing that will tell is whether commodity prices are right for investment to happen in space mining. now, as far as asteroid mining goes, i see the most value in water. both for use to keep humans alive and as fuel. this water wont be brought back to earth. mining on mars, and processing, will be a better option. the resulting products can be used for any "colony" on mars and the more valuable exported to support the maintenance of that "colony".
    Sometimes it is better not knowing than having an answer that may be wrong.
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  22. #21  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    Chrispen

    Even in the absence of a formal and accurate cost benefit analysis, there are estimates. As I said earlier, one estimate is that a 20 km diameter asteroid, with an orbit that takes it close to Earth, will contain $US 80 trillion of minerals. Remote analysis shows that rocky asteroids are very rich in a wide variety of rare minerals, including such things as platinum, iridium, and so on. These materials, if refined, are so valuable per gram that it is definitely going to be economic to transport them back to Earth.

    The biggest cost will be getting the mining operation onto the asteroid. Since humanity is right now on the edge of a revolution in robotics, and since this will probably not happen for another couple of decades, it would seem likely that the mining operation would be robotic and automated. Life support would not be needed, and the operation could continue as the asteroid continued its orbit, until it once more came near the Earth, even if that was 10 to 20 years later. By that time, a substantial amount of refined, and very valuable metals, or other minerals should be ready to be shot down to Earth. Many billions of dollars worth of refined material.

    Of course, there are no guarantees, and it may be that a later decision will be not to proceed. However, at this point in time, the investors are very serious about the prospects, and are keen to get the operation under way as soon as developments permit.
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  23. #22  
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    As I said earlier, one estimate is that a 20 km diameter asteroid, with an orbit that takes it close to Earth, will contain $US 80 trillion of minerals.
    and brining that quantity of minerals to earth in a rush wont affect the prices those minerals currently are at? we've just seen a 50% reduction in the price of iron ore because of economic downturns. you may have noticed i'm from western australia where we currently digging as much up as we can a selling it overseas.

    we currently have no technology to mine anything in space nor refine it. if this ever gets off the ground, and Planetary Resources website is a purely puff article atm, then it wont happen for at least 50 years. imo.
    Sometimes it is better not knowing than having an answer that may be wrong.
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  24. #23  
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    we currently have no technology to mine anything in space nor refine it. if this ever gets off the ground, and Planetary Resources website is a purely puff article atm, then it wont happen for at least 50 years. imo.
    I totaly aggree with you, Chrispen. The price of platinium has increased strongly during the last 30 years partially because of the huge demand for automobil catalytic exhauts system. In a few decades, there will be no more cars with petrol motor (and no more petrol). So, the demand and price of platinium may decrease accordingly. I wont put MY money in that project !
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  25. #24  
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    Actually, platinum and its family of elements, have a wide range of uses, in addition to autocatalysts. Platinum today: Applications
    It is extremely unlikely that they will drop in price by much any time soon. Demand, if anything, is growing, while supply is limited.

    The 50 year time span may be correct. The time factor is the main variable, and we are in speculation mode in trying to figure that out. However, a bunch of very clever investors and scientists are getting together to plan asteroid mining. This is not some fantasy. It is a genuine practical proposition with amazing potential.

    Here is the first part of the New Scientist article. You have to subscribe to get the whole article, sadly. I subscribe and have read it. Impressive!
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/...pacecraft.html
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