I type my responses as I read the thread an incorporate them into one response, since I'm a late joiner.
reply to post by Semoro
Great idea! I've been saying we need to mine the asteroids for years! It truly would bring some much needed boost to the global economy and, more
importantly, the sciences. Together, that will improve the quality of life throughout the world.
We can even achieve this goal using current technology, if applied in the proper manner. It would have to be a manned and unmanned expedition. I'll
lay out a method, starting with the way to get to the asteroids, and bring them home, followed by methods to mining them.
Firstly, chemical rockets can launch an unmanned craft. The primary power source for this craft would have to be nuclear, probably a radioisotope
thermoelectric generator but preferaby nuclear fission. This craft will require to have a normal amount of chemically powered maneuvering thrusters,
but will also have an ion drive for its main propulsion. The ion drive need not be switched on in transit to the main belt, but it could help expedite
the process. This has been done with NASA's Dawn probe. An asteroid can be selected that can be moved through the craft's main drive either ahead of
time or once the craft is in proximity itself. The asteroid need not be the mile wide example you used, as several smaller, mineral rich bodies surely
exist. Landing on an asteroid has already been done by JAXA's Hayabusa probe, while attaching can be accomplished by driving lag bolts into the
surface. The thrust from the ion drive, which will be used to propel the body towards Earth, will also help keep it in place. It may not be a quick
move from main belt to near Earth, but with the use of the ion drive it would at least be efficient. Once in motion, the asteroid can be placed in
either a Lunar or Earth orbit, or parked at a Lunar Lagrangian point, probably L4 or L5. Personally, I would lean towards Lunar orbit.
Mining would have to be done with manned operators, which may be on the asteroid itself, or nearby remotely operating equipment. Mining equipment can
be constructed on Earth and launched. The equipment may not need to be the heavy, large equipment seen on Earth. Engineers love a challenge, and
surely could come up with some unique and handy ways to create the tools needed. It doesn't even have to be mined or refined in space, only cut up
into manageable chunks.
As far as returning the material to Earth? Pretty simple, really. Once the asteroid has been split into smaller pieces, attach heat ablative material
and either retrorockets or parachutes to it and kick it into a degrading orbit around Earth. Allow it to reenter and land in the same manner as an
Apollo or Soyuz craft. There are several potential landing sites, including the Australian Outback, Russian Siberia, China’s Gobi Desert, the
African Sahara, North America’s Sonoran Desert and even land in the Arctic and Antarctic could be utilized.
reply to post by Xcathdra
I agree that this is inevitable, but I don't see the need to have this done by a unified planet. While I do strongly believe that mining the cosmos
will improve the global quality of life, there is no way all nations can be coaxed to cooperate on something of this scale. I don't believe that only
one nation should have a monopoly over the asteroids either - competition and diversity will decrease the chances of stagnation.
reply to post by Illustronic
Why do you have to send a whole craft? Who says it has to be such a large asteroid? I believe I've addressed some of your concerns.
reply to post by Semoro
Using a electromagnetic catapult is something I saw in your first post, and didn't mean to ignore. It's a phenomenal concept, and one I believe has
more potential than a space elevator. It's easy to maintain due to it being primarily on or near the ground. It could also be built nearly anywhere
on the planet, though near the equator with a terminus on a high mountain would be best.
There are several issues with it though: In order to launch people (safely) it would have to be incredibly long, as in hundreds of miles long. In
order to have a shorter launching mechanism, it could be used to launch the projectile to an altitude where chemical rockets could kick in. It would
also have to be kept in a vacuum, and a loss of this vacuum would be catestrophic for any projectile being launched.
reply to post by BriGuyTM90
Not true, as I already stated. JAXA's Hayabusa did just that.
reply to post by wingsfan
First off, great name and great avatar.
H-3 would be great, but only if we had a reliable source of fusion power. It's not something we would need to go after immediately, and may really
only be able to be found on the Moon, where it has been deposited by solar wind.
Prescious metals would be the best thing we could get from the asteroids, and not just gold and platinum, but the rare earth metals we need for our
advanced machinery and gadgets we use every day.
reply to post by Maslo
The more often you do something, the cheaper it becomes. One hundred years ago it was expensive to travel across the country. Three hundred years ago
it was expensive to travel across the Atlantic. Five hundred years ago, travel around the globe was a new and dangerous thing.
Maybe two hundred years from now people will look back and say similar things about space travel, but only if we continue to take the first steps
reply to post by Astyanax
While estimates vary, literal tons of material makes its way to Earth each year from space. Depending on your source, this amount can be from
to 22,000 tons
37,000 - 78,000 tons
. Unfortunately, there is no real conclusive way to measure
this, but needless to say it happens every day.
reply to post by Astyanax
I thought you meant gravitational and not socioeconomic or
enviromental. Also, like Maslo, I cannot see negative effects to these factors.
Aside from their use in every day gadgets, many rare earth elements have use for medical purposes. Even in America, many hospitals are having to
switch to lower grade equipment because the better things are just too expensive. Increasing global medical power will increase the quality of life
for everyone, though espeically those at greatest risk. Also, with a lack of need to mine these elements on Earth we could see a decline in wars
fought over these minerals. The loss of bloodshed will and loss of demand for terrestrial mining could also lead to a decline in labor slavery
throughout the world.