submitted 2 weeks ago by Endward23 to c/futurology

This thread is for a open discussion of the named question.

Do you believe that miningoperation on asteroids are possible? Or not? Why?

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[-] ProfessorPeregrine@reddthat.com 7 points 2 weeks ago

Metallurgical engineer here. One thing I never see talked about on this topic is how astreoids don't have nearly the mechanisms for concentrating matals into ores like planetary bodies do.

So while there may be a higher proportion of, say, iridium on an asteroid than the average of Earth, it is pretty homogenous. You would have to refine the whole thing to get a little bit of iridium. On Earth, it may be more rare on average, but Earth also concentrates metals into ores via heat, gravity and water action so that you can mine a small area to get what your want economically.

Metal meteoroids are mostly iron, which is cheap on Earth and of little use in space. Aluminum, which is useful in space, is one of the most common elements on Earth and even higher on the Moon,, but it's only economically mined in tropical soil that had ages of water erosion. Titanium, different process but similar story.

Given the economics of getting to where you want to mine, mining a non-concentrated rock, and then transporting it back to Earth's for sale I just didn't see any path for mining asteroids.

Once there's is an established human presence in space, there might be a reason to mine organics (CHON) but that is not now and not what people think of when they tout asteroid mining.

[-] GreyEyedGhost@lemmy.ca 1 points 2 weeks ago

There is a definite chicken and egg issue here. Until you've established a firm foothold in space, bringing resources back from space just isn't economical. Likewise, until we have a truly cheap way to get materials from earth into space, it just isn't worth it, either. Starship or similar will help, but there are long-term problems with using rockets to get stuff into (or back out of) space. But, once we have that foothold, there is a vast amount of resources on the moon and elsewhere that is pretty cheap to get into the neighborhood of earth. There are even ways to do this that don't use rockets, although we need to do more research to get these right.

Once we have that foothold, and either start colonizing space or make it even cheaper to access than starship hopes to achieve, a decades-long mining operation to free up highly valuable resources to ship back to earth while also freeing up large amounts of resources that would cost too much to ship from earth to build infrastructure in space, could become viable.

I wish I believed that would happen in my lifetime, but I hope it happens in my children's.

[-] Endward23 1 points 2 weeks ago

Metal meteoroids are mostly iron, which is cheap on Earth and of little use in space.

As far as I understand your point, the mining in space needs a entire new infrastructure and new methodes in terms of metallurgy and all that.

[-] ProfessorPeregrine@reddthat.com 1 points 2 weeks ago

I think I'm saying that mining on asteroids will probably never be profitable or realistic (with a possible exception of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen CHON once people are living on orbit). Mining on other planets might require understanding different geology and maybe different refining technology. Anything mined on a planet will likely stay there. But there just won't be any ores on asteroids because they never had a chance to differentiate into higher and lower concentrations of various useful metals.

[-] Endward23 1 points 2 weeks ago
[-] Rhaedas@fedia.io 7 points 2 weeks ago

Absolutely possible. Whether it's likely any time soon is the real question. There are three types of bodies we could mine valuable materials from. The main ones would be in the various collection points in the solar system (the asteroid belt and the Trojan points of large bodies, mainly Jupiter but even Earth has some "trash" in its Lagrange points). The other two would be either NEO that pass close to the Earth, or comets that make rarer visits.

The problem with the asteroid belt and gas planet Trojans is the sheer distance involved, especially for manned mining but even for real time remote work. Perhaps with AI-guided machines, but we're not there yet.

The problem with the nearer ones is how to either bring such things into a slower orbit, or to mine within the window where they are near the Earth.

The actual mining of bodies in space is one we can solve, once we figure out the above. Just getting to the Moon requires days and a Mars shot 2 years one way with our "primitive" and limited thrust chemical rockets.

[-] Lugh 4 points 2 weeks ago* (last edited 2 weeks ago)

We know it's technically possible, the question is if it's economically worthwhile. If space launch from Earth is cheap, the further out that date is. Reusable rockets and railgun launches could make launches much cheaper. On the other hand, when it comes to building large-scale structures in space, asteroid mining makes sense, but how far away is that day?

Precious metals like gold/platinum would be easier to get hold of there. But then if you flood the market back on Earth with them, they start to go down in value. Gold is only valuable now because it's rare.

[-] Phoenix5869 2 points 2 weeks ago

IMO, too far out for this discussion to matter. Our primitive chemical rockets are absolutely nowhere close to facilitating routine trips to the asteroid belt, and we probably won’t get the sort of rocket technology that would, for at least decades, so that’s around late 2040’s (very optimistically), to 2050s at the earliest / 2060s? Yeah, very far out.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the things debated about in futurist circles are either a very long time away, or probably beyond our lifetimes. It’s a shame.

[-] ladicius@lemmy.world 2 points 2 weeks ago* (last edited 2 weeks ago)

Forget it. Technically feasible but too expensive and too far out. And we will kill ourselves sitting on a planet shock full of ressources before we make anything of that complexity in regions so far away and so hostile.

[-] Endward23 0 points 2 weeks ago

Very pessimistic outlook. While it could be true, we have in fact no information which could make such a inference necessary.

this post was submitted on 23 Mar 2024
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