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NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

DanielRavenNest Re:Investment in our Future (150 comments)

What you think of is wild speculation is just another day at work for a space systems engineer like myself. Going to the Moon was wild speculation in 1950, and a computer you could carry in your pocket was wild speculation in 1970. Fortunately progress doesn't depend on nay-sayers like yourself.

2 hours ago
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NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

DanielRavenNest Re:Investment in our Future (150 comments)

In orbit outside the Earth's shadow, you average 7 times the output for a solar panel, compared to the average location on Earth. That's due to lack of night, atmospheric absorption, and weather. If you can put that panel in place for less than 7 times the cost of a terrestrial one, you come out ahead economically to put it in orbit. Since launching stuff is expensive, you are more likely to reach that cost target if the panel itself can be made in orbit. Fortunately the average space rock is 40% silicon, which is what we make solar panels out of.

You are right that in 2014 it is cheaper to put the panels on Earth, but that may not be true at some point in the future.

2 hours ago
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NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

DanielRavenNest Re:Space Resources (150 comments)

No, the burn times are 110-465 days to return 200-1000 tons of material, plus coast times between burns. You can find the calculations at

https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/...

200-1000 tons is a reasonable goal for early mining missions. If your chosen asteroid is larger than that, you scrape loose surface material or grab a boulder off it. Entire larger asteroids would require bigger power supplies and thrusters, so are best left for later generations. 1000 tons is a lot, that's twice the mass of the ISS. And you can fetch that much back every few years with a single mining tug.

2 hours ago
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NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

DanielRavenNest Re:Self-expanding factories (150 comments)

> There are things called lathes and other machine tools that can reproduce themselves.

Not unaided. Machine tools can indeed make parts for more machine tools, but they need a source of power, and a supply of stock metal shapes to do that (and eventually fresh cutting tools)

> The real question is how many of these kind of tools together with a good smelter do you need before you can be self-sufficient and keep making your own sets of tools out of raw materials?

We phrase the R&D question a little differently: What is the best starter kit, and best growth path from the kit to a fully expanded factory? We have a draft starter kit list at https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/... , and it includes a lathe, mill, and press, which are basic machines, but there are several others in addition. The starter kit emphasizes flexibility by using attachments to do different tasks. The expanded factory can add more specialized machines as needed, since your starter machines can only do one thing at a time.

> it would be nice to get a set of these kind of tools into the hands of people in 3rd world countries

Providing starter kits for under-developed areas is one of the project goals.

> It is also something important to know about if you are planning on building a colony on Mars or the Moon,

If you can build 85-98% of your stuff from local materials, it dramatically reduces how much you have to bring from Earth. That has huge leverage on what projects are feasible. However, helping people on Earth is a more immediate and larger need. So space versions will be 3rd or 4th generation Seed Factories. The first generation design is for ordinary people right here on Earth.

2 hours ago
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NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

DanielRavenNest Re:Self-expanding factories (150 comments)

> Good for you! You are proposing to build an actual von Neumann machine.

The idea of a Von Neumann machine assumes 100% automated and that it copies 100% of it's parts exactly. We don't make those assumptions. Human labor is allowed in the Seed Factory concept, whether hands-on, or by remote control for space versions. Some parts will be too hard to make internally, like computer chips. Other parts will require rare elements that are not available locally. So those items are simply bought instead of trying to make them in-house. We think a reasonable goal is 85-98% internal production by mass, depending on location. Lastly, we don't replicate (copy our parts exactly), we expand by making parts for new machines not in the starter kit, or by building larger versions of existing machines. If you want to, you can eventually produce a copy of the original starter kit, but that is after a period of growth from the seed to the fully mature factory.

> Any estimate on when we will see this is more than just an electronic document?

Our Seed Factory Project [ http://www.seed-factory.org/ ] has purchased a 2.67 acre (1 hectare) R&D location in the Atlanta metro area. We are starting to install a conventional workshop, with the intent to build prototypes of the starter kit machines. We plan to collaborate with local area Maker groups and hopefully institutions like Georgia Tech. Our designs will be open-source, which is why we are using Wikibooks and similar sites to document things.

> the WikiBook about this flys at such a high level that it is impossible to tell whether there really is anything here.

You are quite correct. We need to get to detailed designs and calculations, and prove the ideas work in practice. That's why we are setting up a physical R&D location.

2 hours ago
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NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

DanielRavenNest Re:20,000,000.00 an ounce ? (150 comments)

> Water is... difficult to find on most rocky and metallic asteroids

Water as water is rare in Near Earth Asteroids, because their average temperature is too warm and it sublimates away in a vacuum. However, water in the form of hydrated minerals can survive up to several hundred degrees C, and is present in concentrations of up to 20% in Chondrite type asteroids.

> I'm betting that more conventional construction is more likely for a first few tries.

It's a bootstrap process. You start out with the easiest items to make from asteroid rock: bulk shielding, water, structural iron, oxygen and hydrocarbons for fuel. At that level you bring ready-made processing equipment. Then you bring machine tools, 3D printers, and the like, and start making other processing equipment. Gradually you make more things locally, and import less. About 2% of your items will either be hard to make (like computer chips), or require elements that are rare in asteroids or other space locale. You continue to import those items, but 2% beats having to import 100% by a huge margin.

3 hours ago
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NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

DanielRavenNest Re: Rocket Science (150 comments)

It's more like several tenths of a percent native iron in the Lunar regolith, and typically the particles of iron are cemented to blobs of glass created by the heat of impact. You *can* separate the iron bits magnetically, but then you need an additional melting step to separate the slag from the iron. Other than that, I agree that native iron will be a useful product on the Lunar surface.

A chondrite type asteroid contains carbon and water (as hydrated minerals). These can be extracted and reformed into hydrocarbons and oxygen, which are an excellent fuel for *landing* on the Moon. Also asteroid rock brought back to a Lunar vicinity orbit can be in sunlight ~100% of the time, whereas a region at the Lunar pole which traps water ice would also have low sun exposure.

Rather than thinking of Moon and Near Earth Asteroids as competitors, think of asteroid rock placed near the Moon as a literal stepping stone. It would be a place to fuel your lander on the way to the surface. By lowering the total mass ratio to reach the Lunar surface, it makes it *easier* to get there. Now, if you can extract water ice, that helps you get back to orbit from the Moon's surface. Ideally you want to do both. The rocket equation imposes an exponential mass ratio based on delta-V. If you can refuel at multiple points instead of bringing it all from your point of origin, it changes the exponential into a linear problem. That's way way better.

3 hours ago
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NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

DanielRavenNest Re: Economics (150 comments)

Iron in the form of minerals is common in the Earth's crust. Iron in the form of metal isn't. Some other metallic elements mix well with molten iron, and sank to the core along with it.

3 hours ago
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NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

DanielRavenNest Investment in our Future (150 comments)

The amount of solar energy that passes closer to us than the Moon is equal to the whole world's fossil fuel reserves every minute. That's not just energy independence, that's a superabundance of clean energy, as long as the Sun lasts. I think that is worth a small amount of R&D funding. Tapping that energy is easier if you can use equipment made locally in space, rather than hauling it all up from Earth. We have no production capability in space at the moment. If we can reach the "bootstrap point", where equipment in place can make more equipment, then we can realize whatever goals we set. The taxpayer's investment will be paid back many times over from higher economic activity.

yesterday
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NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

DanielRavenNest Re:Space Resources (150 comments)

> And putting it into a different orbit would be much more difficult than an Earth launch.

This is factually incorrect. Using electric thrusters, and Lunar gravity assist, you can retrieve asteroid rock for about 2% of the rock's mass in fuel. Since part of what you can extract from the rock is more fuel, the mining operation is self-sustaining until the equipment wears out. A reasonable estimate is you can fetch 200 times the mass of a fueled space tug over it's life.

yesterday
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NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

DanielRavenNest Re:20,000,000.00 an ounce ? (150 comments)

> there is zero infrastructure, and that's going to be incredibly expensive to build in space.

Bootstrap from a small starter kit. Use local materials for the self-expansion. See http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/S... for details.

yesterday
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NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

DanielRavenNest Re:Self-expanding factories (150 comments)

> Imagine the utility of a programmable satellite factory.

I don't just imagine such things, I'm working on building them ( http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/S... ). Instead of trying to launch a whole space refinery and chemical plant, you send a starter kit (a "seed"), and use it to progressively build the rest out of local energy and materials. Since the laws of nature are the same everywhere, the Seed Factory concept works just as well on Earth, so our first generation design is for here. Later versions will be for more hostile environments like the oceans, deserts, ice caps, and space. Where it gets really interesting is using an expanded factory to make new starter kits. This is very similar to how biological plants reproduce. An acorn doesn't make another acorn directly. It grows into an oak tree first, then produces more acorns.

yesterday
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NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

DanielRavenNest Re:Legal Issue (150 comments)

The "Common Heritage of Mankind" principle wasn't enacted, because the US and other spacefaring countries never signed the second Moon treaty. We follow the first Outer Space treaty, which prohibits territorial claims of celestial bodies. Use of a celestial body is allowed, with certain restrictions, like no weapons of mass destruction. Mining valuable resources falls into the allowed use category.

yesterday
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NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

DanielRavenNest Re: Economics (150 comments)

There are three reasons. The first is the main use for asteroid materials is in space, where they already are. Radiation shielding and fuel are the easiest products to make at first. To get anything from Earth into space is expensive, and gets more expensive the farther you go. The second is certain elements sank to the core of the Earth along with the iron, and are therefore very rare. Asteroids can contain hundreds of times higher concentrations. Even though asteroid mining isn't going to start out cheap, these minerals may be worth extracting, as a side effect of the bulk uses like shielding. Thirdly, the Earth has an average thermal gradient of 25C/km. So if you go down 8 km (5 miles), typically it will be 200C, which is really hard on the mining equipment. Some oil wells go that deep, but the drilling equipment stays on the surface, only the cutting bits are at the bottom.

yesterday
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NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

DanielRavenNest Re: Rocket Science (150 comments)

We got that big ol' moon out there doing nothing but moving the oceans around... And we chase after pebbles

99% of Near Earth Asteroids take less fuel to reach than the surface of the Moon. That's partly due to the lack of a deep gravity field, partly due to being able to use the Moon itself to slingshot vehicles towards the asteroids, and partly because with a shallow gravity well you can use all electric thrusters, which are ten times more efficient.

I'm not saying to ignore the Moon, it has it's uses. But we should not ignore an easy to reach resource that is *differentiated* into different minerals and ores. The Moon has a blended surface due to repeated impacts throwing stuff around. It doesn't have the same kind of concentrated metals that a Type M asteroid does.

yesterday
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Microsoft Rolls Out Robot Security Guards

DanielRavenNest Re:Robot tipping! (140 comments)

> They'll go dress to be unidentifiable on video,

Just carry a mirror in front of you until you are in spray paint range.

For extra credit, hack the communications channel, and take over the bot.

4 days ago
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Microsoft Rolls Out Robot Security Guards

DanielRavenNest Re:Let me be the first to say... (140 comments)

> EXTERMINATE

That only applies to the robot pest control version, with the insecticide spray arm.

4 days ago
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Lessons Learned From Google's Green Energy Bust

DanielRavenNest Re:Thermal storage (219 comments)

Dry rock (gravel) can store energy at about $1/kWh. It doesn't get any cheaper than that. How you use that storage capacity is to use a solar concentrator to heat a working fluid (usually water). Some of the steam goes directly to turbines to make electricity. The remaining hot water or steam goes to a heat exchanger, and a fan circulates air through that and the rock bed. When the Sun isn't shining, you reverse the fan, and suck heat out of the rocks to heat water/make steam again.

To keep the rock thermal bed hot, you surround it with "vacuum powder insulation", which has about six times lower thermal conductivity than fiberglass. On a large enough bed, that will stay hot for days. That's because thermal loss goes as the square of the thermal bed size (area), but heat storage goes as the cube (volume). So the bigger it gets, the longer it can store heat.

Batteries are not really a solution for storing power grid amounts of energy. A valley full of water (hydroelectric) or the equivalent of a gravel pit full of rocks (thermal storage) are answers because the raw materials (water or gravel) are really really cheap.

4 days ago
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Lessons Learned From Google's Green Energy Bust

DanielRavenNest Re:Yet (219 comments)

Solar-thermal with storage. You get power at night.

The 400 MW Ivanpah solar thermal plant is on the same power line as Hoover Dam (both are near Las Vegas). It didn't need its own storage unit, because the dam already provides huge amounts of storage. Whenever the solar plant is running, the dam can save water for later. Not all locations have an existing dam conveniently near, so solar-thermal will need to build their own storage units on-site. There are several options, and which is best to use is an area of active research.

4 days ago
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Lessons Learned From Google's Green Energy Bust

DanielRavenNest Re:Simple (219 comments)

No energy source is truly renewable. Solar comes from fusion in the Sun, which has a finite fuel supply. It's just a really big supply on human time scales. Ultimately all "green" energy sources trace back to nuclear sources, either fusion in the Sun (solar, wind, hydroelectric, biomass, ocean thermal), or radioactive decay in the Earth (geothermal). For that matter, fossil fuels are fossilized sunlight, so are also nuclear-based also. They just have a more limited inventory.

What renewable means is there is a constant flow of energy that can be tapped - the Sun shines every day. New fossil fuels aren't being created anywhere near the rate we are burning them, and new nuclear ores aren't being created at all.

4 days ago

Submissions

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3D Chips with Internal Heat Pipes In Development

DanielRavenNest DanielRavenNest writes  |  more than 4 years ago

DanielRavenNest (107550) writes "Swiss researchers at EPFL and ETH Zurich are developing computer processors with stacked cores and internal 50 micron cooling channels that function like heat pipes, vaporizing the coolant and absorbing heat in the process. Thus it is literally vaporware :-) The article states "It will take a few years until 3D microchips equip consumer electronics. The initial 3D microprocessors should be fitted on supercomputers by 2015, while the version with an integrated cooling system should go to market around 2020." So it is vaporware in the other sense too, being 5-10 years out."
Link to Original Source
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Endless Copyright Free Music?

DanielRavenNest DanielRavenNest writes  |  more than 5 years ago

DanielRavenNest writes "UGR researchers Miguel Delgado, Waldo Fajardo and Miguel Molina decided to design a software programme that would enable a person who knew nothing about composition to create music. The system they devised, using AI, is called Inmamusys, an acronym for Intelligent Multiagent Music System, and is able to compose and play music in real time. The program is designed to create background music, of the kind you find in offices, not the next Billboard chart topper."
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Cyberporn to be easier to find on Second Life

DanielRavenNest DanielRavenNest writes  |  more than 5 years ago

DanielRavenNest (107550) writes "Second Life has plans to separate adult content both geographically and in its internal search engine starting with the 1.23 client software. There will be a new mainland continent on their grid, presently unnamed but jokingly referred to as Pornadelphia, which will be strictly adult map regions. Their search will also include ratings flags and filters to allow search by ratings level (PG, Mature, or Adult). More Detailed summary is here."
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