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Fuel Depot
Atist's conception of an evolved orbital fuel depot
There may be gold in them there spacerocks, but there's sure to be a bunch of other valuable stuff, too. When the news of Planetay Resources, a company created with the intent of mining asteroid and comets, hit the toobz a few weeks ago, it sounded almost surreal. Asteroid mining has been a staple of science fiction for decades, how real can it be? But after speaking with the company's chief scientist, Chris Lewicki, it sounds like they have put together a realistic game plan. Lewicki has been studying asteroids for most of his professional life and even has one named in his honor:
One important thing to understand about our company, we're not a government program. For NASA and other civilian agencies, failure is not an option. But for us it's the exact opposite: failure is an option. It has to be, just think of where we might be as a species or a nation if we only took on projects where success was a virtual certainty.
Lewicki makes a good point. To succeed beyond expectations, one has to be willing to make a few mistakes. Losing an unmanned vehicle is a public relations disaster for NASA and a huge loss of money for taxpayers, a national tragedy for manned spacecraft. Planetary Resources, on the other hand, is backed by a who's who of entrepreneurs, including Ross Perot, Jr., Larry Page, and Peter Diamondis, just to name a few. That kind of capital is critical: this is an expensive and risky endeavour. Just getting started will cost millions. These guys are willing to shoulder that risk.
Data
The company's first step is categorize objects and create a list of candidate missions. To that end, they will be analyzing material from meteorites and pouring over data collected by every unmanned mission from Dawn to New Horizons.

Lewicki explained the first vehicle likely to be deployed will be an orbital telescope, observing atseroids and comets in every wavelength, from deep infrared to UV. That device will not only serve the company's preliminary prospecting goal, it will also allow them to test onboard systems and other technology under development by Planetary Resources and other newspace firms.

One of the things they'll be looking for right off the bat is H2O. Water is one of the most useful substances we can find in space. Not just for human consumption, but water refined in space and then broken down via solar power into hydrogen and oxygen might be orders of magnitude cheaper than shipping from the surface. Right now every drop of water astronuats consume on the space station, and every kilo of liquid fuel burned by booster rockets, comes from the ground up. The cost is prohibitive, thousands of dollars a pound for now and at least hundreds per pound in the best case scenario offered by future cargo rockets like the SpaceX Falcon Heavy.

Planetary Resources will select several candidate objects, probably smallish Near Earth asteroids or comet nuclei that have been wandering close to earth's orbit for millennia, as a start. Paving the way for the next phase, multiple unmanned missions to sample the surface and subsurface of candidate objects with an array of sensors looking for signs of water. What next?

The company will determine if water and other substances exist in enough quantity and purity to be collected and transported back to where they're needed. Some material could certainly end up back on earth, but what we're talking about developing here is an infrastructure in space. Orbital fuel depots resupplied by autonomous deep space probes plying the trade routes of the future. Eventually even maintenence stations where spacecraft could be repaired with metal alloy and other material produced by the company. And there's even more wealth to be made, both for investors and for mankind.

"A single small asteroid might contain more platinum than has been mined on earth in all history," noted Lewicki. "And this kind of resource survey could be a big boon to science. Make no mistake, this is a viable business model focused on turning a profit. But there certainly could be huge spin off benefits for planetary science in ways we cannot even imagine."

That's what really fires me up! Think of the industrial revolution that began two centuries ago. Capitalists didn't dig deep mines and factory foundations all over the world in pursuit of pure scientific knoweldge. But the sheer volume of material collected in the first 50 years of the 19th century ignited an explosion in every field of natural science. In the space of a few decades our understanding went from Genesis to paleo-geology. Dinosaurs and ancient ferns plants were classifed by species and time, the familiar geologic periods were developed, mass extinctions revealed, and soon naturalists were debating a new idea, that species might not be immutable after all, that living things evolve over time.

What rare secrets might be buried a few meters beneath the frozen and baked surface of a small asteroid or comet? What ancient mysteries might be revealed in the regolith of objects that are essentially time vaults locked up five billions years ago? If Planetary Resources is successful, we might find out in the next two or three decades.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech and Astro Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  pretty cool (6+ / 0-)

    what if they find some alien virus or something that kills mammals or something....

    that would suck.

  •  i got a cup of water right here. NT (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vidanto, JeffW
  •  You could buy a lot of govm't with them rocks (5+ / 0-)

    NOW SHOWING
    Progressive Candidate Obama (now - Nov 6, 2012)
    Bipartisan Obama returns (Nov 7, 2012)

    by The Dead Man on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:12:43 PM PDT

  •  Although.... (12+ / 0-)

    When asked about Planetary Resources' business model, Paul Krugman brought up an interesting concern about the venture.

    Wired: There’s a company called Planetary Resources that’s planning to do real-life asteroid mining. What do you think about that business model?

    Krugman: The first thing I thought when I saw that was, “Aha, and so the evil villain hijacks whatever the system is to move the asteroids into mining position and aims one at earth.” Haven’t we seen that movie many times? It’s one of those things where it’s just like, surely we’ve seen enough dystopian movies like that, that I probably wouldn’t go there just on that basis.

    •  So many rocks, so many targets.... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rimjob, Aunt Pat, Troubadour, BYw, Sarbec

      But more seriously, yeah, that's a possibility.

      So is getting run over by a truck or dying in an economic collapse from starvation and general chaos.

      It's about time someone started playing what looks like a long shot, because the Very Serious People have just about used up all the margin conventional answers could supply for the challenges we face while they consolidate their gains...

      "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

      by xaxnar on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:32:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Why do teevee people think space is purple? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rimjob, Lawrence

      Anyway, I've had similar thoughts about the possibility of asteroid-direction materials being hijacked to lob asteroids at Earth, but the same capability that makes that possible also makes it totally not worthwhile.  So some hacker or rogue state hacks the command center and puts it on a years-long collision course with Earth - I'm pretty sure the home team could get back control of their systems in time to readjust the trajectory.  Probably within the week, if not the day.

      And if we're at a point where asteroid mining is happening economically, even if the miner robot is destroyed in the process of directing the asteroid toward Earth, so what?  They just launch two or three or five more to reattach to the object and put it back on the proper course.

      As for sovereign states using their own eventual capability to mine asteroids to lob them at each other, that's no more likely than nuclear war, as the retaliation even for an attempt could be nuclear or perhaps just all-out invasion.  As to interplanetary war, that's centuries away - and it's not like anywhere other than Earth has a "fragile" ecosystem to protect, so we'd probably have fortress-like defenses in our planetary environs.

      "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

      by Troubadour on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 09:03:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  why did Lucas think (0+ / 0-)

        we could hear things blow up in space? Horrible movie.

        and I wait for them to interrupt my drinking from this broken cup

        by le sequoit on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 04:50:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Great movie. Just shitty scifi. (0+ / 0-)

          "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

          by Troubadour on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:57:23 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Well.. space isn't totally empty.. (0+ / 0-)

          If the explosions that are happening are putting off enough force to affect your ear drums, you will hear them.  

          All of the bits and pieces that are propelled away from the explosion will hit something eventually.  If a bunch of them hit the ship you are in hard enough to make that energy resonate throughout the hull, and the inner compressed air, that energy will find it's way into your ears and vibrate your ear drums.

          They won't sound quite the same as an explosion in atmosphere, where sound waves have a lot of matter to travel through constantly, but they would still create sound if any brains are there to do the translation from waves.

    •  Both the US and Russian militaries have looked at (0+ / 0-)

      asteroid drops as weapon systems and decided they weren't viable.

      You're twice as likely to hit water as land if you don't have that bank of supercomputers plotting your course. Then there's the possibility of crashing that rock harmlessly into some place that doesn't have people and the equal possibility that it will hit people you like.

      Developing rock-drop-as-weapon would take significant testing. We can figure out how to target rocks to take out cities, but nobody wants to do the math and spend billions of dollars in R&D when there are more efficient ways of killing billions of people.

      Then there's the fact that helium fuel is frigging hard to get into space, so barring the development of efficient ion engines, there's no way that we're going to be bringing the big rocks into orbit. What's probably going to happen is that unmanned drones will fly out, hack off a piece of a rock, and bring it back. I don't see them strapping engines to a hunk of metal the size of Texas and plopping it in orbit.

      If we do bring any big rocks back, we'll be dumping them in Lagrange points, in fact I think there's a mining candidate already hanging around at L3.

      I don't know the math, but my limited understanding suggests that it's going to be hard to push a giant chunk of rock out of a Lagrange point. You'd be fighting gravity is my understanding.

      An Fhirinn an aghaidh an t'Saoghail. (The truth against the world.) Is treasa tuath na tighearna. (The common people are mightier than the lords.)

      by OllieGarkey on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 04:37:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Fascinating stuff! (10+ / 0-)

    Space is the next big frontier. The next Wild West. There's countless riches, sure, but plenty to be learned. I'm extremely hyped for the second coming of the Space Age - the first one taught us so much, but now it's gone into stagnation. Good luck to these guys for trying to resurrect it.

    16 years old, proud progressive, Phillies phan.

    by vidanto on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:25:30 PM PDT

    •  Star Trek.... (0+ / 0-)

      The history in Star Trek has a gap between "modern time" and the time of the movies where mankind had something of a downfall.  It always depressed the hell out of me to think about that in terms of the show because it was such a damning statement about mankind.  I always shunned the thought.

      And here we are.  Living it.  Not exactly like Star Trek, but closer than I had ever thought we'd get.

  •  Rare Earth processing and Iridium are the only (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, Gooserock, Aunt Pat, Eric K

    two operations I could ever being see being made profitable in space mining. For example if you processed rare Earths inside Venuses orbit you could let the radioactive waste fall into the sun, not contaminate the Earth, and use solar power to do it. Iridium is rare on Earth but not the solar system.

    Everything else would be cheaper to either filter sea water to get it, recycle landfills, or mine the ocean floor in "shallow" water for example the sunken continental shelf I think is dubbed "Zealandia" off the coast of New Zealand.

    -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

    by dopper0189 on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:26:43 PM PDT

    •  If you are looking for material to import (6+ / 0-)

      to earth, you are probably right.  But there will be a market for resources off-planet too.  

    •  How would they "fall" into the Sun? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Khun David

      It takes more delta-v to reach the Sun from Earth than to leave the solar system entirely.  It'd make more sense just to crash the material into Venus.  No ethical dilemma about polluting Hell.

      As for water, I think you missed the part about needing water out in space for fuel and how expensive it is to send it up from Earth compared to slowboating it from NEOs to the Moon or Earth orbit.

      "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

      by Troubadour on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 09:10:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I was thinking of mining asteroids in between (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        Earth and Venus. But your right Venus would be a better dump than the Sun. It would take much longer for them to "fall" into the sun (orbital decay) than it would to crash into Venus.

        I 100% agree that mining space based water for Lunar and Martian bases makes economic sense. But mining for metals is where I think the economics break down. Processing ores is a very energy intensive process, unless you find a very rich vein.

        Grapping a bunch of frozen comet goo isn't "mining" per se, it's more like melting a bunch of dirty snow and filtering it. So yes I do think this could make sense.

        -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

        by dopper0189 on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 09:26:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Poynting–Robertson effect (0+ / 0-)

          The Poynting–Robertson effect causes dust-sized particles in orbit around the Sun to decelerate and spiral inward. The smaller the particle the faster the effect. Any waste not trapped by a planetary gravitational field will spiral into the sun as long as the particles are small enough.

        •  Energy isn't really a problem (0+ / 0-)

          in the inner solar system (outside of planetary bodies with long nights like the Moon - asteroids tend to have rotational periods of only a few hours), so I wouldn't worry about that being a limiting factor in mining NEAs for metal.  Solar power is still practical even in the Main Belt, although a lot stingier, but by the time we're out there I doubt it would be a problem.

          "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

          by Troubadour on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 10:18:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Ummm, isn't space full of energy? (0+ / 0-)

          Isn't the solar energy in space PART of the attraction of metal processing?

    •  No rare earth mining... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric K

      or platinum group elements like iridium, gold,or platinum will be mined any time soon. They don't occur in concentrated minerals like they do on Earth. They occur disseminated at part per million concentrations or lower. Water and iron-nickel metal are another matter as they can occur at levels of several percent and can be relatively easily extracted because of their concentrations and physical properties (e.g., melting and boiling points, density). Platinum group elements are somewhat more concentrated in the metal, but but still too low to extract easily. Also, just about any kind of mass could be valuable for some orbital operations.

      If Chris Lewicki has really been studying asteroids all his life he should know this. I'm not sure what his reason is for talking about platinum, but it would take very advanced operations to extract trace elements like this.

      •  Time Scale (0+ / 0-)

        Rare and precious metals are being used as examples because they will tend to maintain their relative values over mission times measured in maybe decades.

        Once on station a processor needs only to concentrate the payload into economically viable payloads and that can take as long as you like as long as the relative value is somewhat predictable.

        •  Concentrate? How? (0+ / 0-)

          I'm not aware of any method to concentrate platinum or rare earths from rock unless it is already concentrated in mineral grains. There are no platinum-rich or rare earth-rich mineral grains in that are significant components in meteorites. Maybe they can find platinum pie or rare earth unicorns.

          If asteroid mining needs delivery of products to Earth for profit, then it loses much of it's cost advantage, that is being outside the gravity well. Delivering water or metal, or just mass to near-Earth space might make economic sense. Mining platinum sounds like mining pie.

          •  I dont have to work it all (0+ / 0-)

            out now. Plasma Distillation, staged reduction of tailings, centrifuging nano partials  it doesn't matter.

            What ever steps are involved the point is that it can take months or years to develop the payloads as long as the eventual resource stream will cover the cost plus profit.

            •  distillation? really? (0+ / 0-)

              boil away 99.9999% of an asteroid to get at the platinum pie?

              I agree there is no reasonable method worked out now to make platinum mining work. That's why mining water, or organics,  or metal, or mass makes sense, but platinum doesn't. Just saying that we can work this out in the future is not a plan, it's platinum pie. Some day platinum may be extracted from asteroids, but it will be a by-product of other large-scale extractive operations. Going to asteroids for their platinum sounds like a big waste of $$$.

              My comment was not to disparage the idea of asteroid mining. I like that and I hope it's successful. What I don't understand is the suggestion that asteroid miners can get lots of platinum to make a profit.

      •  Not true (0+ / 0-)

        There are meteorites with 100 ppm and a few with 200 ppm PGM. An excellent PGM ore on earth might contain 5 to 10 ppm PGMs

        •  but these are a small subset of iron meteorites (0+ / 0-)

          which were differentiated in a molten asteroid core by fractional crystallization (that is, the final residues to crystallize in the core have very high PGMs). They only represent a small portion of the asteroid core. The average core, and thus any average iron asteroid would have a PGM content only 8 to 10 times a typical chondrite, so maybe 10-20 ppm total PGMs.

          But refining this is is a huge challenge compared to PGM mining on Earth because on Earth these metals are concentrated into specific minerals. You can first concentrate the minerals from the rocks and then purify PGMs from the mineral concentrate. A lot of platinum is mined from placers; that is PGM grains are found in sediments and are concentrated by virtue of their high density. Also a lot of platinum production is a by-product of copper and nickel mining, so as the latter are purified, platinum is a valuable by-product. On an iron asteroid there are no PGM-rich minerals to pre-concentrate. What you have is a hunk of Ni-Fe that has traces of PGMs in it.

          As I said in another comment in this thread, I like the idea of asteroid mining. I'm just not impressed by comments about how you can get rich mining platinum there. I'm glad Darksyde talked about the value of mining water and other major phases. It's the first sensible discussion I've seen on the mining issue.

          •  got that backwards (0+ / 0-)

            I looked it up and platinum (also Ir, Ru, Os) concentrate in the first solids to crystallize, not the last. But the point remains that only a small portion of an iron asteroid will have really high Pt concentrations.

  •  I'll tell you what rare secrets. (8+ / 0-)

    Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthugha Fomalhaut n'gha-ghaa naf'lthagn!  Ia!  Ia!

    Early to rise and early to bed Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead. --Not Benjamin Franklin

    by Boundegar on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:27:02 PM PDT

  •  I think it's a scam of some kind (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hugin, Eric K, Rich in PA

    I don't see any evidence there's any actual plan. They just are getting some mysterious money from NASA.  They actually charged money to attend a press conference. Hope I'm wrong, of course.

  •  i'm not just looking forward to new discoveries in (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jck, Aunt Pat, Troubadour, Lawrence

    science. what has me fired up is the anticipation of seeing the incredible leaps and twists of logic creationists and intelligent designers will make to disprove, negate or reinterpret those discoveries.

    "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face" & "Polka will never die." - H. Dresden.

    by bnasley on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:30:38 PM PDT

  •  Poring, not pouring. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    billmosby

    No, they won't be doing this:
    http://dictionary.reference.com/...

    They'll be doing this:
    http://dictionary.reference.com/...

    ======
    "It is nice to know that the computer understands the problem. But I would like to understand it too." --Eugene Wigner

    PODEMOS SIM!

    by The Ice Cream Man on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:33:29 PM PDT

    •  Beat me to it. (0+ / 0-)

      Of all the examples of spell checker damage I can think of, that one distracts me the most; not even people trying to "diffuse" bombs or add up total expenses for a "physical" year quite measures up.

      But I enjoyed the diary nonetheless.

      Moderation in most things.

      by billmosby on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:57:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Like it or not (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, Eric K

    greed will drive humans into space.

    Both parties are beholden to their corporate sponsors. The Democratic Party deigns to throw us a few bones from the table on which to gnaw and squabble over, but it's just kabuki.

    by ozsea1 on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:34:33 PM PDT

    •  It Already Did 3/4 of a Century Ago. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aunt Pat, ozsea1

      Conquer England, hold the Soviet Empire at bay, those are the greed-factors that have driven us into space so far.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:55:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This has nothing to do with greed. (0+ / 0-)

      They could make a lot more money a lot quicker just playing the same old vulture capital games.  These people are trying to accomplish something for mankind, and leveraging private industry to make it happen.  This is what business is supposed to be like, and what it usually fails to be.

      "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

      by Troubadour on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 09:14:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Let's agree to disagree / nm (0+ / 0-)

        Both parties are beholden to their corporate sponsors. The Democratic Party deigns to throw us a few bones from the table on which to gnaw and squabble over, but it's just kabuki.

        by ozsea1 on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 09:40:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Why would I do that? I'm right. :D (0+ / 0-)

          "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

          by Troubadour on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 10:19:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Heh. (0+ / 0-)

            Human history doesn't agree. YMMV.

            Good night.

            Both parties are beholden to their corporate sponsors. The Democratic Party deigns to throw us a few bones from the table on which to gnaw and squabble over, but it's just kabuki.

            by ozsea1 on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 10:35:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Actually it does agree. (0+ / 0-)

              I've had this argument often enough to know all the ins and outs.

              "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

              by Troubadour on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 11:16:49 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Your. Mileage. May. Vary. (0+ / 0-)

                Your interpretation of history leads you to your set of conclusions.

                Asserting

                I've had this argument often enough to know all the ins and outs.
                presumes that an argument exists in this thread, and it does not.

                You have your opinion, I have mine; nothing more or less.

                Both parties are beholden to their corporate sponsors. The Democratic Party deigns to throw us a few bones from the table on which to gnaw and squabble over, but it's just kabuki.

                by ozsea1 on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 11:45:20 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  Robert Heinlein would be so pleased. Just the (6+ / 0-)

    prospect that something like this is to be attempted gives me great optimism for the future, something that I have been sorely lacking lately.

    "I cannot live without books" -- Thomas Jefferson, 1815

    by Susan Grigsby on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:36:24 PM PDT

  •  What rare secrets might we find? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jck, Aunt Pat

    Mitt's sense of human empathy?  Nevermind: this is about science, not fantasy.

  •  money down a rat hole (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric K, Simplify, Rich in PA

    How many people on earth could be saved with the money thrown at the distant future prospect of finding resources accessible enough to pay for the massive (upfront) financial and other resources? Millions and millions, I'd wager. Rich boys buying toys and fulfilling dreams hatched while little kids reading by light under the covers. Just stupid beyond belief.

    Then there is the fact that humanity - see, Ellison and handful of plutocrats funding a private corporation are not  synonymous with humanity - is a long way from developing a sufficient international regulatory framework to effectively govern space exploitation. It's rich f*cks raping the Wild West all over again. They'll leave their waste everywhere while consuming scarce terrestrial resources better used to aid the nearly 1 billion people teetering on the edge of starvation - TODAY. Perhaps rather than searching for water in space we could work on delivering potable water to all of humanity, something we can do for a fraction of the cost and using available technologies and in ways the stimulate broad development, not more resource barons.

    This is not cool, it is not a good idea. It is good it is reported. It would be nice if occasionally someone reporting on these issues were not space fan boys in the extreme (not saying DS is since I don't know him/her from a hole in the ground).

    The terms of discussions for every new technological opportunity is set by those with the largest material interest in seeing those developments realized. The downsides are left for discussion later, after the opportunity for reasoned debates are no longer possible because we are too far down the path to reverse course on the core questions of whether to develop.

    As far as the science potential of space exploration, I am all for it and perhaps it would presage another industrial-into-scientific revolution. I have to assume people know this "knowledge explosion" in the 19th century was substantially the product of imperial exploitation and tied directly to mass slaughter and suffering around the world (there are huge upsides as well but that point of view has many articulate advocates). But I fail to see how private corporate exploration is more likely to result in good science whose products are widely-shared for the benefit of humanity than more robust government or, better, international institutional regulation and control.

    Private space exploration and exploitation will prove to be a disaster long, long before the fantasized benefits are realized. And if they are realized I am less confident than DS that the plutocrats AND humanity will benefit.

    •  A few questions (9+ / 0-)

      1)  What do you suggest?  A former legal moritorium on any usage of space for humanities benefit?  And how do you propose we prevent people from doing so?

      2)  How about the fact of the benefits derived when the comm sat industry opened up, and how its been exploiting space for a long time?  

      3)  More fundamentally - Do you not see some fundamental differences between the situation of westward expansion of the 1800s and the environment of space?  

      •  good questions (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rich in PA

        1. Yes, moratorium on additional new projects and sharp regulation of new missions for now. Orbital debris is a large and growing problem and developments like these will worsen it and we should have a moratorium while we strengthen institutions. I realize it's not a popular view, but there you have it.

        2. Enumerate the benefits attributable to private development. Also, there was a long period of modest development under government control and an entire network of regulatory frameworks, including the ITU and many others, national and international, developed first/concurrent with early development. We have nothing remotely comparable regarding space exploration/exploitation. The comm sat case is evidence for my argument at least as much as for your argument (that I am inferring, perhaps incorrectly).

        3. There are fundamental differences no doubt. That negative consequences flow from private exploitation of public resources - that's how they are defined in current inadequate treaties - in low regulation environments is the strong parallel I imagined. Do you not see that parallel? Two major differences that support my argument are that the globe was not at the margins like we are now so "downsides" were recoverable. Given current problems the opportunity costs of using resources this way are far greater, perhaps terminal. The other difference is there was not this prospect of space weaponization and orbital debris attendant to exploration and exploitation.

        It's a bit of an exaggeration, but what is on the horizon, if we are willing to look beyond press releases, is this: "You got the cash and a gleam in your eye for space? Go for it. Do what you want with only physical laws as limits."

        •  Re (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Zornorph, ozsea1, stevemb

          1.  Yes, orbital debris is a problem, but how does this increase the likelyhood of that problem?  BTW, there is regulation that effectively totally prevents utilization of mineralogical resources in space right now.  That really isn't a good thing.

          2.  Prior to private development, communications on an international level were extremely expensive.  Real time reporting was very pricy, and not practical for news networks.  Intercontinental communications were very expensive, and were relegated to a limited few.  In short, without the events of Pan Am Sat, Intelsat would've remained the only player, and the large scale global communication network would not have happened.  

          3.  My problem is that, at the end of the day, this is their money.  Its not being used in a way that actively harms human life, it has the potential to open up new resources, is much less likely to have the same level of environmental damage as earth based activities.  As for weaponization - that has been a danger with any new technology.  I tend to be of the opinion that we are better with technology being developed than not.  

          As for your last question - no, its not that simple, actually.  I can actually list a number of ways that are impacting thw how of doing space based companies, that are more than physical limits.

          •  answers (0+ / 0-)

            1. There is a nonlinear increase in debris with each mission and eventually a cascade effect may be achieved. Primack and others believe that point is nearer than we might think. That outcome is more likely with poorly regulated space exploitation by private players. More missions, more mission with only profit driving them, more missions without adequate regulations. You don't get to distant asteroids for mining without taking large payloads through near-earth space and many, not most, but many, plans envision space elevators and construction platforms in relatively near-earth space or on the moon. Industrial plants in deep space don't just materialize there by teleportation.

            2. This makes no sense and to my eyes does not answer my argument: The comm sat revolution is largely beneficial because it proceeded slowly at first, under tight control, as a relatively robust regulatory regime evolved that made explosive deployment and utilization later more manageable and less threatening.

            3. We disagree. Perhaps to a degree about the "it's their money" given the modern political economy of the US and world and definitely on the "does not harm" claim. That was the whole point of my comment and rather hard to miss, I'd think. I also think you are largely wrong about the environmental consequences. The core problem is that all the costs - financial, resources consumed, opportunity costs from things not done, etc. - are largely realized and unavoidable before the first returns might even begin. Those costs are paid before, and whether or not, space development benefits are realized.

            Re: weaponization your argument isn't persuading me. Yes, weaponization is always are risk with any new technology. But it's not here a risk or speculation, it is a certainty under current paths and private development is followed by appeal to public protection. Look, the PRC is not going to cheer on Ellison and other US billionaires seizing profits in space under the direct protection of the US. Read the SpaceCom documents about the tight coupling of private space development and US weaponization plans. They are tightly linked in a way less true elsewhere. Plus, space weaponization may deny humanity the many benefits from space exploitation we already enjoy and foreclose the realization of other future benefits. If you think a private space race will be peaceful we disagree.

            Deliberative and democratic development of tech is better than the alternative. You presume a tech vs. no-tech point of view. Some may hold that view but I do not. What I don't accept at face value are press releases from self-interested plutocrats and their hired guns. Some technological developments are negative and often that is a function of the degree of forethought, deliberation, conscious protection of the public interest and extent of the regulatory regime.

            •  Re (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ozsea1, stevemb

              1)  We are quite a ways away from when the deployment of asteroid mining missions will have a significant impact on the amount of space debris.  The bigger problem there frankly is from the comm sat industry, where you don't have a mechanism that forces disposal of resources (or even better, reclamation of those resources).  

              2)  My point is that the comm sat revolution didn't really happen because of carefully created regulatory regime.  It happened when it moved from a tightly controled government organization to one where there were multiple owners, pursuing multiple options.  That is the way most of space has been for far too long.  We haven't seen anywhere close to the benefits from space because it has been controlled to tightly (which is different from regulation).  

              3)  I think we've narrowed down to our fundamental disagreement, which I would summarize as "we need better people who have greater amounts of resources" (which I grant is true, but doesn't really help us with the problems).

              Finally, regarding tech/no-tech vs democratic and deliberative tech development.  My fundamental problem is that the later has, IMHO, resulted in no-tech.  And this is particularly true in the space industry.  Because the problem is these are complicated issues, and the problem is most people don't actually care about/pay attention to the issue of space development in general, forget examining what type of tech to develop within the realm of spaceflight.  The last 30 years of spaceflight (and NASA) are very demonstrative of that.

              •  To add one other point re tech argument (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                stevemb

                The public will not (or at least historically does not) proactively engage on issues.  In short, we tend to be reactive, not proactive.   Therefore, you are unlikely to get a discussion on the ethics/legal issues of space without a forcing function (in the form of someone doing it).  

                And this is how you end up with deliberative/democratic discussions of technology resulting in no-technology.  People don't have the time/bandwidth to consider it.  

              •  couple more responses (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ozsea1

                1. You are I think missing the obvious point: Long before the mining begins missions to make that possible will increase the debris problem. That's the obvious point I have been trying to make; you spoil the land before the derrick pumps oil. More importantly, this debate has to be put in a broader context. This plan from PR is the first in a wave of private development encouraged by the US and some other nations. That larger private development WILL create a debris problem because it won't only be distant future mining, it will also be tourism, near-earth industrial facilities, many, many new satellites, including micro-satellites, new weapons platforms to "protect" it all or control wars on the ground from the heavens. My core debris arguments is this: That problem is too large to blithely ignore in the near term and will not be solvable - will not be solvable - under a private development regime, of which PR is among the first of a wave.

                2. We read the comm sat history totally differently. I am sure you've looked at the history and the issues closely but just be assured that I have as well and apparently just reached different conclusions. Very different conclusions. Specifically it has not been all peaches and cream (you note the debris issue, for one) and it has succeeded, to the degree it has, because it has been tightly regulated. Sorry. It has been tightly regulated under various international regimes. That's why it hasn't been a total disaster, in my reading, once the explosion began. The regulation and long period of tight control made the explosion possible and made it occur in comparatively less damaging ways. Let's take that lesson to heart before starting a "land rush" in space among private operators backed by public military forces.

                3. Maybe, but that is not how I'd characterize my view. My view is more we need effective regulatory and governance regimes in place - not on general principle, though I believe that too - but because of the unique nature of space and the evolution of the existing regime, such as it is, along with current and reasonably foreseable geopolitical dynamics.

                Regarding democratic deliberation I will cite Milton: "They who have put out the people’s eyes, reproach them of their blindness."

                I do not and will not support technocracies and I think their proven strength is simply that of making development happen regardless of costs or other concerns and interests. Whether the problem you describe obtains in other cases we can set aside but it clearly is not true with space because the public's role in deliberation about space exploitation borders on zero historically, as you surely know. So all the public has ever had is to be on the receiving end of the the press releases, from NASA or from corporations. They've not been given the opportunity to retard space development in the manner you claim. And they haven't.

                •  Re (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ozsea1, Sarbec, stevemb

                  1)  Regarding orbital debris - I do agree that it is a problem.  But it is a problem that we can solve, with technology.  And it will HAVE to be solved involving private development regimes.  Because we operate in a world that is based on the ideas of property rights.  And it CAN be done.  (That said, you can't Ayn Rand your way out of the problem - that I will absolutely agree with).  

                  2)  I wasn't trying to claim its peaches and cream - merely that it is better than how it was.

                  3)  Regarding this

                  Whether the problem you describe obtains in other cases we can set aside but it clearly is not true with space because the public's role in deliberation about space exploitation borders on zero historically, as you surely know. So all the public has ever had is to be on the receiving end of the the press releases, from NASA or from corporations. They've not been given the opportunity to retard space development in the manner you claim. And they haven't.
                  Thats not true.  They've had the opportunity since the 60s.  Getting involved in space policy isn't harder or easier than getting involved in any other policy debate.  You (the public you) get as educated about an issue as you feel the need to, and then you start talking to people, preferably people who have power to make public policy.  

                  The fact is that the public has not exercised that opportunity.  Most of the time, Space is a mile wide and inch deep issue.  This week, before Senate subcommittee on science and space there is a hearing about commercial.  For a variety of reasons, you can bet the issue of INKSNA and launch risk-sharing liability will come up.  Lets guess how many people hear on Dailykos know about those issues (and Dailykos is heavily weighted in the favor of knowing more about them, because Dailykos people are politically active).  I'd be surprised if the number is greater than 100.  

                  In short - the public hasn't exercised its role on the issue of space policy because the public by and large hasn't cared to.  

        •  'Public resourrces' (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          stevemb

          You don't own outer space and nor does the government. If I get there first, I do.

          Language professors HATE me!

          by Zornorph on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 08:37:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Gaa (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            stevemb

            Bad spelling!

            Language professors HATE me!

            by Zornorph on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 08:38:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  you may think that but it's not international law. (0+ / 0-)

              The danger here is that people like Ellison apparently believe that.

              That attitude you express is PRECISELY why I oppose private development. It is EXACTLY the attitude that will make more likely worst-case outcomes and ensure the growing opposition of other space powers and soon-to-be space powers who we will never be able to entice into an effective governance regime if we support a "first there owns" principle that explicitly violates existing understanding (though I agree it is increasingly the point of view of American policy makers).

              •  Well (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                stevemb

                The blunt truth is that because space is empty - once you get there, there is no one who can stop you from taking what you want. I agree it has the potential to be a bit messy, but that's the only way it's going to get developed. I certainly don't want to give some unelected bureaucrat in the UN the ability to stop someone from mining an asteroid while  they appoint a committee to study it for the next ten years.
                I don't favor something with no rules at all. I would certainly object to someone trying to put a massive sign in orbit to advertise their product for example - but once you get out of the area close to the earth, go for it! Hell, if I live long enough, I'd love to buy property in outer space.

                Language professors HATE me!

                by Zornorph on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 09:18:33 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  If there actually were such a thing as (0+ / 0-)

                "international law", you'd have a point.

                There isn't.

                You don't.

                --Shannon

                "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
                "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

                by Leftie Gunner on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 09:40:57 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  but there is such a thing (0+ / 0-)

                  And the fact you and Ellison think there isn't doesn't mean that Russia, PRC, India, South Africa, Brazil, France, etc. accept your waving off 50 years of negotiations (largely stymied by the US, to be sure) around international governance of space.

                  So, there is international law, or a least the perception there is and should be, and ignoring that doesn't make it go away.

                  You are just flat wrong. Here is a suggestion: Why don't you write to the State Department or Space Command and ask them whether or not they think international law exists and whether or not some apply to space activities.

                  They won't take your view, I assure you.

        •  PR hopes to clean space debris (0+ / 0-)

          From the Planetary Resources Usage page:
          "In Earth orbit, water from asteroids can also be converted and used to refuel satellites, increase the payload capacity of rockets by refueling their upper stages, reboost space stations, supply propellant needed to boost satellites from Low Earth Orbit to Geostationary Orbit, provide radiation shielding for spaceships, and provide fuel to space tugs that could clean up space debris."

          So of space debris is a concern, you should be routing for their success.

      •  Ban private ratholes. lol, n/t (0+ / 0-)

        Moderation in most things.

        by billmosby on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:58:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  If (6+ / 0-)

      If everyone was like you, we'd still be living in caves chucking spears at the wildlife.

      Language professors HATE me!

      by Zornorph on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:59:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't think you understand economics. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      terrypinder, stevemb

      In the 1980s, cellphones were toys of rich spoiled stock brokers who were too lazy to put a coin in a payphone.  Billions were spent evolving them.  Today, they have reduced emergency response times in third-world African rural areas from days to hours and enabled democratic revolutions.

      In the 1950s, airlines were for rich New Yorkers and New Englanders in suits, furs, and pearl necklaces who were too hoity-toity to take a bus, train, or boat to Europe.  Now most countries on Earth are within 24 hours of anyone with a couple hundred to a thousand dollars.  Few even of the poorest nations on Earth lack regular air travel services.  One would have to be a pretty severe Luddite who mythologizes the past to think that's a bad thing.

      Now, that isn't to say that investing money in things rich people buy is always or even generally a good idea - under most circumstances it isn't, because there is a lack of cross-applicability.  I.e., making platinum cocktail rings will never be of much economic use to anyone other than the douchebags who can afford to buy them.  But when the subject is high technology, rich people are very useful to the rest of society as sources of revenue to retire fixed costs of developing infrastructure.  The progression is like this:

      1.  Government funds blue-sky and bleeding-edge research, and creates functional prototypes to serve its own needs.  Jet aircraft, computers, the internet, satellite communications, space rockets, etc. etc.  Everything is very expensive and idiosyncratic at this point.

      2.  Entrepreneurs attempt cheaper, more standard approaches to the systems enabled by government, and market them to early adopters and wealthy customers.  They're still expensive and not very user-friendly, but achieve significant improvements on the monopsony-driven government contracted systems.  Think about university mainframes, Cray supercomputers, pre-Ford precision-engineered German automobiles for rich people, etc.

      3.  Critical mass in technological skill is developed for it to intersect with mass-market business strategy, leading to a Ford, Apple, or other iconic product that finally brings a technology into the price range and usability range of the middle-class.    

      4.  The technology becomes commoditized to the point of near-triviality.  Illiterate tribesmen now drive technology that a century ago was the domain of robber barons and heads of state, and the absolute bottom-rung underclass rides on trains that in the Victorian era were the domain of aristocracy.  Children in an Ecuadorian slum text each other when they're not playing soccer in the alleys.

      I don't exaggerate when I say this: The success of commercial space would be the greatest thing to ever happen to mankind, and also specifically the greatest thing that could possibly happen for people lacking opportunity today.  Progressive policies can be sabotaged, corrupted, and reversed, but there is no reversing opening up the solar system to humanity.  Yes, there will be eras of robber-baronism, oppression, exploitation - there will be evil rich people.  There will also be triumphs of human spirit, freedom, and new ways of doing things.  There will be triumphs of cooperation, triumphs of decency and heroism, rich people who accept the responsibilities of their status and fuel a new Renaissance on Earth and beyond via the wealth, knowledge, and adventure gained in new frontiers.  

      "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

      by Troubadour on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 09:51:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for condemning us to one planet, forever. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      stevemb
  •  If we have to have billionaires, better they spend (11+ / 0-)

    their money on things like this, rather than bringing feudalism back.

    •  clean water, environmental cleanup? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric K, AkaEnragedGoddess, Simplify

      clean energy on earth? more efficient and less destructive agricultural techniques? funding peace conversion? strengthening international legal institutions?

      I can think a quite a number of things I'd rather those billionaires spend their money on. Including paying their fair share of taxes so we can help real, live humans in the here and now and adequately fund deliberative space exploration.

      •  Do you seriously not see how (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ozsea1, stevemb

        expanding the human sphere into space covers all those areas and more?

        "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

        by Troubadour on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 09:55:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  sure, of course I do (0+ / 0-)

          But do you see how imagining how space might help address those issues - if the correct decisions are made, if distribution of benefits is realized, if the world can hold on in the interim - is not the same thing as actually achieving them? That's my concern here: Fan boyism that essentially elides the very real difficulties and tradeoffs as one is mesmerized by the sci-fi prospects of limitless energy, etc., from space.

          My argument is this: If the goal is to help humanity address these extreme terrestrial problems then billionaires lavishing resources on private space ventures is probably the single least efficient and effective way of addressing those problems. Building a new subdivision is not the best way to solve a leaking faucet. It's not even the best way to douse the fire at a burning house.

          Re: will be built. Not necessarily true. There are limited resources - funding, mental and research focus, material inputs, etc. - so any spent on space development cannot be spent in other ways. If the benefits of space development are illusory, inchoate, or relatively distant in time, society will literally be taking food, medicine, and water out of the mouths of hundreds of millions of humans on the hope that our severe terrestrial problems may some day be alleviated by space exploitation.

          Regarding the need to get off the rock: Sun death is a stupid argument, in my mind. I'll worry about that in a couple hundred million years. Asteroid collision is another potential extinction event and one in a more relevant time frame, but I think all the Hollywood movies and space advocacy essentially overstates the risk, overstates the likelihood we could do anything about it, and largely ignores both the weaponization implications and the high likelihood what we would achieve is breaking a large rock into near-equally deadly smaller large rocks that will still impact the earth.

          If we are to believe the ecological signals the earth has something like 2-3 generations (or less) to address the interlocking set of ecological crises afflicting this planet. Doing so will require a global Marshall plan unprecedented in human history. If that plan was focused on space development I think it unlikely to return sufficient benefits to address the terrestrial problems we face within the relevant time frame while worsening conditions between now and then.

          It is my view that anyone who thinks more than a handful - hundreds, maybe 10,000 - humans will be living anywhere in space not on Earth within the next 50-75 years is seriously fooling themselves. The reality is you and I won't have tickets on those flights and will be left here to rot while the rich escape, after having rapidly worsened conditions here in pursuit of getting off the Earth.

          •  You're missing the overall. (0+ / 0-)
            Building a new subdivision is not the best way to solve a leaking faucet.
            If it's the only faucet currently in existence?  Yeah, actually it does help more to have a higher volume than to have everything riding on a single iteration.  You get more experience, more experimental and innovative throughput, you can try more things in shorter time, the learning curve becomes more manageable.  

            Do you honestly believe that if you were the only person on Earth, that you would even have a faucet, let alone a leaking one?  More people make that possible.  And more civilizations make those people more innovative and productive.  And more worlds and ecosystems will provide yet another layer of beneficial diversity.

            Think about this: Why have children?  Why not just solve your own problems instead of creating new ones?  Why not pour all the resources invested in birthing and raising children into age-extension technology instead so you can live forever alone?  I don't know if you realize this, but your position boils down to voluntary extinction, and I can't possibly accept that.

            Evolution depends on diversity, and when you only have one ecosystem and one globalized economy to work with, ultimately instabilities resonate and things just tear apart.  You need external regulatory mechanisms to avoid periodic apocalypse.  Europe almost sent itself into a new Dark Age with WW2, but it climbed out because the wealth of another continent stabilized and rebuilt it (or at least half of it).  Had they just not bothered and instead poured every last ounce of wealth into internal improvement, I'm sure the rubble of the 20th century would have been far more magnificent, but still rubble.

            There are limited resources - funding, mental and research focus, material inputs, etc. - so any spent on space development cannot be spent in other ways.
            They're inherently spent in other ways by being spent on space.  Space is where all fields of human endeavor intersect, so every dime spent intelligently there (I'm not claiming corrupt pork is beneficial) cascades throughout science and technology.  You can try to deal with each and every symptom separately, or you can deal with them all by getting to the root which requires systemic understanding.  In space, every field converges: You find out the complex systemic interactions of everything with everything else - medicine, software, hardware, thermodynamics, psychology, gravity, radiation, everything has to be accounted for, continuously expanding our understanding.  The payback just isn't as obvious or immediate, but far greater in the long-run.  

            And that's what this is about: The long-run.  There might be some emotional satisfaction in playing whack-a-mole with Earth's problems until they overwhelm us, but that doesn't solve anything.  And frankly, if the politics are so overwhelmingly bad that we can't even get a decent fraction of the economic surplus invested in solving these problems directly, why exactly do you believe the infinitesimal fraction of global wealth invested in space is somehow the decisive factor?  Why would you try to divert resources from such hopeful, long-term endeavors while they're building zillion-dollar sports stadiums every year?  I just don't get this visceral loathing for positive action.  I think there is a mentality out there that wants everything to be a negative - filling holes and fixing problems - but that's not what human life is about.  We're more than that.  

            "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

            by Troubadour on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:20:27 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Those things will be built. This isn't an (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        stevemb

        either/or situation.

        And I think I know why you're running into opposition.

        The survival of the human species depends on our ability to move beyond earth, and eventually, beyond Sol.

        Our survival as a species requires that we create human habitats in space and on other planets.

        Imagine what a stable colony on mars could do for science! Imagine what a terraformed mars could do for overpopulation on Earth!

        An Fhirinn an aghaidh an t'Saoghail. (The truth against the world.) Is treasa tuath na tighearna. (The common people are mightier than the lords.)

        by OllieGarkey on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 05:00:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  They Can't Get the MOney to SPend Without the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aunt Pat

      feudalism.

      Except it won't be feudalism here, they aren't all that interested in using us for labor.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:56:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hope no one (8+ / 0-)

    loses sight of the fact that this nascent private-sector effort is standing on the shoulders of decades of public-sector investment.

    Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. -- Ambrose Bierce

    by OkieByAccident on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:49:14 PM PDT

  •  Employment with Planetary Resources? (0+ / 0-)

    I'm not sure that working for a company doing manned missions with the statement "Failure is an option." would be a good idea.  That doesn't speak of accurate risk analysis; it speaks Dimon-esque entrepreneurial recklessness.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:50:33 PM PDT

    •  You can't have success without failure (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour

      and PR is a ways from doing manned missions, anyway.  

    •  Misinterpreting the statement. (0+ / 0-)

      PRI doesn't plan for human crews to mine asteroids - it's robotic spacecraft.  They're saying that they're willing to lose significant amounts of money up front in order to save money later by finding the best ways to do things.  NASA necessarily does things differently, because they are subject to politics - they have to do everything in their power to guarantee short-term success in a mission, even if it compromises their ability to innovate over the long-term by avoiding practical experimentation.
       

      "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

      by Troubadour on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 08:13:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        Fifty-five years of NASA's cautious approach has created the technological infrastructure and knowledge that these new entrepreneurial start-ups are using to avoid or identify risks.  And fifty-five years of innovation has occurred at NASA.

        The difficulty with mature organizations, whether public or private, is that they have investments that they don't want to cannibalize in order to innovate.  It is why IBM was late to the personal computer and why Apple almost lost it during the 1990s until they created a totally new product category that had no way of canniblizing their market and then walked a convergence strategy back to their original business with I-Pads becoming the successor of the Macs.

        The issue at NASA is that the politicians won't spring for missions that are not charismatic.  This dictated the direction of research and development.   Boards and management of mature corporations have the same problem.  New entrepreneurial ventures don't have that handicap.  And are more like to fail as to succeed in their business model.

        50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

        by TarheelDem on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 10:14:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'd like to see an OTV - salvager developed. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, ozsea1, terrypinder

    Here's my idea. I'm thinking of something that would operate in Earth orbit as an Orbital Transfer Vehicle - garbage scow. If it could rendezvous with the space junk we've got up there now and capture it, what if some way could be developed to use that junk for reaction mass?

    Equip it with solar panels, and use the current to create a plasma arc of some kind to 'burn' debris into plasma that could be used to generate thrust. You'd A) convert dangerous debris into a harmless vapor dispersing in space, and B) have a means to move payloads into different orbits.

    Or, perhaps some kind of scrap furnace technique could be used instead; use mirrors to focus sunlight on debris to the point where it starts to vaporize and provide thrust that way.  

    If it can rendezvous with space junk, it should also be able to rendezvous with intact packages to move them. Just being able to lift satellites from LEO to GEO or bring dead ones down from GEO to free up orbital slots should have customers lining up for business. And there are satellites that fall back to earth because they've used up all of their fuel for station keeping in orbit; a periodic boost could extend their useful working lives.

    I'm not sure how feasible this is, but it'd be fun to turn a class of engineering students loose on the idea and see what happens.  The design should be robust, as simple as possible, and operable as a drone with some autonomous capability.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:54:48 PM PDT

    •  a future as a sci-fi author calls! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      xaxnar

      Those and many other proposals have been suggested and work is actively ongoing. I am not saying it is somehow an unsolvable problem, just that we should think more about how we are going to solve it before we make it much, much worse.

      And I think it totally unacceptable to proceed in a way we know will make things worse comforted that our blue sky debris plans will work. There is no near term plan that has been proposed that will work. Your whole comment is a series of "gee, wouldn't it be neat if we could just..." which, to be fair to you, is about all anyone has to say regarding orbital debris.

      Absolutely do agree with you that we should massively fund research on this and other space science problems.

      •  Not true (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ozsea1, xaxnar, stevemb

        there are a number of serious proposals to deal with space debris in the LEO and MEO range of orbits.  GEO and the like are harder, and they do need more tech research.  

        The problem is that we aren't funding the development & deployment of those proposals.  There was a very interesting report at a recent FAA conference about how to do major debris removal.  The problem is that to deal with the problem requires some money, and nobody has figured out a way to pay for this that isn't at least revenue neutral.  

        And thats the real problem.  

        •  funding is only part of the problem (0+ / 0-)

          though obviously a huge part of the problem. I am well aware that a variety of proposals of varying degrees of sophistication have been proposed, from nets, to vacuums, to pushing into atmospheric burn up and so forth.

          But those plans are all a long ways from being realized and its not just a funding problem for deployment it is a basic research problem with smart people proposing blue sky ideas with some plausibility. But if you and we solve the funding problem those solutions are still technically a long ways off relative to the near-term risks of debris volume increase in the face of rapid privatization of space development and likely incapable of addressing a cascade event if one occurs.

          Current proposals are pathetic in the face of the existing problem which is about to get a lot worse. That's my argument. Not one of those proposals has been prototyped. Not one has been tested. Not one has been deployed. Basically it really is a bunch of smart people spitballing.

          And even if there are more viable solutions (and to be fair things are being done of a preventative nature) they will be much less effectively deployed in a development environment dominated by self-interested corporate players.

          So even if you win that debris removal is viable in some type of relevant time frame that still doesn't make a case for private development because its effectiveness in that environment will be less than in an stronger regulatory environment.

          •  Re (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ozsea1, xaxnar, stevemb

            The proposal I listened to at the FAA/AST conference was very much a near term proposal.  Yes, there is hardware being developed.  Its not spitballing.  

            I will grant that they need testing and deployment.  Guess what - those are a funding problem.  The reason they haven't been tested or deployed has NOTHING tied to what level the technology is at.  It has everything to do with not having a mechanism that allows for risking money and resources to try things that might solve it (and this is not an issue unique to orbital debris).  

            As for getting them deployed, I can absolutely think of a way that would accerlate their deployments while allowing self-interested corporate players to dominate the field.  Put the material up for slavage rights.  Or even better, a bounty on the removal of debris.  

            Complete socialization of space has basically forced space devleopment to a halt for decades.  

    •  Great minds think alike (0+ / 0-)

      Your OTV is mentioned on the Planetary Resources Usage page. Also the uses you suggest for an OTV.

      Given a propellant source in high earth orbit, an OTV becomes much more attractive and doable. And a water rich asteroid would fill the bill.

  •  I think some fast talkers... (0+ / 0-)

    ...have fooled the rich guys into financing their science project. A little techno-babble and some computer animation... yup.

    Ross Perot Jr. is going to find out those asteroids are a bunch of very un-remarkable rocks.

    If they ever get off the ground, even.

    •  Why can't it be serious? NT (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour

      notext

    •  Uh, no. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ozsea1, stevemb
      A little techno-babble and some computer animation... yup.
      Also a NASA study that found it could be done practically even at the vastly-inflated costs of typical aerospace contracting.
      Ross Perot Jr. is going to find out those asteroids are a bunch of very un-remarkable rocks.
      Are you qualified to contradict planetary scientists about the composition of Near-Earth Asteroids?
      If they ever get off the ground, even.
      You don't think several billionaires can launch telescopes capable of finding and characterizing asteroids?  I'd say the SpaceX mission recently completed was slightly more challenging than what PR is planning to do to "get off the ground."

      "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

      by Troubadour on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 10:00:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Indeed, it is exciting. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, Lawrence, terrypinder

    Of course the likely timeline of Planetary Resources development is pretty long - they'll be spending this entire decade just prospecting, and then the next decade working out their actual mining technology.  First successful robotic mining mission could happen in the mid-2020s, but a regular supply stream isn't likely before the 2030s.  In the meantime, there should be some ancillary revenue streams in commercial space telescope technology, both for academic and Earth-observation purposes.

    By the time this comes to fruition (if it does), we will already have answers about whether getting to Earth orbit can be made cheap, rapid, and reliable.  If so, then it will inject more economic fuel into humanity's bloodstream than has ever existed in the history of life as we know it.  If not, then its ongoing economic prospects would be far less certain.

    "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

    by Troubadour on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 08:05:17 PM PDT

    •  "The next decade"? (0+ / 0-)

      In ten years you expect someone to develop and deploy an entirely new set of technologies, in a completely new environment more hostile than anything anyone has ever mined in before, to explore for and process minerals in a manner not yet known, for a net negative balance sheet for decades or more?

      Speaking as someone who has actually worked in the exploration and mining industry, and still deals with them on a regular basis...good fucking luck.

      •  No, I was referring to telescopic observation (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ozsea1

        and preliminary visitation.  I thought the word "prospecting" was pretty clear.

        "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

        by Troubadour on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 10:08:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That doesn't help (0+ / 0-)

          Remote sensing through visible spectra is still in its infancy in Earth prospecting, and that's where it is fairly trivial to send someone in on the ground to verify the data.

          There's a difference between "detecting the presence of an element" and "having sufficient amounts of that element present to make it worth exploiting". The first is easy. The second, not so much. I've got samples sitting beside me on my desk where, simply with the naked eye, and I can point out the minerals that represent valuable commodities. In several of those samples the exploration program where those samples came from were eventually abandoned because there simply wasn't enough there to justify trying to mine it.

          •  Who said it was limited to visible spectra? (0+ / 0-)

            And I don't think you understand some of the basic methods of determining asteroid composition.  Size, shape, spectra, and rotational properties can be determined remotely.  That narrows down the candidate pool immensely.  All you need then is gravity mapping, which involves relatively simple instruments on small probes.  With those pieces of information, you know the composition and internal structure.  Meanwhile, the costs of these prospecting operations are defrayed by ancillary commercial applications of the technologies involved - the telescopes, the probes, and the data therefrom.

            "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

            by Troubadour on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 05:55:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Still not helping (0+ / 0-)

              That's all available on Earth and it still doesn't have the ability to detect economically viable deposits the way you seem to think it magically will in space.

              And most of the processes that concentrate metals so that gravity can detect the different density compared to the surrounding waste rock? They're water driven. You need an active hydrosphere to concentrate the metals. Which is, so far as we've found, not exactly common in the solar system.

              •  "That's all available on Earth." (0+ / 0-)

                It's available in little tiny veins here and there due to asteroid impacts.  Asteroids are the source, and even a single small one has the potential to provide more platinum group metals than have ever been mined in all of human history put together.  As for "magically detecting" them, I don't know why you have this attitude toward science and technology, but ignorance is not a substitute for competence in a high-tech field.  They know how to do it, period.  I know how to do it with a couple of years of undergraduate physics.  The expense is virtually all in the launch.

                "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

                by Troubadour on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 06:46:17 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  It takes 83,333+/- cubic feet of steel to make (0+ / 0-)

    a cylinder with one inch walls 318 feet wide by 1000 feet long,now there is a asteroid DA14 coming very close to earth in February and it's like 45-60 meters(148-197 feet) wide,so how many Cubic Feet of Iron-Nickel might be in DA14 if it was a true sphere 148 feet (45 Meters) wide,well I'll guess that if 1/3 of it was Fe/Ni that's like for the (Rounded up to) 150 Feet (45+/- meters) wide asteroid having a total of 1,767,150 Cu-ft around 583,160 Cu-ft is possibly Fe/Ni. that can make about 7 Hulls for rotating 318 feet wide by 1,000 foot long Spaceships that would give from up to 1G inside the Ships.An with the rest of the asteroid there should be enough to material to build the inside of these ships.So long story short there would with this guessing be at least enough material to build comfortably at least 3 318X1000 Spaceships that have near 1G for well imagine an apartment complex 1000X1000 3 stories high with each room being 25WX25LX10W feet and that's the main living area.

    •  PS I hope my figuring is right but I wanted to (0+ / 0-)

      post before I hit the wrong thing and this comment gets erased.Now it's a huge shame that this Asteroid can be caught and placed into orbit and processed but there will be others and the main point of the comment was what could be built with just the really really small stuff that's up there just think what a Mile wide one could supply.

  •  And how much of the profits, if any, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hugin

    is going to come back to American taxpayers?

    To that end, they will be analyzing material from meteorites and pouring over data collected by every unmanned mission from Dawn to New Horizons.
    We footed the bill for all those missions, for all the scientists working on that data, for the technology development... Why does a private company now get to capitalize on this and charge us for the stuff they mine? This pisses me off!
    Lewicki makes a good point. To succeed beyond expectations, one has to be willing to make a few mistakes. Losing an unmanned vehicle is a public relations disaster for NASA and a huge loss of money for taxpayers, a national tragedy for manned spacecraft. Planetary Resources, on the other hand, is backed by a who's who of entrepreneurs, including Ross Perot, Jr., Larry Page, and Peter Diamondis, just to name a few. That kind of capital is critical: this is an expensive and risky endeavour. Just getting started will cost millions. These guys are willing to shoulder that risk.
    Fuck that. It's a bad point, there's a lot less risk after all the money and work put into this by government agencies and tax payers! We went this far with NASA, they should be the ones to continue or this company should at least have to pay mightily for the priviledge, because without our money and our parents money, none of this would be possible.
    •  Its mroe compicated than that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ozsea1

      1)  Taxes.  Now, there is the point of how high should the tax rate be, and we all have our views on that.  But that isn't a problem unique to the spaceflight industry.

      2)  Job/Industry creation and market discovery - This is the more subtle point, but in some ways, the more important point.  Frequently the government funds basic research, which we don't really know how it will benefit our society.  We had no idea what benefits come from studying the electron, and today whole industries are built around that.  Had we required royalties for that, it would've been much harder for developments to come.  Second, frequently government funding pushes the development of a capability that it wants, but also one that has more of a market than just government.  As an example - right now there is interest in on-orbit servicing (basically having the ability to refuel/repair satellites on orbit).  Having this capability has huge implications for government satellites.  However, it also has implications for private satellites.  In short, if someone can put together both the hardware and business savvy to do on-orbit servicing, there are a lot of people who would benefit from having this.  By pushing the development of new industries, you create the capability you need, and also create a self-sustaining situation that helps to push the development of new systems within that industry

      3)  NASA is very much the wrong style of organization to do space development.  It has a lot of internal problems right now.

      •  are those internal problems inevitable? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AkaEnragedGoddess

        Or are they a function of organization and funding and mission design that could be addressed?

        Because the historical record of achievement for NASA I think is rather impressive.

        As I see recent history there has been a conscious effort in the last 10-15 years to marginalize public space development under NASA in favor of private actors. It is driven by human created funding crises and an ideological preference for the private sector. The same dynamic occurred with all the early R&D for the internet: The public shoulders the cost during risky R&D phases, provides a large guaranteed market for early quasi-private actors (defense and space firms are really state corporations run for private profit), then government turns things over to the well-heeled members of those quasi-private actors for mass profits. Socialize the costs, privatize the profits. That is the US model.

        •  I would argue they are inevitable (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ozsea1, stevemb

          Due to a number of factors.  One of them being how do you ensure that as capability gets developed, it gets transitioned to the greatest number of beneficiaries?

          And the record of achievement of NASA does have some impressive moments, but it also very destructive moments.  And no, I am not referring to the loss of life in events like Apollo I, or Challenger and Columbia.   I am talking about 4-5 failed attempts to replace the shuttle, the loss of 2 space stations that still had usable life (Skylab and Mir) the treatment of coast overruns as a Cost of Doing Business attitude

          I work in the space industry.  I have a lot of respect for what NASA does.  But it has a number of flaws.  

          •  sure, NASA is a flawed organization (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            atana, AkaEnragedGoddess

            Sometimes deeply flawed, even.

            However I'd still put more trust in their sensitivity to the public interest, whether intentionally or not, than I would count on Ellison and others to protect the public good.

            For starters, several recent psychological studies have suggested a high correlation between success as CEOs of major corporations and social pathology: uncaring towards others, self-aggrandizing. In most cases the only way to become a billionaire is to be a raging megalomaniac dick willing to crush anyone and everyone. They are also used to sitting atop the most authoritarian institution devised by the human species: the corporation.

            Not the people I want leading humans into space.

            •  Sorry, but they've demonstrated (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Sarbec

              that they aren't sensitive to public interest.  They are sensitive to Congressional interest and their own interest (the attitude I see in large swaths of NASA when discussions about asteroid vs moon really offend me, which commonly come across as "if only that stupid Obama hadn't talked about an asteroid, we'd be back to the moon soon").  NASA's attitude about things like Space Based Solar Power is another example.  

              Its not about trusting NASA's sensitivity to the public interest or Ellison's protecting the public good.  

              Its about having access to resources, and getting the public to confront those resources.

        •  Thank you. (0+ / 0-)

          You said it much better than I did.  

          As I see recent history there has been a conscious effort in the last 10-15 years to marginalize public space development under NASA in favor of private actors. It is driven by human created funding crises and an ideological preference for the private sector. The same dynamic occurred with all the early R&D for the internet: The public shoulders the cost during risky R&D phases, provides a large guaranteed market for early quasi-private actors (defense and space firms are really state corporations run for private profit), then government turns things over to the well-heeled members of those quasi-private actors for mass profits. Socialize the costs, privatize the profits. That is the US model.
          The other galling point for me was that private companies already control the planet's oil, gas, gold, silver, diamonds... even our water and are allowed to make obscene profits selling all this stuff back to us. How much do we really charge them for the privilege? Why is the idea that collectively we could possibly utilize our resources ourselves, without the involvement of private entities, an idea to be scorned?
    •  "Public domain"...I do not think it means (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      terrypinder

      what you think it means.  Information created by public scientific agencies is public domain, and that means it's freely available for anyone and everyone to use however they please, no strings attached.  There is no requirement that you pay the public back, which is why you could post public domain images in diaries on Daily Kos without paying royalties to the US government.  That's the whole point of having a public domain - that the platform is raised for everyone, and they can raise it even higher and profit from their own work on that foundation.  Eventually it too becomes public domain when patents expire.

      "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

      by Troubadour on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 10:05:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And I don't think freely available means (0+ / 0-)

        what you think it means. How freely available is it if it will cost billions to develop? I don't have billions, neither do you (I assume). The only way it would ever be possible for me or you to capitalize on the investments we've already made is for our government to continue it. See Hugins comment above about socializing risk and privatizing profits and his example of the internet. We are not talking pictures here, this not even in the same league. It doesn't bother you at all that our government paid to develop it and we pay private companies for access to it now? Or that we have to fight to keep them from controlling content? We spend a few billion dollars a year funding cancer research, yet what are the chances that any miracle cure drug discovered will be available to everyone at cost or even cheaply? Something can be perfectly legal and totally wrong at the same time.

        •  That's just plain false. (0+ / 0-)
          The only way it would ever be possible for me or you to capitalize on the investments we've already made is for our government to continue it.
          I personally know people with engineering degrees who start businesses based on public research.

          "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

          by Troubadour on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 06:51:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  You gonna give NASA all our cellphones (0+ / 0-)

      because they spurred semiconductor advances?

      Your argument makes no fucking sense whatsoever.

  •  Don't we have enough orbiting junk? (0+ / 0-)

    On earth, mining creates lots of waste but in space it won't?
    Sounds like more capitalist fraud and bulloney.

  •  Does this mean they will STOP RAPING the Earth? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    atana

    Hope so ....

    "The Internet is the Public Square of the 21st Century"- Sen. Al Franken

    by Kdoug on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 09:27:10 PM PDT

  •  I see that the obscenely rich people (0+ / 0-)

    aren't content with plundering the Earth anymore. Now they feel the need to assert ownership over the reaches of space itself, in order to hog even more resources for their personal profit - and to control the markets so they can gouge the rest of us at whim.

  •  The number of panty-waisted nay-sayers commenting (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    stevemb

    is amazing.  Some kind of weird masochism and hair-shirted breast beating and whining about the rich.

    Without PRIVATE development, there will be NO exploration and exploitation of space.

    Relax, there's no baby seals out there.   Quit wringing your limp-wristed hands.

  •  Platinum, Schplatinum ... (0+ / 0-)

    Recovery, refining and delivery cost from an asteroid as compared to mining and refining and recycling it from known deposits on Earth?

    Spot market price for platinum: $1,480/ounce.

    It needs to get up to $1 million an ounce for asteroid mining to be a better investment than late night no money down real estate informercials.

    Order now !!!

    My name is Douglas Watts.

    by Pometacom on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 11:56:52 PM PDT

  •  Damned 1 percenters (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrypinder, stevemb

    How dare they invest millions (probably billions before all is said and done) in an ambitious project that might benefit we commoners?  

    Twenty years from now, protesters will be whining about Big Space instead of Big Oil.  My crystal balls say so.

    Snideness aside, I think it's great news that private investors are going where NASA fears to tread (or can't afford to tread in today's political-economic atmosphere).

    Nicely written piece, DarkSyde.      

  •  It's just conspicuous consumption (0+ / 0-)

    They are spending money that's inconsequential to them but marks them as superhumans, which is the purpose of all this.

    Romney '12: Bully for America!

    by Rich in PA on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 03:56:48 AM PDT

  •  VINDICATION! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrypinder

    Every time I suggested mining asteroids for resources like rare earths and platinum, and every time I pointed out that there are rocks sitting out there in range of our engines which contain more metal than has ever been mined in human history, and every time I point out that getting resources safely into atmosphere is as easy as putting them in a ceramic basket with a parachute, people laugh.

    "Oh, that'll never happen."

    Vindication feels nice. Posted to my facebook. Along with gleefully triumphant e-mails.

    I love saying "I told you so" when it's good news like this.

    An Fhirinn an aghaidh an t'Saoghail. (The truth against the world.) Is treasa tuath na tighearna. (The common people are mightier than the lords.)

    by OllieGarkey on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 04:28:18 AM PDT

    •  can we wait until, um, Ellison has succeeded (0+ / 0-)

      before we conclude that he has succeeded? Or at least he claims to have succeeded?

      Surely you don't take an expression of interest by others in things you value as tantamount to achieving them? You realize there are one, maybe two, steps between here and there, right?

      •  Oh ho ho, Hugin, you miss the point of my joy! (0+ / 0-)

        The point is, this is a viable thing that I've been supporting for a while.

        An Fhirinn an aghaidh an t'Saoghail. (The truth against the world.) Is treasa tuath na tighearna. (The common people are mightier than the lords.)

        by OllieGarkey on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 01:46:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  i think this is great news (0+ / 0-)

    I expect good things out of this, even if I won't see the good for 20 years or so.

    I think they can do it. NASA (a great organization) sure won't (and can't.)

    I'm struck by how the meanest, cruelest, nastiest people brag about how they live in a Christian nation. It's rather telling.

    by terrypinder on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:18:10 AM PDT

  •  Of all the meteorites that fall... (0+ / 0-)

    How many have more than just iron, nickel, etc.?

    Do meteorites have gold, silver, uranium, and other stuff?

    Ugh. --UB.

    "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of East Somalia!"

    by unclebucky on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:40:29 AM PDT

  •  Glomar Explorer? (0+ / 0-)

    I remember following the Glomar Explorer only to find out years later  it was just a cover to steal a Soviet sub. I wonder what they are really after...

    I try not to come here more often then I do.

    by Maroon watch on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:18:07 AM PDT

  •  Risk not peculiar to private sector (0+ / 0-)

    The government takes risks all the time, and is capable of certain large projects that the private sector never undertakes for this reason. Suggesting that losing vehicles is a PR disaster for NASA while they have done so more than once and continue to survive is invalid on its face. Obviously NASA has taken risks and continues to do so, and has survived failures repeatedly. What's different about private investment is the profit motive. NASA doesn't gain by bringing asteriods back to earth, so they aren't motivated to do so.

    One thing that mustn't be lost in our rush to embrace private investment in space is this: the reason NASA came into being was to win the "space race." This wan't a race simply to gain notable national achievements purely for publicity. It was also an effort to win the "high ground" of space. If national governments cede control of space to private companies we place those companies in a position no private entity should be in: the ability to physically threaten anyone on the planet. What now sounds paranoid won't any longer when we have some company dropping half-mile long bombs from the sky for the purpose of mining them.

  •  Water makes a good shield from radiation (0+ / 0-)

    Too, which means it's a two-fur.

    In fact, it's one of the best, so if you can find a good amount of water, people could actually live there, shielded from solar and other radiation.

    Women create the entire labor force.

    by splashy on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 12:25:20 AM PDT

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