Skip to main content

Ideas: Mining the Asteroid Belt

Disclaimer: I don't even pretend to know what the heck I'm talking about. Feel free to ignore this post.

I've been thinking lately about efficient ways to mine the asteroid belt. My guess is that there's a lot of useful raw materials out there, but getting them back to earth is kind of a challenge.

Now, in my thinking, I'm presupposing that we have a working space elevator. Nonetheless, it's still a challenge because the asteroid belt is so far from Earth's orbit. It would take a lot of time and energy to travel there and back in order to gather materials. Certainly, we'd need some robotic help.

However, the distance (and time involved) becomes less of an issue once you have a system in place. To use an analogy, selling whiskey that's been aged for 10 years is only difficult when you're waiting for those first 10 years to pass. After that, there's always another batch about ready to be sold.

One problem is that it would take a lot of energy to move large amounts of raw materials back toward earth. Inertia sucks when you're trying to move heavy things. Furthermore, you have to somehow transport that energy all the way out there. Sure, a space elevator might help you get things off the surface, but the asteroid belt is still a long way away.

The next problem is that, "For every reaction, there's an equal and opposite reaction." You can waste a lot of fuel trying to push the raw material toward Earth. However, it might be helpful to push some material toward Earth and an equal amount away from Earth.

Next up, consider that it would be useful to push the material toward a position near Earth's orbit so that it can be captured and brought down to the surface. Hopefully, we won't mess this part up and doom humankind to the same fate as the dinosaurs ;)

I was thinking of creating three bundles of raw materials at a time and then using a contraption between the three bundles to send the three bundles in different directions. By varying the angles and the relative weights of the bundles, you could slightly vary the speeds. The contraption might look like a triangle with a piston on each side. I'm not sure what is the best way of causing the pistons to move.

However, one good thing is that you'd be able to reuse the contraption over and over again. Only the raw materials would move. The contraption would stay in place to be reused.

It would probably make sense for bundles headed toward earth to have some sort of propulsion and positioning mechanism. The contraption that I mentioned above is only there for initial launch.

Comments

jjinux said…
By the way, my wife insisted that the bundles would need some sort of propulsion system and a positioning system after the initial launch. I think she's probably right.

I drew the crude drawing using a Bamboo Spark that she bought me for my birthday :-) The contraption that she bought me was a good excuse to write about the contraption I've been thinking about, the triangular launch mechanism ;)
Sam Rushing said…
Dont' forget the Near Earth Asteroids! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near-Earth_object
jjinux said…
Sam, thanks for the reminder! I'm amazed you still read my blog! I didn't think I had any readers left.

Popular posts from this blog

Ubuntu 20.04 on a 2015 15" MacBook Pro

I decided to give Ubuntu 20.04 a try on my 2015 15" MacBook Pro. I didn't actually install it; I just live booted from a USB thumb drive which was enough to try out everything I wanted. In summary, it's not perfect, and issues with my camera would prevent me from switching, but given the right hardware, I think it's a really viable option. The first thing I wanted to try was what would happen if I plugged in a non-HiDPI screen given that my laptop has a HiDPI screen. Without sub-pixel scaling, whatever scale rate I picked for one screen would apply to the other. However, once I turned on sub-pixel scaling, I was able to pick different scale rates for the internal and external displays. That looked ok. I tried plugging in and unplugging multiple times, and it didn't crash. I doubt it'd work with my Thunderbolt display at work, but it worked fine for my HDMI displays at home. I even plugged it into my TV, and it stuck to the 100% scaling I picked for the othe

ERNOS: Erlang Networked Operating System

I've been reading Dreaming in Code lately, and I really like it. If you're not a dreamer, you may safely skip the rest of this post ;) In Chapter 10, "Engineers and Artists", Alan Kay, John Backus, and Jaron Lanier really got me thinking. I've also been thinking a lot about Minix 3 , Erlang , and the original Lisp machine . The ideas are beginning to synthesize into something cohesive--more than just the sum of their parts. Now, I'm sure that many of these ideas have already been envisioned within Tunes.org , LLVM , Microsoft's Singularity project, or in some other place that I haven't managed to discover or fully read, but I'm going to blog them anyway. Rather than wax philosophical, let me just dump out some ideas: Start with Minix 3. It's a new microkernel, and it's meant for real use, unlike the original Minix. "This new OS is extremely small, with the part that runs in kernel mode under 4000 lines of executable code.&quo

Drawing Sierpinski's Triangle in Minecraft Using Python

In his keynote at PyCon, Eben Upton, the Executive Director of the Rasberry Pi Foundation, mentioned that not only has Minecraft been ported to the Rasberry Pi, but you can even control it with Python . Since four of my kids are avid Minecraft fans, I figured this might be a good time to teach them to program using Python. So I started yesterday with the goal of programming something cool for Minecraft and then showing it off at the San Francisco Python Meetup in the evening. The first problem that I faced was that I didn't have a Rasberry Pi. You can't hack Minecraft by just installing the Minecraft client. Speaking of which, I didn't have the Minecraft client installed either ;) My kids always play it on their Nexus 7s. I found an open source Minecraft server called Bukkit that "provides the means to extend the popular Minecraft multiplayer server." Then I found a plugin called RaspberryJuice that implements a subset of the Minecraft Pi modding API for B