[ExI] simulation as an improvement over reality

Adrian Tymes atymes at gmail.com
Tue Dec 28 19:33:53 UTC 2010

On Tue, Dec 28, 2010 at 10:00 AM, Samantha Atkins <sjatkins at mac.com> wrote:
> Show me the path, especially how you are going to create the ability to mine, process, assemble and maintain all this infrastructure and in what steps.

This is why I've been examining a certain asteroid mining plan:

0) Come up with good estimates of the costs for steps 1-4, and obtain
investment to cover them.

1) Find high-platinum-and-related-metals asteroid, massing several kilotons.
(This is likely doable, at least to a good enough degree of certainty, with
already-deployed telescopes.  For all I know, someone may have done such
a survey, but I've not been able to find the results if so.)

2) Move said asteroid into very high (possibly L4/L5) Earth orbit.  (Gravity tug
and solar sail would probably be the way to go for most of the trip, though you
might want a backup engine - especially at the end, to make sure the asteroid
stays parked where you want it.)

2a) Make sure to have a good PR campaign ready, because at this point,
some people will protest that you'll inevitably make a dinosaur killer unless
politicians Do Something to stop you.  They'll lie, of course, and can not be
reasoned with.  (Among the likely fallacies: that throwing you in jail will
somehow make the asteroid immediately revert to its previous orbit.)
Marginalizing them with the truth may work well (lay out your intended plans
for the public to see - keep as few technical secrets as possible in
this regard),
as might detailed but lowbrow-friendly videos explaining how you know that the
asteroid will not hit the Earth.  (Some may also protest that you're "claiming"
property in space in violation of international treaties.  This is a moot point:
you're not selling it or putting financial interest in it until the
material gets down
to the ground, in step 4, and there is ample precedent for claiming meteorites
as private property after they land.)

3) Launch processing equipment that can be teleoperated (with fairly low lag
from being in very high orbit).  If possible, have an ability to send
a crew if (or,
probably, when) needed.  (Solar smelters and simple centrifuges at first,
possibly with a few teleoperatable technician robots with tools and grippers as
a first resort if - or, again, when - something goes wrong.  Try to avoid
complicated or heavy equipment for now: you won't get many shots to make it
work before step 4, and the heavier your gear, the fewer chances you can

4) Harvest the platinum-and-related, and bring it down to Earth (essentially,
meteorites on planned trajectories, with crews on site to recover them
immediately after landing) for sale on Earth, to pay off the investment needed
to pull off steps 2 and 3 (and possibly 1).  Don't count on any "from space"
price multiplier - but then, a metric kiloton of platinum by today's
prices sells
for over $60 billion.  (The main cost here will probably be commission to the
salespeople.  If they can get an extra billion dollars per kiloton,
they've earned
extra millions per kiloton they sell.  The experience and aptitude needed to do
this well are significantly different than what's needed for the rest, so hiring
expertise is the way to go here.)

5) Wind up with mostly-iron "slag" and processing equipment, in very high
Earth orbit, and whatever proceeds from step 4 in excess of what was needed
to pay off the investors.

5a) Cackle maniacally.  Mandatory, if you believe Hollywood.  ;)

6) Use said infrastructure to build other stuff, for instance the
lunar mining and
manufacturing infrastructure to spam SPS.  Probably repeat steps 1 through
4 a few times for additional funding.

7) At some point, teleoperation just won't cut it, and you'll want to have an
on-site crew.  By that point, you can have created the life support necessary
for such a thing.  It will likely be akin to oil platforms at first -
crews on station
for a few weeks to a few months at a time - but eventually you can build up a
mining-town-like infrastructure, and expand from there.

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