[ExI] simulation as an improvement over reality

Samantha Atkins sjatkins at mac.com
Thu Dec 30 12:15:38 UTC 2010

On Dec 28, 2010, at 11:33 AM, Adrian Tymes wrote:

> 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.)

Arguably much easier to mine it in place.  Nets (for traction) scrapers/collectors, concentrated solar (ad hoc solar furnace) for processing heat, magnetics.  Quite a bit can be separated into more or less tied groups such as volatiles, various kinds of metals.   Then transport the appropriate types of materials to the destinations that can best use them and/or further process and package them.   You want a asteroid that is a mx of rare earths, precious metals, common structural metals and stone and volatiles.  The mix is actually easier to work and profit from than a closer to pure metal asteroid would be. 

> 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.

Not moving the entire asteroid helps with this.   But yeah.

>  (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.  

Believe it or not this is a "real" (although fake) issue.  People actually think such nonsense.  Or at any event, that everything out there belongs equally to everyone regardless of who went out and found a way to get it.    

> 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.)

Don't land them or not most of them!  Much of the volatiles and other materials are needed in space or on the moon.  There eventual money making potential is much larger there.  Send rare earths, precious metals and so on down to the surface to raise more money faster but keep much of the rest for building out near earth infrastructure. 

> 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.  

Definitely send bots along early.  Start with lots of small relatively cheap probes to interesting looking asteroids.  Pick a 1st target and send the bots and/or crew.   Use the proceeds to fund several more.  Rinse and repeat.  

> 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
> afford.)

Scrapers, baggers, half mirrors for concentrating solar, magnetics, hydrogen oxygen rocket motors, perhaps ion-thrust motors.   Packaging for insertion into earth return orbits of things you want to send back to earth. 

> 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.)

Don't forget gold!  

> 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.

Except you don't have enough trained humans to do space walk work.  So you might have the crew in the ship (or in a hollowed out part of an asteroid) for more low lag teleoperation and monitoring.  

- samantha

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