[ExI] De-Orbiting Gold

Tom Nowell nebathenemi at yahoo.co.uk
Mon May 21 18:28:19 UTC 2012

Folks, between us there must be a good few people who've read up on various schemes for space commerce and exploiting space. Yes, a lot of the plans and studies handwave over crucial aspects, but surely some must have given serious thought to de-orbiting materials.

I remember reading "Man and the Planets" by Duncan Lunan when I was young, a 1980 tome covering large numbers of 70s ideas on how to exploit the solar system for the human race. Sure, a lot of the ideas have dated horrifically, but some still have relevance. There's a whole section on waverider designs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waverider ), mostly because Prof Nonweiler was working at a Scottish university at the same time the Scottish author was compiling ideas, but there are things you can do with hypersonic lifting bodies which blunt re-entry vehicles can't. In fact, doing a quick web search on re-entry yields a variety of ideas on how you could try to re-enter. For inert loads like precious metals, the harsher varieties of aerobraking and lithobraking (ie letting it smash into the ground as long as what survives is still useful) can be used.

Regarding the current lack of fabrication in orbit - it was a criticism of NASA in the 90s that not enough work was being done on materials science and fabrication in microgravity, as the huge advantage of orbit compared to earthbound facilities was access to microgravity. I don't know how much more work has been done since, but maybe a trawl through materials science might yield a few products than are sufficiently valuable to consider making with near-term technology.

I remember there are a couple of journals on space economics and space policy - does anyone have access to these? Are there any neglected ideas worth a second look?

I appeal to our very knowledgeable extropian community - between us we must know of some proposals that make some sort of sense or that can be re-examined in the light of today's situation.

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