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Response to caseymoz (Reply #65)

Sat Apr 21, 2012, 06:16 PM

67. You need to look at more than just one small segment of the problem.

Before you call it a wash.

There are two options for processing an asteroid:

bring back raw asteroidal material, or

process it on-site to bring back only processed materials, and produce fuel propellant for the return trip.

It appears most likely we will choose option 2 because the equipment required to process asteroidal material is simple. The question is: How much we will process the material? Do we want to return only metal granules and ices? At what purity?

The next few sections cover only processing of asteroidal material. Transport of the asteroidal materials was covered in the web section on transportation, but it's notable that fuel propellants would be one product of asteroidal materials. If chemical rocketry is chosen then hydrogen and oxygen will likely be produced from water when needed. Likewise for alternative propulsion methods, e.g., instead of using chemical rocketry, use steam rockets which consume only water without any further processing.

The environment for mining and processing

One should fully understand the environment in which we are working.

An asteroid the size of a domed football stadium filled with ore (roughly equivalent to 100 meters wide, tall and long), contains 2,000,000 tons of material. (In comparison, the space shuttle has maximum capacity of less than 30 tons.)

The surface gravity of this 100 meter asteroid would be practically zero -- less than one ten-thousandth that of the Moon. The excape velocity would be around 0.3 kilometers per hour (0.2 miles per hour), or 0.1 meter per second. Drop an object at arm's length and it would take 5 minutes to fall to the ground.

If you have an asteroid double the size and hence seven times the mass, the gravity only doubles at its surface (since the surface is further from the center of mass).

This means that you don't launch and land on an asteroid the same way you do on the Moon, and you use propellant differently. Landing and relaunching using just a locking spring is not a bad idea, for example.

http://www.permanent.com/a-mining.htm

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