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This week, the space shuttle Enterprise made low altitude passes over D.C. and New York City on the way to its retirement on the deck of the USS Intrepid, and despite setbacks, America's love affair with space travel was on full display up and down the east coast. Sadly, we find ourselves without ground to orbit capability, even as the sleek spacecraft wowed onlookers below one last time. But that does not have to be permanent. In that spirit of optimism, a little more info on the asteroid miners featured here last week, came out:

Asteroid mining promises to be a multidecade effort requiring many billions of dollars of investment. But in that respect — and in the technological challenges that must be overcome — it's similar to deep-sea oil drilling, said Planetary Resources co-founder and co-Chairman Peter Diamandis.

"They've literally created robotic cities on the bottom of the ocean, 5, 10 thousand feet below the ocean's surface — fully robotic cities that then mine 5 to 10 thousand feet down below the ocean floor to gain access to oil," Diamandis said.

I can't imagine a better use for fossil fuel extraction technology than mining the asteroids for precious stardust forged in the heart of ancient supernova. Forget about the jobs or the science, think of the end goal: We're talking about panning for celestial gold!
  • Meanwhile, here on earth, two major pieces of the newspace technology essential for launching a fleet of asteroid recon probes, and/or using the resources of space to basically save humanity, have a big, big test flight coming up soon.
  • Cue the deadly nationalists and racial supremacists still lurking in the shadows on both sides of the pond: New evidence shows the earliest farming in Europe was brought in by immigrants, with a distinct suite of genetic markers, far to the east.
  • An amateur fossil hunter roaming around Kentucky found a 450 million year-old mystery, the large fossil of ... something, appears to have been preserved at the bottom of an ancient shallow ocean where the blue grass now grows.
  • Humans are indeed explorers, we are restless. But we're not the only residents of earth on the move. Other species do it, by land, air, and sea, most have been here for a lot longer than we have and are better equipped by evolution for the journey. Present day descendants of feathered dinosaurs have onboard GPS right down to the built in magnetic compasses.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 06:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Astro Kos and SciTech.

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Comment Preferences

  •  By (21+ / 0-)

    the time you read this I'll be carving the buttery glass on Lake Travis, trying not to break my back this time :) Enjoy.

  •  name the first expeditionary ship Ridley Scott (7+ / 0-)

    or Nostromo

    slutty voter for a "dangerous president"; Präsidentenelf-maßschach; Warning-Some Snark Above"Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) "Sciant terra viam monstrare." 政治委员, 政委!

    by annieli on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 06:16:20 AM PDT

  •  No ground to orbit capability? (6+ / 0-)

    that's FOX-style misinformation.  The US continues to launch satellites and probes on its many rockets.

    We're not sending up any manned rockets now but there's no important mission funded for people to go on anyway.

    Sending people into space just to send them into space is an expensive boondoggle.  Unmanned probes get far more science done for far less cost.

    •  No, it's not (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annieli, Athenian, jck, agnostic, xaxnar, AdamR510

      But it's not likely you'll be convinced otherwise, but perhaps this diary will make the case why manned space isn't a boondoggle it is essential.

      It's not about the science. Science is a hitch-hiker on the wanderings of humanity.

    •  The Chinese once had great fleets of (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      xaxnar, Pale Jenova, PeterHug, mythatsme

      Ocean crossing ships. They travelled around the horn of Africa, they reached the EAST coast of America, and they knew all about the south pacific. Then, a TeaBuggered emperor ordered the fleets home and burned them all down.

      China has yet to recover.

      Manned exploration is a necessity. I don't give a crap that we can do remote robotic flights. Good. Let's keep doing them. But just as a far more important goal, man's journey to the stars is far more important.

      What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

      by agnostic on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 08:22:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Once we had the capability of landing people on (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        agnostic

        the moon.

        Now, we have Sarah Palin.

        Maybe we can hitch a ride with the Chinese. They build everything of ours anyway.

        Sometimes . . . I feel . . . like a redneck with chopsticks . . . Dreaming of squirrel while I'm sucking down squid . . .

        by Pale Jenova on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 08:54:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Space elevators would do much to help solve (0+ / 0-)

      the quandary of "We have a bigger spaceship so we need more fuel. But to carry more fuel we need a bigger spaceship and for that we need more fuel. But to carry that fuel we need . . ."

      Sometimes . . . I feel . . . like a redneck with chopsticks . . . Dreaming of squirrel while I'm sucking down squid . . .

      by Pale Jenova on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 08:55:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Oh Give me a home Where the asteroids Roam (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    palantir, annieli, foresterbob, jck

    Response: If you "got it" you wouldn't be a republican

    by JML9999 on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 06:19:49 AM PDT

  •  Good Saturday morning music (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JML9999, palantir

    Slow thinkers - keep right

    by Dave the Wave on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 06:20:34 AM PDT

  •  "A Distinct Suite of Genetic Markers" Was Also (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    palantir, foresterbob

    found in a notable scientist doing PET scan work on serial killers. He discovered that he had the genetics of a sociopath / psychopath. But he never acted out in any way. Serious questions about genetics as we have known it is going to be next year's news for those who are not keeping up.

  •  In a recent article in ...... (5+ / 0-)

    The New York Review of Books titled "The Crisis of Big Science" Steven Weinberg had a few choice words to say about both the stingy funding of science and of human needs in this country in order to avoid the nasty five-letter word "taxes".  It seems that we really can't afford civilization, except for the lucky few.  Science is not the only victim of this attitude.

    I have serious doubts in regard to some projects that are being bandied about these days - Newt Gingrich's colony on the moon, for example (there are certainly better and worse ways to pursue scientific goals) - but still the worship of private money and individual gain may eventually destroy us.  Whether we like it or not civilization is a group effort and exploration of space and our own earth has to be a collective project, as Weinberg points out.  Some science simply will not be done by corporations as it will have little immediate payback, especially for the CEOs.

  •  I still have research papers (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli, foresterbob, jck, PeterHug

    from the 70s presented at conferences that were held to discuss various prospects of space colonization, including asteroid mining.  The papers discussed all kinds of scenarios and included the math, physics and sometimes cost-benefit analysis.

    Gerard O'Neill was one of the main leaders of these conferences.  He founded the SSI which still has archives of info on mining asteroids.  Check out the Space Studies Institute site where Freeman Dyson said about O'Neill:

    O’Neill founded the Space Studies Institute with the intention of introducing a new style into the world of space technology. His purpose was to organize small groups of people to develop the tools of space exploration independently of governments and to prove that private groups could get things done enormously cheaper and quicker than government bureaucracies. And to bring his vision of the free expansion of mankind into space to a wider public, O’Neill wrote books. His first book, The High Frontier (William Morrow, 1977) has been translated into many languages. It established O’Neill as spokesman for the people in many countries who believe that the settlement of space can bring tremendous beneflts to humanity and that this is too important a business to be left in the hands of national governments.

    I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

    by Satya1 on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 06:36:03 AM PDT

  •  Snarking aside, Space Travel => Space Industry (6+ / 0-)

    => Jobs.

    It's been my understanding that - while we furthermore do not lack ground to orbit payload launch capability - that the space launch industry in the US is becoming less and less a government industry, more and more a private industry, in the NewSpace domain.

    In any case - whether in the government-dominated space launch industry of the past, or in the transition stage that the industry may appear to be in today, or in the future become now, when the private space launch industry could be a well known feature of the national economic and cultural climates - in any case, that industry creates a lot of highly skilled technical jobs. In the private case, it creates those jobs fully within the competitive market - not only as a matter of contracted components. Personally, I'd say it's nothing to take for granted.

  •  Thanks DarkSyde (0+ / 0-)

    The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

    by a2nite on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 06:50:24 AM PDT

  •  CISPA... so why are we against science ? (0+ / 0-)

    CISPA Passes the House, Targets Terrorists, Pornographers and You - Forbes
    www.forbes.com
    CISPA hasn't inspired the same sort of rage that SOPA did when that bit of legislation set the internet on fire a few months ago. SOPA was pitched as an anti-piracy bill, and when the language implied that any site could be subject to blacklisting if there was even a

  •  This is the type of thinking the (0+ / 0-)

    administration should get behind.  Build a space elevator or something similar.  of course, after savaging Newt for talking about a moonbase, this will be off limits.

  •  How ironic would it be if the fossil in KY... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    foresterbob, jck, Aquarius40

    is directly below the creationism museum that opened down that way a few years ago?

    http://creationmuseum.org/

    Democracy seems a charade. Participation declines. Policy gets driven by the extremists. ~Lawrence Lessig

    by jim in IA on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 07:07:52 AM PDT

  •  If there is an unlimited supply (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beltane

    then are they still precious metals?

    •  Only dense materials are space mined (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PeterHug

      I don't know how we will ever get helium to replace the stuff that is depleting
      http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/...

      The issue is that helium was a byproduct of the large natural gas reservoirs. The helium was trapped just like the natural gas was trapped, and in large enough volumes to be able to be collected separately. With natural gas now collected by hydraulic fracturing, the helium is no longer there, free for the taking.

      This is not just a problem for party people and Steve Martin, but for real medical and physics research.

      Unlike precious metals, helium is actually a non-renewable resource.  I have no idea of a way that it can get recycled, unlike gold or platinum [or name your precious metal].  Once it escapes into the air, that's it. Goodbye helium. It diffuses to the top of the atmosphere and there it stays, occasionally getting enough kinetic energy to escape the g-forces.

      There is helium in space apparently but it is not dense enough to get cost-effectively mined.

    •  My Prescious! (0+ / 0-)

      What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

      by agnostic on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 08:24:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bird navigation... (0+ / 0-)

    Since birds have such sophisticated navigation systems in their small brains, calling somebody "bird-brained" isn't a slur after all.

    I'm one of those people who can find just about any piece of land, anywhere.  And just as importantly, return to my starting point without getting lost.  Call me bird-brained if you wish.

  •  Goldman Sachs will have Asteroid Backed Securities (0+ / 0-)

    Or maybe they'll start a TALF (Term Asteroid-Backed Securities Loan Facility).

    Will NASA start a Troubled Asteroid Relief Program (TARP)?

    Are Asteroids too big to fail?

  •  ahhh $$$$.... time to protect your assteroid (0+ / 0-)
  •  The asteroid mine business plan, from what I've (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar

    read about it is really interesting. First, launch a swarm of small, cheap telescopes to survey for targets, then, once they've been found, land equipment that will extract water and gases BEFORE mining for minerals. Learn how to live on a space rock before digging for gold.

    If we have to have billionaires, at least they could do something like this instead of racing yachts.

  •  That Enterprise fly by in NYC was something to (0+ / 0-)

    see.

    From Facebook (hope it links)....  here

    The Muslim said "I wished I had met Christ before I met the Christians" - Rev. Marvin Winins

    by captainlaser on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 08:09:56 AM PDT

  •  Wait--I got one more: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, Aquarius40

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 08:15:49 AM PDT

  •  Forgive my duplicity on repeating "roam" (0+ / 0-)

    Slow thinkers - keep right

    by Dave the Wave on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 08:16:26 AM PDT

  •  All Rhodes lead to Roam (0+ / 0-)

    (/pun) scholarly pursuits will always drive exploration and discovery.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 08:18:29 AM PDT

  •  Meanwhile in England, New Rocket Technology (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mythatsme

    Courtesy of the BBC, testing of a new hybrid rocket engine design that could make SSTO practical.

    The proposed Skylon vehicle would operate like an airliner, taking off and landing at a conventional runway.

    Its major innovation is the Sabre engine, which can breathe air like a jet at lower speeds but switch to a rocket mode in the high atmosphere.

    Reaction Engines Limited (REL) believes the test campaign will prove the readiness of Sabre's key elements.

    This being so, the firm would then approach investors to raise the £250m needed to take the project into the final design phase.

    "We intend to go to the Farnborough International Air Show in July with a clear message," explained REL managing director Alan Bond.

    "The message is that Britain has the next step beyond the jet engine; that we can reduce the world to four hours - the maximum time it would take to go anywhere. And that it also gives us aircraft that can go into space, replacing all the expendable rockets we use today."

    In atmosphere, it can take in air to burn its hydrogen fuel so it doesn't have to carry oxygen for the entire flight from ground to orbit - just enough to take over when the air gets too thin. The secret is a way to cool/slow air down at supersonic speeds to make it usable in a combustion chamber. The technology is still in the testing/development stage, but it holds great promise.

    Some background at New Scientist. This is the kind of thing we should be funding here as well.

    Additional Comment:

    I have to wonder if NASA would have had more support for funding the shuttle program and a replacement IF they'd been able to do fly-bys like this while the program was still active. Would it really have been that big a deal to have used ferry flights for a short barnstorming tour those times when shuttles had to be moved around?

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 08:28:03 AM PDT

  •  This diary makes me want to bust out my copy (0+ / 0-)

    of the board game 2038: Tycoons of the Asteroid Belt.

    Anybody want to join the Asteroid League?

    Sometimes . . . I feel . . . like a redneck with chopsticks . . . Dreaming of squirrel while I'm sucking down squid . . .

    by Pale Jenova on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 08:58:48 AM PDT

  •  Shame no one asks a a geologist about this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DrTerwilliker

    Because my professional recommendation: don't bother sinking any money into asteroid mining schemes. In your lifetime. Ever.

    Reason: the economics make no goddamn sense whatsoever.

    At issue there are two problems: first is the expense of getting there and back with the supply given present technology. If there were solid gold bricks, all waiting to be loaded, it isn't economical to go to the Moon, or a nearby asteroid, and pick them up, let alone mine and refine on site. You can't possibly get enough revenue from the sale to cover the expense.

    Second issue: the technology. Almost all mineral production, when it comes to mining and ore processing, involves a critical component: water. I leave out energy because I'll grant you solar power in space. Problem is that water isn't readily available at your average asteroid in quantities sufficient to process ore, and if someone starts talking about capturing comets, well, there's that nasty little "expense" thing again.

    And if you develop the techniques to process ore economically without having to use water, then there's the small problem that said technology probably could be used on Earth...where you don't have to provide life support for your workers, the products are a lot closer to market, the infrastructure is much cheaper, and the ore easier to get to. Current miners would love a process that didn't involve water because it would make the environmental impacts and costs of a project significantly lower.

    And while we're talking about Earth, it would be cheaper to start mining and reprocessing landfills for metals than it would to go into space. In fact, much of the metal cycle now has recycling built into the supply chain.

    Basically, mining the asteroids for metals to be used on Earth is, in the foreseeable future, a money-losing ridiculous concept. Asteroid mining for use in space is a completely different issue, but that requires a significant space presence (as in a large population with big infrastructure and huge demand for new construction) to be worthwhile. And thatisn't happening anytime soon.

  •  A funny thing happened... (0+ / 0-)

    ...on the way to the God Particle -

    neutral Xi_b^star baryon

    A new particle was discovered at LHC!

    "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." - Tom Robbins - Political Compass sez: -8.25, -7.90

    by ARS on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 09:44:05 AM PDT

  •  "She was used up" (0+ / 0-)

    The idea of mining anyplace else but here on earth reminds me of the kidnapping and serial rape/murder of Colleen Reid in Austin, Texas about 3 decades ago.

    She was snatched from a car wash and repeatedly raped by two men who drove around central Texas until, as one of them testified, "She was used up."  And then they murdered her and dumped her body out in the country.

    That is what we are doing to our earth.  Using her up and then murdering her and dumping her body in the countryside to be food for scavengers.  And then going on to our next act of destruction.

    It is a disgusting prospect that there are some who having raped and murdered the earth now want to perpetuate their acts upon the heavens as well.

    Whether your heaven is a metaphor for space or you take it literally, do we really want to do this?

  •  I consider myself a technology enthusiast, BUT (0+ / 0-)

    I can hardly find a polite term to describe this hyped up bullshit. Despite all the grandiose claims: More platinum than yada, yada, yada...despite the spunky billionaires and lots of happy talk, I get a sense of people who have not one goddamn clue about the technological immaturity of what they are talking about. If they want to invest their own money, fine. If they ask for yours, run...right after you call the nearest fraud protection unit.

    Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

    by tekno2600 on Sat Apr 28, 2012 at 09:23:29 PM PDT

    •  I felt a little twinge of remorse after posting (0+ / 0-)

      this. I basically do not disagree with starting to develop these types of technologies, but I think people should be very wary of the hype and wary to think they will make a return on such investments in the near future. I'd bet an asteroid full of platinum that not one ounce of platinum will be taken from an asteroid and returned to Earth in the next 20 years. So, I won't be investing my money in this anytime soon. However, obviously billionaires have more money to throw around than I do.

      Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

      by tekno2600 on Sun Apr 29, 2012 at 04:12:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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