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Showing posts from September, 2010

Mining The Moon: Closing The Business Case

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I recently read Platinum Moon by Bill White, in just 4 days, it's just that much of a page-turner. Clark Lindsey has written an extensive review, which is mostly positive but has this little dig at the end:

A kilogram of pure platinum today sells for something like $53,000/kg. On the Moon even rich PGM ore would have have to be extensively refined to get anywhere close to that purity. A kilogram of raw ore would be worth a tiny fraction of that.

Until there are fully reusable vehicles flying frequently enough to LEO to bring costs there down to the low hundreds of dollars per kg, it's difficult to see how space mining can even begin to be viable.
My first reaction is to suggest that obviously high purity enrichment of platinum should be done on the Moon, and only "pure platinum" returned to the Earth - but I should first point out that Platinum Moon made the realistic argument that lunar platinum would be worth a lot more than market value in the form of commemorati…

Some Retrospective Space Policy

It's been a while since I said anything about space policy. This is primarily because the whole ball of wax can be summarized as, well, a big fat mess. As many of you are likely aware, I was an avid viewer of the Augustine committee when it was on, all 37+ hours of it, and still think they did a fantastic job with what they had to work with.

However, in retrospect, I think Norm Augustine hit the nail on the head when he started talking about "blue plate" options vs the alternatives that stuck within the existing NASA budget. I bet if they had to do it all over again they would have changed the balance to include more of the affordable options and less of the blue plate options.

Perhaps they could have worked out the completion dates and total prices of the various components of Constellation program under the "restricted" budget (aka, the "real" budget) including the options of splashing the ISS in 2015 and without. As Augustine himself said "…

Engineering An Asteroid Close Approach

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I've been posting lately about the threat large asteroids pose to Earth, human missions to smaller asteroids, and the opportunities that will exist in the next few decades to do so. Up until this point, my analysis has been mostly for my own education and amusement, but I'd like to make a suggestion now which I haven't seen published in the literature or seriously discussed in either NASA working groups or even in the space advocacy community.

I'd like to suggest that we need not wait for an appropriate asteroid to come within range of Earth and plan human missions around just those opportunities - we can engineer a perfect close approach.

Next year, at the start of June, the asteroid 2009 BD will pass within the orbit of the Moon. Even though it is not a rare occurrence, few opportunities such as this have been identified, and realistically, no-one is going to be ready to send a human mission to an asteroid for years to come.

It seems a shame to let this close app…

Rusty Schweickart Explains The Asteroid Threat

I don't think he's given a better lecture than this.