Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 08-03-2019, 01:48 PM
Saint Cad is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: N of Denver & S of Sanity
Posts: 13,362

What planet/moon in the solar system is best one to colonize?


I've been watching a video on why not to colonize Mars and it struck me that SD would be a great spot to discuss solar system colonization. So let's get to it.

Assuming we are self-sufficient with food (hydroponics), water (recycling), oxygen (scrubbing & electrolysis) and power (nuclear) what solar system body is the best to colonize and why?

Moon: very close - only 3 days away if necessary but the dust is a major issue that would need to be dealt with.

Mars: The classic colony planet but critically thinking about it there are a ton of downsides (see video above)

Venus: Whuh?! It's the most inhospitable planet! But there is an argument that a cloud city is the best place to inhabit. From wikipedia
Quote:
Landis has proposed aerostat habitats followed by floating cities, based on the concept that breathable air (21:79 oxygen/nitrogen mixture) is a lifting gas in the dense carbon dioxide atmosphere, with over 60% of the lifting power that helium has on Earth.[9] In effect, a balloon full of human-breathable air would sustain itself and extra weight (such as a colony) in midair. At an altitude of 50 kilometres (31 mi) above the Venerian surface, the environment is the most Earth-like in the Solar System a pressure of approximately 1 atm or 1000 hPa and temperatures in the 0 to 50 C (273 to 323 K; 32 to 122 F) range. Protection against cosmic radiation would be provided by the atmosphere above, with shielding mass equivalent to Earth's.[
Europa: I know we can recycle our water but a place colonizing a place where there is water already has got to be considered.

Titan: I've heard this option thrown around. Despite all of the hydrocarbons there's no way the air is worse than Los Angeles. It makes more sense as a mining colony but then how do you get all of the hydrocarbons from there to Earth in a cost-effective manner?

Other: Please explain.
__________________
If all else fails, try S.C.E. to Aux.
  #2  
Old 08-03-2019, 02:18 PM
naita is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Norway
Posts: 6,584
The Moon, because if we can't make it there, we can't make it anywhere.
  #3  
Old 08-03-2019, 02:27 PM
Darren Garrison's Avatar
Darren Garrison is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
Posts: 11,303
All of the choices are really, really horrible. The best option is spinning tin cans.
  #4  
Old 08-03-2019, 02:33 PM
Urbanredneck is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 7,541
Quote:
Originally Posted by Darren Garrison View Post
All of the choices are really, really horrible. The best option is spinning tin cans.
I agree. Orbiting space stations with industries centered around zero gravity.

Maybe there could be some mining or research colonies on some planets/moons/asteroids but no serious colonies to the effect of whole families living there & raising children and such.
  #5  
Old 08-03-2019, 03:21 PM
k9bfriender is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 11,270
The moon does have going for it that it's the closest body to the Earth, so there's that. Pretty much everything else about it sucks though. I don't know if the dust has to be as much of a problem. It doesn't migrate very quickly, so if you clean up an area, it will only need to be touched up every once in a while. Seems you could use electrostatics to repel dust from objects that you don't want dusty, and to attract it to sacrificial "lightning rods".

Not sure exactly what you do on the moon that can't be better done in space outside a gravity well. Building magnetic accelerators to send probes to planets or even eventually to interstellar space is about the only thing I can think of that it would be good for.

Mars sucks almost as much as the moon, and it's much further as well. Be fun for scientific exploration and may tourism, but I don't see a driving need to fill it up with people. In my sci-fi world that I run games in, it is a planet of war. It has not use but to be fought over to demonstrate the might of various factions.

Venus is interesting, with its semi-habitable upper atmosphere, but it's fairly problematic to try to do anything there. It could make a good prison colony, I suppose, but I can't think that anyone would volunteer to live there.

Anywhere you go, you are going to need substantial shielding between you and the harshness of space. We have a nice atmosphere and magnetic field that protect us here, but elsewhere is going to need physical barriers.

Asteroids is where it is really at. There are some that actually are easier to get to than to the moon (the window's short, but the delta-v is low), and most are going to be easier than Venus or Mars. You don't even have to *dig* on most of them, they are just gravel piles loosely held together by the slight gravity they exert. You could probably bury your spacecraft in an asteroid simply by pushing into it a bit. Drop a spinning station inside, and you have an asteroid colony.
  #6  
Old 08-03-2019, 03:30 PM
Sage Rat's Avatar
Sage Rat is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Howdy
Posts: 21,667
Obviously, terraforming and Dyson spheres are amazing and all of that but, in terms of learning to crawl before you learn how to invent the self-walking mecha power suit, we probably need to start with some smaller concepts in mind.

The first thing is to note that the key component to colonizing space is the financial viability of it.

Right now, for example, outside of some scientists, a few die-hard explorers, and some penguins there aren't a lot of people in Antarctica. But, on the day that they discover that there is a boat-load of unobtanium under the ice and a very efficient means of extracting it, you're suddenly going to see some real-sized towns forming down there and people figuring out the technology for heated sidewalks.

Space needs to be profitable. All other initiatives of any size are dead on arrival until that's solved.

In theory, there is a fair amount of unobtanium in various forms available in space. But that brings us to our second point: Gravity sucks and is expensive to overcome.

If you're mining ore, having to haul it off the surface of Mars or the Moon or anywhere else is like trying to mine something that weighs ten tons per ounce, haul it a few thousand miles, and expect that you're somehow going to hit a reasonable price point on the market after paying for all the logistics of hauling something that weighs ten tons per ounce a few thousand miles.

The key to space expansion, if there is one, is in mining near-Earth asteroids. In theory, that allows us to create a continuously operating "factory" in outer space that's constantly mining ore and chucking it down to Earth to be picked up. You can amortize the "fighting gravity" part of building the factory over the long-term of having gravity somewhat on your side, once you're in production. You don't have to fight gravity for every single shipment (though, you do have to contend with your orbital velocity - but only enough to break orbit).

And note that this is still, in all practical senses, a large and nigh-impossible task with our current technology and commitment levels if we're talking about trying to develop something that's profitable over any reasonable period (e.g. 20-30 years). Colonizing a planet is massively beyond that. We can't even colonize a chunk of ocean, 20 feet deep.

But, thirdly, asteroid mining is almost certainly a necessary step towards colonization because, again, you have to contend with gravity and economics.

Engineering is most successful when you can focus on a very specific task and eliminate the amount of variety you're contending with.

If you have to build a Colony ShipTM that can take off from Earth and which already contains everything you need to fly across the galaxy, restaurants, theaters, dance halls, food, farms, sleeping quarters, schools, hospitals, etc. - that's going to be a damn-heavy thing. And not just heavy, massive as well. Almost certainly, too massive to be structurally sound enough to withstand the forces necessary for launch.

Versus, if you just have a ship that simply gets humans off Earth far enough to get largely out of our gravitational pull, with no food, no accommodations, it's just a single-purpose box - that's a far more achievable task in terms of finding a solution that's not too insanely expensive (rail launchers, space elevators, laser propulsion rockets, etc.) And that's what you want because, outside of humans and maybe some seeds, you don't want to use anything from Earth for space travel.

Aluminum is fungible. If we mined it out of an asteroid, it works just as well as aluminum which was mined from the surface of the Earth. But, to get your Earth aluminum into outer space costs way more than using aluminum which is already out there.

Minus Star Trek's transporter technology, humans aren't elementally fungible. We can't vaporize the ones here and reconstruct them at the other end out of raw elements. Us and other complex life are the only things that have to be brought out of Earth's gravity well and, from an economic standpoint, that's the only thing worth bringing out of the gravity well.

So you need mines and factories floating around in outer space as a prerequisite to building your space "shipyard" so that you can build your Colony ShipTM.

We're probably a hundred or more years away from getting to that point.

By the time we do, we might realize that planetary colonization is a waste of time.

Because, we have to consider point 4: Planets are horrible.

Right now, if you wanted to live on Mars, it's sort of like deciding to live under the ocean, in a tin can, where (for reasons unspecified) you have to live upside down and walk around with magnet boots. Should we, through magic, achieve some amount of terraforming of the planet, then it will be like you're now living at the South Pole, still upside down, walking around with magnet boots. Woo-HOO!

You have a significant difference in the level of available light, vastly different gravity, different day lengths, etc. The human body is simply not made for Mars. Being able to grow plants on it and breath the air doesn't suddenly make it a pleasant place to live. You're not actually going to be much more comfortable down there than you would be in outer space. It's all uncomfortable. But it's probably easier, in actuality, to make space comfortable than a planetary surface.

A space station is smaller, it's all man-made and modifiable, and the technologies will have a longer development history so they'll all be ahead of terraforming technologies. Forcing an entire planet to become like Earth is a far larger task than forcing a small metal box to become so.

And there's no real benefit to going down to a planet, in many ways. Once you go down, you have to bring everything back up again. Why add that cost? If you've developed society enough for space to be a self-sustaining market, then planets are just asteroids too large to mine and too expensive to mine, because of their gravity well.

The only case where another planet becomes a genuine source of attraction is, realistically, if we genetically engineer ourselves at the same time as we terraform, so that we can get a fully satisfying experience that's better than living in a space station.

But, by that token, if we can do that then we can genetically engineer ourselves to be perfectly adapted to living in outer space so that it's the most comfortable place for us, period.

And all of that is assuming that we don't all start living in Second Life or some similar virtual reality in the next 50 years - with infinite exploration and endless possibilities - and simply stop having so many babies so that we don't have to worry about expanding our physical production capabilities.

If we can genetically engineer ourselves, all fear of nuclear war goes away because we can engineer the killer aspect of our nature out. No more need to colonize the galaxy, to ensure our continued survival.

Should we get to the point where we start trying to colonize space, though, step 1 will be to colonize "space", not another gravity well.
  #7  
Old 08-03-2019, 03:34 PM
Velocity is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 14,880
The main pro of Mars, and con of Venus, is that it is probably easier to generate heat than it is to eliminate heat.
  #8  
Old 08-03-2019, 03:39 PM
Darren Garrison's Avatar
Darren Garrison is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
Posts: 11,303
Quote:
Originally Posted by k9bfriender View Post
I don't know if the dust has to be as much of a problem. It doesn't migrate very quickly
Not so fast? Not so fast!
  #9  
Old 08-03-2019, 04:03 PM
k9bfriender is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 11,270
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sage Rat View Post
Space needs to be profitable. All other initiatives of any size are dead on arrival until that's solved.

In theory, there is a fair amount of unobtanium in various forms available in space. But that brings us to our second point: Gravity sucks and is expensive to overcome.

If you're mining ore, having to haul it off the surface of Mars or the Moon or anywhere else is like trying to mine something that weighs ten tons per ounce, haul it a few thousand miles, and expect that you're somehow going to hit a reasonable price point on the market after paying for all the logistics of hauling something that weighs ten tons per ounce a few thousand miles.

The key to space expansion, if there is one, is in mining near-Earth asteroids. In theory, that allows us to create a continuously operating "factory" in outer space that's constantly mining ore and chucking it down to Earth to be picked up. You can amortize the "fighting gravity" part of building the factory over the long-term of having gravity somewhat on your side, once you're in production. You don't have to fight gravity for every single shipment (though, you do have to contend with your orbital velocity - but only enough to break orbit).
The good thing about mining things in space is that we are currently spending thousands of dollars a pound to get it up there. Already having it there saves a bit of resources. While I see some of the stuff shipped back to earth, (platinum group metals and the like), most of it is better being up there. Satellites is a big business, and if you can save the cost of them by using resources in space, rather than launching them from earth, then that will be economically viable.

If you cannot build electronics or complex machines in space, you can still build scaffolding and trusses other structural materials. You can then put them together in space, and so your satellite doesn't have to be built to be able to withstand the violence of a launch. It can be bigger, as it doesn't have to fit in a fairing, and you don't have to have complex systems that unfold solar panels or telescope, as those can be simply built in their final positions.

Once you start having any manufacturing in space, then everything becomes easier to scale up.
  #10  
Old 08-03-2019, 04:14 PM
k9bfriender is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 11,270
Quote:
Originally Posted by Darren Garrison View Post
Not so fast? Not so fast!
That's about dust blown around by rocket exhaust.

I'll get back with it if I can find it, but a little while back, I saw a paper talking about the "dust atmosphere" of the moon, and one of the points that it was making was that, while the dust could reach rather high altitudes, there was very little lateral movement, suggesting that if you were able to clear an area of dust, it would stay mostly dust free for a reasonable period of time.

Anyway, dust is only one of the many downsides of the moon.
  #11  
Old 08-04-2019, 08:10 AM
PoppaSan's Avatar
PoppaSan is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: West shore Lake Michigan
Posts: 2,344
Quote:
Originally Posted by naita View Post
The Moon, because if we can't make it there, we can't make it anywhere.
I thought that was New York?
__________________
This place is beginning to feel like a tin foil hat convention.
  #12  
Old 08-04-2019, 08:19 AM
Happy Lendervedder's Avatar
Happy Lendervedder is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Michigan
Posts: 15,093
Quote:
Originally Posted by Urbanredneck View Post
I agree. Orbiting space stations with industries centered around zero gravity.

Maybe there could be some mining or research colonies on some planets/moons/asteroids but no serious colonies to the effect of whole families living there & raising children and such.
I have heard that Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids.
  #13  
Old 08-04-2019, 08:35 AM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor's Avatar
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Dogpatch/Middle TN.
Posts: 31,061
Quote:
Originally Posted by Darren Garrison View Post
All of the choices are really, really horrible. The best option is spinning tin cans.
Or inside Asteroids.
__________________
"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist."
~~~Dom Helder Camara
  #14  
Old 08-04-2019, 09:59 AM
Icerigger's Avatar
Icerigger is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: The Keystone State
Posts: 3,419
At least on Titan you would not need a pressure suit. You would need oxygen and a very warm coat but it would be less of a burden than wearing an inflated gas bag.
  #15  
Old 08-04-2019, 11:18 AM
Kobal2's Avatar
Kobal2 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Paris, France
Posts: 18,396
Ocean floor seems more doable than any space adventure. And what with climate change and everything, it's even somewhat practical !
  #16  
Old 08-04-2019, 12:19 PM
Sage Rat's Avatar
Sage Rat is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Howdy
Posts: 21,667
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kobal2 View Post
Ocean floor seems more doable than any space adventure. And what with climate change and everything, it's even somewhat practical !
It does seem like SpaceX or someone should be trying to build an undersea habitat, if they're actually thinking about going to Mars.

Or *gasp* maybe that's not actually in their plans despite what they advertise!
  #17  
Old 08-04-2019, 01:02 PM
MrDibble's Avatar
MrDibble is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Cape Town, South Africa &
Posts: 25,877
The best choice is the Moon...'s binary planetary partner. Kobal2 is right.
  #18  
Old 08-04-2019, 01:44 PM
Darren Garrison's Avatar
Darren Garrison is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
Posts: 11,303
Quote:
Originally Posted by Icerigger View Post
At least on Titan you would not need a pressure suit. You would need oxygen and a very warm coat but it would be less of a burden than wearing an inflated gas bag.

Titan −179.5C/-291F; coldest temp recorded on Earth −89C/−128F. Better be one doozy of a coat.
  #19  
Old 08-05-2019, 09:02 PM
Sam Stone is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Posts: 28,116
The answer is the Moon - by a large margin.

Specifically, the most hospitable place for humans in our solar system other than Earth is the inside of a lava tube on the moon. Inside a lava tube you are protected from temperature extremes (it's a constant -20 or so inside one), micrometeorites, solar wind, and cosmic rays. The dust problem goes away.

And we're not talking about living in a cave like on Earth. Lunar lava tubes are massive. The tube in the Marius Hills has an opening about 70m wide, and the tube appears to be almost a kilometer in width in places, with a ceiling perhaps half a kilometer high in parts. Seal that and pressurize it, and you could put a million people in it. It's basically a pre-built O'Neill space colony structure inside the moon.

Of course, pressurizing such a thing is a pipe dream with today's technology - but then, so is terraforming Mars. And pressurizing a lava tube would be orders of magnitude easier than terraforming a planet. In the meantime, we can install inflatable habs in them without needing to shield them in any way.

But then the question becomes, what do we do on the Moon? How do we make it profitable enough to warrant a permanent manned settlement there? None of the answers to that are easy, but they ARE much easier than trying to figure out how to sustain a colony on Mars. For example, the moon is close enough that tourism might be part of the answer. But the moon also has a LOT of water, and each time we look for more, we seem to find it. There are at least 500 million tonnes of water at the South Pole in permanently shadowed craters, and probably a similar amount at the north pole. But water can also be found in the regolith in the northern and southern regions, and water can also be found in volcanic beads in places like the Aristarchus Plateau.

The lunar regolith is also made up of about 45% oxygen, and contains high abundances of titanium, aluminum, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and other elements useful for building a lunar infrastructure. If the polar craters also contain volatiles from comets and asteroids, there could be nitrogen and other necessary chemicals in large abundance.

Mining the moon has advantages as well. For one thing, there is no weather. The environment is virtually unchanging, which makes it a lot easier to build efficient mining equipment. An excavator on Earth has to worry about mud, snow, erosion, plant life, yada yada. On the moon, not so much.

For example, the Aristarchus Plateau is covered in pyroclastic deposits - glass beads from fire fountaining volcanos. There are thousands of square kilometers of the stuff. Among other chemicals, it contains about 500 ppm of water. That doesn't sound like much, but an automated, solar powered excavator could process millions of pounds of regolith and extract a lot of water, oxygen, iron, titanium, aluminum and other chemicals contained in those beads.

Most of those stuff wouldn't be worth exporting to Earth, but it would make building and sustaining a colony MUCH cheaper. And the water could be cracked into hydrogen and oxygen and sold as rocket fuel, delivered to lunar orbit to fuel deep-space mining vehicles or any other spacecraft.

Doing anything other than tourism profitably on the moon is no doubt decades away, but I can't even see a path to any kind of exploitation of Mars. And in the end, that's what matters. No bucks, no Buck Rogers.

Last edited by Sam Stone; 08-05-2019 at 09:05 PM.
  #20  
Old 08-06-2019, 03:17 AM
MrDibble's Avatar
MrDibble is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Cape Town, South Africa &
Posts: 25,877
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Stone View Post
The lunar regolith is also made up of about 45% oxygen
That's a little misleading - there's 0% free oxygen in regolith, so getting that oxygen is going to require quite a bit of energy, and possibly other materials like hydrogen or methane.
  #21  
Old 08-06-2019, 06:33 AM
Urbanredneck is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 7,541
Quote:
Originally Posted by k9bfriender View Post
The good thing about mining things in space is that we are currently spending thousands of dollars a pound to get it up there. Already having it there saves a bit of resources. While I see some of the stuff shipped back to earth, (platinum group metals and the like), most of it is better being up there. Satellites is a big business, and if you can save the cost of them by using resources in space, rather than launching them from earth, then that will be economically viable.
.
I have trouble seeing how they could put a smelting or ore processing plant in space. I mean yes you have your raw ore but thats got to be broken down into0 the various metals and then melted and purified then you get your basic metal bars and only then can you turn that into something useful.

Doable but expensive.
  #22  
Old 08-06-2019, 06:53 AM
Two Many Cats is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Chicago
Posts: 4,823
Quote:
Originally Posted by PoppaSan View Post
I thought that was New York?
No, New York is "Make it there, make it anywhere."

Chicago is "Can't make it there, can't make it anywhere."

Big, BIG difference.
  #23  
Old 08-06-2019, 06:58 AM
RTFirefly is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Maryland
Posts: 39,246
Earth.

Our planet will continue to be more hospitable to human life than any other body in our solar system, even after overpopulation, global warming, nuclear war, and whatever else we can throw at it. Best plan is to take care of what we've got.
  #24  
Old 08-06-2019, 07:03 AM
kanicbird is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 1999
Posts: 19,519
Right now the moon is the only choice due to it being close enough to be supported by earth and not depending on any resources not earth based, with the possible exception of power. It would allow time to explore how to get at those lunar resources while not needing them.

The only other one that is currently feasible is the long shot to mars, but that requires so much to go right all the time because no help from earth can be expected.

Venus is reachable but we have not really considered how a floating base could work and if anything ground based could be gotten from that height. One may be confined to the sky and the gases one can gather.

Europa & Titan is too far for the transit to it to be in the running. The trip to europa alone would enough of a challenge.

But once we go the moon and learning how to actually be self sufficient over time is the stepping stone we need. It has the advantage over spinning tin cans that resources are there.

Last edited by kanicbird; 08-06-2019 at 07:06 AM.
  #25  
Old 08-06-2019, 07:46 AM
Foggy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: San Francisco, CA
Posts: 2,186
Quote:
Originally Posted by RTFirefly View Post
Earth.

Our planet will continue to be more hospitable to human life than any other body in our solar system, even after overpopulation, global warming, nuclear war, and whatever else we can throw at it. Best plan is to take care of what we've got.
Second. Colonizing Earth is our only hope, Obie Won.
  #26  
Old 08-06-2019, 08:01 AM
Broomstick's Avatar
Broomstick is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: NW Indiana
Posts: 28,725
Quote:
Originally Posted by Urbanredneck View Post
I have trouble seeing how they could put a smelting or ore processing plant in space. I mean yes you have your raw ore but thats got to be broken down into0 the various metals and then melted and purified then you get your basic metal bars and only then can you turn that into something useful.

Doable but expensive.
Some parts of a smelter/processor might have to be brought up from Earth for the first unit, but solar power in Earth orbit is plentiful for electricity for control systems, and if you just want heat you can use mirrors to focus sunlight on a point/area, which is less expensive than photovolataic arrays.

Once you get the first smelter/production facility set up you can use it to build more, which will be cheaper because you won't have to lift so much out of a gravity well.
  #27  
Old 08-06-2019, 08:53 AM
XT's Avatar
XT is offline
Agnatheist
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: The Great South West
Posts: 35,256
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saint Cad View Post
I've been watching a video on why not to colonize Mars and it struck me that SD would be a great spot to discuss solar system colonization. So let's get to it.

Assuming we are self-sufficient with food (hydroponics), water (recycling), oxygen (scrubbing & electrolysis) and power (nuclear) what solar system body is the best to colonize and why?

Moon: very close - only 3 days away if necessary but the dust is a major issue that would need to be dealt with.

Mars: The classic colony planet but critically thinking about it there are a ton of downsides (see video above)

Venus: Whuh?! It's the most inhospitable planet! But there is an argument that a cloud city is the best place to inhabit. From wikipedia


Europa: I know we can recycle our water but a place colonizing a place where there is water already has got to be considered.

Titan: I've heard this option thrown around. Despite all of the hydrocarbons there's no way the air is worse than Los Angeles. It makes more sense as a mining colony but then how do you get all of the hydrocarbons from there to Earth in a cost-effective manner?

Other: Please explain.
I suppose it depends on what you mean by colonize. If you are talking about a small colony, maybe a research colony or a mining colony or something along those lines, then the moon is pretty clearly the best place to do that initially. It has everything we would need to start such a venture. It's close, so we can logistically support it. There is very little communications lag. It's got the raw materials to build such a colony and use in situ resources for construction as well as shielding. It has minerals and other resources that could make it a refueling stop as well as a place to gather other resources and produce things like water without having to ship it in. It's within our technical capabilities today to do it, if we chose too.

It's obviously not going to be a colony to move our population too. If that's what you mean, then the poster up thread who suggested 'spinning tin cans' has the right of it. Ultimately, IF humans ever managed to move a significant amount of it's population off this planet, that's how we'll do it IMHO. Such a move gives us basically unlimited space to have populations in the trillions, assuming we have access to the vast resources in this solar system. It would allow us go re-create specific eco-systems for endangered plant and animal life, or just because we want to have those habitats out there to enjoy and study. So, if you want to colonize on a large scale and your goal is to move a large percentage of the Earths population (of humans and other species) off planet so all our eggs aren't in the same basket, then 'spinning tin cans' is the way to go.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RTFirefly
Earth.

Our planet will continue to be more hospitable to human life than any other body in our solar system, even after overpopulation, global warming, nuclear war, and whatever else we can throw at it. Best plan is to take care of what we've got.
This is a possibility, if you could ensure one of the myriad disasters that has already happened won't happen again, and if you could figure out how to move it outward as the sun heats up, goes through it's red giant phase, then move it back closer and closer as it goes through it's white dwarf phase, maybe figure out how to create an artificial sun and take it on the road after that. Otherwise, we are just one disaster away from humans being wiped out, and if that happens at this stage, the clock is ticking for every species on the planet. They have approximately 500 million years (about the time since the Cambrian Explosion, IIRC), at most, from when the last human shuffles off before it's all gone. That certainly sounds like a long time, but it's going to be increasingly bad on the planet, even without humans fucking it up, and it's doubtful another sentient and potential space faring species will arise. Even if they do, they will probably have folks like you saying we should just stay here and be happy until the end.

I don't think this is an either or scenario. Not sure why we can't do both...colonize our solar system AND continue to maintain the Earth as long as it's viable. If we master colonizing the solar system then we will almost certainly learn a lot about how to reverse the damage we've done to this planet. We (well, or descendant species, if we go on) may even learn how to move the planet to squeeze some extra life out of it before the sun does it's thing.
__________________
-XT

That's what happens when you let rednecks play with anti-matter!
  #28  
Old 08-06-2019, 09:40 AM
spifflog is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 2,434
While it's not in the definition of the word "colony," to me the term always denotes a significant degree of self sufficiency. And as such, I always feel that it's a disingenuous term when applied to space, as I don't foresee any "colony" or "base" being sufficient, ever in space.

I'd prefer the term "base" in this type of discussion.

Am I alone in this?
  #29  
Old 08-06-2019, 09:51 AM
What Exit?'s Avatar
What Exit? is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Central NJ (near Bree)
Posts: 29,176
Quote:
Originally Posted by spifflog View Post
While it's not in the definition of the word "colony," to me the term always denotes a significant degree of self sufficiency. And as such, I always feel that it's a disingenuous term when applied to space, as I don't foresee any "colony" or "base" being sufficient, ever in space.

I'd prefer the term "base" in this type of discussion.

Am I alone in this?
Kind of, the biggest reason for a colony is to not have all our eggs in one basket as the saying goes. It is the goal to build self-sustaining colonies off planet in case of major nuclear or biological warfare, a dinosaur killer event or some other doomsday event.

Bases are great, but a Colony is better.

I don't think we can rely on rocket technology either way. We need to develop an electromagnetic catapult or some other sci-fi tech to move tonnage off planet far cheaper.
  #30  
Old 08-06-2019, 09:59 AM
XT's Avatar
XT is offline
Agnatheist
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: The Great South West
Posts: 35,256
Quote:
Originally Posted by spifflog View Post
While it's not in the definition of the word "colony," to me the term always denotes a significant degree of self sufficiency. And as such, I always feel that it's a disingenuous term when applied to space, as I don't foresee any "colony" or "base" being sufficient, ever in space.

I'd prefer the term "base" in this type of discussion.

Am I alone in this?
I doubt you are alone in that, as there are a lot of 'dopers who think space is a waste of time and resources wrt human exploration and colonization. But I think you are wrong in that we could build fully self sufficient colonies in space. They wouldn't initially be so, just as the early colonization of the new world still required quite a bit of goods, especially manufactured goods, to be shipped in. But whether we are talking about spinning tin cans or colonies on other moons or planets, there is nothing stopping them from eventually being self sufficient once they reach some kind of critical mass wrt population and infrastructure. I'd say that, in our collective lifetimes we are talking about a 'base' wrt any potential human off planet facilities. The current plan (subject to change of course) is for NASA and the same international community that built the ISS to build basically another space station, this time in lunar orbit and for NASA to build a facility on the moon that could be used for weeks or even months at a time for research and exploration. It's a good plan but I don't think it's been funded, so it probably won't happen...certainly not by 2024. But eventually I could see something like that happening. I expect it will in my lifetime, in fact, as I expect the first tests of asteroid mining to be attempted in that time frame and for a mission to Mars.
__________________
-XT

That's what happens when you let rednecks play with anti-matter!
  #31  
Old 08-06-2019, 10:26 AM
Foggy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: San Francisco, CA
Posts: 2,186
Quote:
But eventually I could see something like that happening. I expect it will in my lifetime, in fact, as I expect the first tests of asteroid mining to be attempted in that time frame and for a mission to Mars.
Eventually, sure. In the next 40 years, I'll be really surprised at anything more than a flag & footprints mission. (I'm 58).
  #32  
Old 08-06-2019, 10:57 AM
XT's Avatar
XT is offline
Agnatheist
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: The Great South West
Posts: 35,256
Quote:
Originally Posted by Foggy View Post
Eventually, sure. In the next 40 years, I'll be really surprised at anything more than a flag & footprints mission. (I'm 58).
A Mars mission couldn't possibly be a 'flag & footprints' mission. Ironically, after Apollo 11, neither were the moon missions that followed, even though that term is still used. But any mission to the moon today would be a lot more than flags and footprints. My WAG is IF we go to either destination, it will bring back some serious science as well as data.

I'm 59, and I expect to see such a mission sometime in my mid to late 60's. There are multiple countries going this route, as well as several private companies, so I'm pretty confident someone is going to be going to the moon and or Mars at some point.
__________________
-XT

That's what happens when you let rednecks play with anti-matter!

Last edited by XT; 08-06-2019 at 10:57 AM.
  #33  
Old 08-06-2019, 11:29 AM
scr4 is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Alabama
Posts: 15,957
Quote:
Originally Posted by What Exit? View Post
Kind of, the biggest reason for a colony is to not have all our eggs in one basket as the saying goes. It is the goal to build self-sustaining colonies off planet in case of major nuclear or biological warfare, a dinosaur killer event or some other doomsday event.
The counter-argument is, it's very hard to imagine the Earth environment degrading to the point where living in space is easier than surviving somewhere on Earth. Even in the extreme case of deadly biological weapon gone out of control, it's much easier to create a sealed, quarantined habitat on earth than elsewhere.

Last edited by scr4; 08-06-2019 at 11:30 AM.
  #34  
Old 08-06-2019, 11:35 AM
What Exit?'s Avatar
What Exit? is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Central NJ (near Bree)
Posts: 29,176
Quote:
Originally Posted by scr4 View Post
The counter-argument is, it's very hard to imagine the Earth environment degrading to the point where living in space is easier than surviving somewhere on Earth. Even in the extreme case of deadly biological weapon gone out of control, it's much easier to create a sealed, quarantined habitat on earth than elsewhere.
Not really, that is a counter argument to building colonies at all. I was just explaining the why of colonies over just bases.
  #35  
Old 08-06-2019, 11:40 AM
XT's Avatar
XT is offline
Agnatheist
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: The Great South West
Posts: 35,256
Quote:
Originally Posted by scr4 View Post
The counter-argument is, it's very hard to imagine the Earth environment degrading to the point where living in space is easier than surviving somewhere on Earth. Even in the extreme case of deadly biological weapon gone out of control, it's much easier to create a sealed, quarantined habitat on earth than elsewhere.
It's not hard to imagine at all...it WILL happen in the next 500 million years. And it's possible, even probable that something nasty (big rock from space, super volcano, gamma ray burst, etc) happening in the mean time and wiping out a large percentage of life, including all the humans.
__________________
-XT

That's what happens when you let rednecks play with anti-matter!
  #36  
Old 08-06-2019, 11:58 AM
scr4 is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Alabama
Posts: 15,957
Quote:
Originally Posted by XT View Post
It's not hard to imagine at all...it WILL happen in the next 500 million years. And it's possible, even probable that something nasty (big rock from space, super volcano, gamma ray burst, etc) happening in the mean time and wiping out a large percentage of life, including all the humans.
But if that's the rationale for building space colonies, we can accomplish the same goal by building sealed, self-sustaining colonies on multiple continents earth, possibly underground.
  #37  
Old 08-06-2019, 12:08 PM
XT's Avatar
XT is offline
Agnatheist
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: The Great South West
Posts: 35,256
Quote:
Originally Posted by scr4 View Post
But if that's the rationale for building space colonies, we can accomplish the same goal by building sealed, self-sustaining colonies on multiple continents earth, possibly underground.
How would that help to preserve habitats? How would it help for really nasty disasters that could wipe all life? How would it help for when the suns surface expands to where the Earth currently orbits? It won't.

The thing is, colonies, especially in large O'Neill cylinders or the like would allow us to have a large population off the planet, to move industry off the planet, to allow us to build habitats for other species off the planet, and to expand our population throughout this solar system. It would also mean that any one disaster affecting the planet wouldn't potentially end our species or even our entire version of life. I really don't see why we wouldn't do this AND try and preserve and repair the Earth, once we have the capability. If our version of life is to go on beyond perhaps a billion years or so we will have to...and it will have to BE us, as I seriously doubt that there is time for another species to climb up the intelligence and technological ladder to do it in the time left.
__________________
-XT

That's what happens when you let rednecks play with anti-matter!
  #38  
Old 08-06-2019, 12:09 PM
RTFirefly is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Maryland
Posts: 39,246
Quote:
Originally Posted by XT View Post
This is a possibility, if you could ensure one of the myriad disasters that has already happened won't happen again, and if you could figure out how to move it outward as the sun heats up, goes through it's red giant phase, then move it back closer and closer as it goes through it's white dwarf phase, maybe figure out how to create an artificial sun and take it on the road after that. Otherwise, we are just one disaster away from humans being wiped out, and if that happens at this stage, the clock is ticking for every species on the planet. They have approximately 500 million years (about the time since the Cambrian Explosion, IIRC), at most, from when the last human shuffles off before it's all gone. That certainly sounds like a long time
Yes, it does. It's a VERY LONG TIME.

Excuse me while I don't panic.
Quote:
I don't think this is an either or scenario. Not sure why we can't do both...colonize our solar system AND continue to maintain the Earth as long as it's viable.
Didn't say we can't. But I was answering the OP honestly: we can't fuck up this planet to the point where some other planet or moon or asteroid in the Solar System is more hospitable to human life.

But since you raise that question, such discussions have usually been about how we need to go somewhere else because we're fucking up this planet. That doesn't make sense for the reason I just gave.
  #39  
Old 08-06-2019, 12:10 PM
Sam Stone is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Posts: 28,116
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrDibble View Post
That's a little misleading - there's 0% free oxygen in regolith, so getting that oxygen is going to require quite a bit of energy, and possibly other materials like hydrogen or methane.
It's misleading because I didn't point out that it takes energy to get oxygen out of the Regolith? I guess I am assuming a level of basic knowledge where such things wouldn't have to be explained. You don't just stick a straw in the ground and suck.

But guess what the moon has lots of? Energy. A solar collector based smelter would be perfect for the moon. Lots of solar power, and the ground is a big heat sink. One of the problems with space-based manufacturing is shedding heat. In orbit, every industrial process generates lots of heat, and the only way to get rid of it is through radiation. The ISS has huge radiators for that reason. Orbital refining and smelting has large heat dissipation problems. On the moon, you can transfer heat into the ground, which is at -20c just a few feet below the surface.
  #40  
Old 08-06-2019, 12:16 PM
XT's Avatar
XT is offline
Agnatheist
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: The Great South West
Posts: 35,256
Quote:
Originally Posted by RTFirefly
Yes, it does. It's a VERY LONG TIME.

Excuse me while I don't panic.
Who said anything about panic??

Quote:
Didn't say we can't. But I was answering the OP honestly: we can't fuck up this planet to the point where some other planet or moon or asteroid in the Solar System is more hospitable to human life.
Sure we can. Also, WE dont' have too. There are plenty of things that could render this planet uninhabitable, or basically knock life back to perhaps some multi-cellular life forms.

Quote:
But since you raise that question, such discussions have usually been about how we need to go somewhere else because we're fucking up this planet. That doesn't make sense for the reason I just gave.
I didn't bring that up so I'm unsure why you are asking me. Myself, I think we need to expand our population off this planet for a variety of reasons, including it will take pressure off this planet, allow us to expand our population as much as we need too, allow us to move much of the industry and resource gathering off planet with obvious benefits to the planet, give us room to grow, and so all our eggs aren't in one basket and make us, as well as our version of life...well, not extinction proof, but harder to have a single extinction event that wiped out everything, or a lot of things, including us.
__________________
-XT

That's what happens when you let rednecks play with anti-matter!
  #41  
Old 08-06-2019, 12:39 PM
kaylasdad99 is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Anaheim, CA
Posts: 31,834
Quote:
Originally Posted by naita View Post
The Moon, because if we can't make it there, we can't make it anywhere.
Quote:
Originally Posted by PoppaSan View Post
I thought that was New York?
With our luck well get caught between them...
  #42  
Old 08-06-2019, 12:46 PM
Sam Stone is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Posts: 28,116
I think the talk of where to build a colony is somewhat confused, because we aren't just going to 'decide' it. It's going to happen organically through the needs of the marketplace, or it won't happen at all. We aren't going to 'plan' it. We can do small outposts by fiat, but when you are talking about a large thriving population, it will have to justify its cost or it will never be sustainable.

So let's talk about how such a colony could happen on the Moon. Let's say a company sends out some probes to the asteroids and discovers methods for profitably mining the them. Billions can be made, but the cost of getting out there and bringing back mass is severely limiting. There's a huge demand for a cheaper way. Billions will be made by whoever figures that out.

So, someone decides to build a fuel depot on the Moon. They do the math and realize that shipping oxygen and hydrogen sourced from lunar water into lunar orbit can be done at a good profit. So they start building facilities on the rim of Shackleton crater for mining the ice within. We have Musk's Starship, which can move people and material to the Moon for a small fraction of what it costs today.

Now another company comes along and realizes that they can build better habitats than the mining company, or better spacesuits, or whatever. Specialization brings more companies into the market, all trying to beat each other in cost and quality, Costs start to come down, reliability goes up, and even more money moves into the moon economy.

All this activity regularizes trips to the moon, and commercial availability of lunar equipment kicks off a golden age of exploration. Countries, large corporations and well-heeled individuals can sponsor their own lunar excursions. For example, there should be plenty of debris from asteroid collisions, and some of that debris will be very valuable. Or perhaps we will discover gas pockets on the moon, or discover Lava tubes filled with volatiles.

All this activity lowers prices enough that research labs begin to open. A giant radio telescope on the farside employs a dozen people, and they need food and water. Fifty people work in another facility doing other research, Several hundred construction workers are on the moon at any given time. Eventually, you get to the size where secondary markets are feasible - markets making and selling things to the other people on the Moon.

Then there are those lava tubes. Imagine living in 1/6 gravity in a dome with a roof a kilometer overhead and five kilometers in diameter. If we could figure out a way to put a breathable atmosphere in such a place, it would be amazing. There might be huge profit to be made just selling real estate in such a place to rich old retirees who can be more mobile than they've been in decades. In such a place you could strap on wings and just fly like a bird. With suitable lighting, it would feel like a different world, not a hole in the ground. You could build lakes and rivers, have blue sky and weather, etc.

The moon is about 12% void space in the crust. We have identified over 200 'skylights' into lava tubes. There are no doubt hundreds more to be discovered, Some of them likely have as much living space as major populated corridors on Earth, We're talking about underground spaces as much as a kilometer or two wide, hundreds if meters from roof to bottom, and tens to hundreds of kilometers long. The moon could probably support living space for a billion people, if there was an economic reason for doing it.

But those colonies, or colonies on any other planet, would not be self-sustaining. They might be able to feed themselves, but they won't survive long without Earth constantly providing high tech goods to replace the stuff that breaks down. There's no way we could replicate everything needed to survive off Earth. It would take a huge industrial base and millions of people just to build up the supply chains of intermediate goods. You don't just need to replace say, a broken compressor, but you need to refine the metals needed to make the ball bearings required to spin the motor, which requires copper wiring, which requires a smelter, which requires.... And so it goes. Millions of separate products, all with their own unique needs.

No, any long-lasting off-world population has to find enough of value to Earth that it can earn the money needed to trade for the things it can't make. So the 'best place for a colony' will turn out to be wherever that is. And right now, my money is on the Moon.
  #43  
Old 08-06-2019, 12:57 PM
Sam Stone is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Posts: 28,116
Quote:
Originally Posted by RTFirefly View Post
Yes, it does. It's a VERY LONG TIME.

Excuse me while I don't panic.Didn't say we can't. But I was answering the OP honestly: we can't fuck up this planet to the point where some other planet or moon or asteroid in the Solar System is more hospitable to human life.

But since you raise that question, such discussions have usually been about how we need to go somewhere else because we're fucking up this planet. That doesn't make sense for the reason I just gave.
We shouldn't go off Earth just as a safety valve for humanity. That would require true sustainable living without Earth in the picture, and that isn't happening. At least, not in any time frame that could matter to us.

No, the reason to get off Earth is because Earth is a closed system, and eventually will limit us or we will ruin it. But once we are able to exploit resources off Earth, there are no limits to growth. We can survive in style, not just huddled on a planet with diminishing resources.

For example, just one asteroid loaded with precious metals could not just shut down all that dirty mining, but make useful materials like gold and platinum so cheap that we could use it to dramatically improve our products. Gold is extremely useful, but we don't use it because of cost.

All this seems hideously expensive and non-feasible. And yet.... we drag oil out of the ground in the middle east, refine it, ship it across the ocean, the load it into tankers and ship it to destinations where it sells for less than an equivalently sized bottle of water. No one would have believed we could do anything like that a hundred years ago. When there is profit to be made, markets are very good at figuring out how to do it.

Last edited by Sam Stone; 08-06-2019 at 12:57 PM.
  #44  
Old 08-06-2019, 02:49 PM
scr4 is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Alabama
Posts: 15,957
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Stone View Post
For example, just one asteroid loaded with precious metals could not just shut down all that dirty mining, but make useful materials like gold and platinum so cheap that we could use it to dramatically improve our products. Gold is extremely useful, but we don't use it because of cost.
But we do use lots of gold. The computer or phone you are reading this on has many connectors with gold-coated pins. Many of us wear chunks of it just for decoration.

And worldwide gold production is around 2500 tons a year. Which asteroid has enough gold that we can shut down gold mining on earth?

Last edited by scr4; 08-06-2019 at 02:50 PM.
  #45  
Old 08-06-2019, 02:57 PM
XT's Avatar
XT is offline
Agnatheist
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: The Great South West
Posts: 35,256
Quote:
Originally Posted by scr4 View Post
But we do use lots of gold. The computer or phone you are reading this on has many connectors with gold-coated pins. Many of us wear chunks of it just for decoration.

And worldwide gold production is around 2500 tons a year. Which asteroid has enough gold that we can shut down gold mining on earth?
Um...well, with a 2 second search, I found this article. It is Fox News, and mostly linking because it's a joke, but the answer is there are LOTS of asteroids out there with a lot more potential for gold (and everything else) than on Earth. But the biggest thing is...mining them wouldn't damage THIS planet. Anyway, just going to quote the headline from the link:

Quote:
NASA headed towards giant golden asteroid that could make everyone on Earth a billionaire
__________________
-XT

That's what happens when you let rednecks play with anti-matter!
  #46  
Old 08-06-2019, 03:25 PM
Sam Stone is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Posts: 28,116
Here's an example of how the moon might become a reasonable commercial location fairly soon. The United Launch Alliance has an open offer to buy fuel delivered to low earth orbit for $3000/kilo. There is constant demand for fuel in LEO to re-power satellites that would otherwise be scrapped. Also, a fuel depot in LEO would make every planetary mission much more affordable and much more capable.

At $3000/kilo, 100 million tonnes of water on the moon has a market value of 300 trillion dollars. Of course, we don't need anywhere near that much, or won't for a long time. But let's say LEO can consume 100 tonnes of fuel per year, and we launch ten Starship-sized missions to the other planets and asteroids every year, requiring another 1000 tonnes of propellant. Fuel will be purchased for $3 million per tonne, so there is a market for fuel That could earn someone $3.3 billion or so per year in sales.

So some business manager figures out that they can build a facility for extracting water on the moon for $5 billion, and they can produce it and get it to LEO for $500/kg at the beginning, and with quantities of scale and refinement there's hope to get it down to $100/kilo. In that scenario, we're looking at breakeven in just a few years, and big profits after.

I used those numbers because they are very similar to the costs of building a deep sea oil platform. Such platforms also take years to build, and have a breakeven measured in many more years. So we know companies will go to these kinds of efforts if the profit is there to be made.

Now that you have one company making a killing, others learn from what they did, and build their own facilities to undercut them. And as the price of fuel to LEO drops, the market for it expands.

That's the way we get to an industrial base off of Earth and a potential lunar population of hundreds or maybe one day thousands of people. Add in adventurers, movie studios, rich people vacationing, and soon you've got a real, diversified economy.

But it will never be self-sufficient. It will always rely on high tech from Earth to keep it going.
  #47  
Old 08-06-2019, 03:48 PM
Sam Stone is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Posts: 28,116
Quote:
Originally Posted by scr4 View Post
But we do use lots of gold. The computer or phone you are reading this on has many connectors with gold-coated pins. Many of us wear chunks of it just for decoration.

And worldwide gold production is around 2500 tons a year. Which asteroid has enough gold that we can shut down gold mining on earth?
We use gold in very small quantities, because it's really expensive. But ask yourself, what other uses might be have for a material that can be easily formed into any shape, which never corrodes, which has high thermal and electrical conductivity, etc? Anywhere we have insulation against heat we might use gold reflectors. Gold would make a good lining for caustic vessels. The industrial uses for gold are endless, and constrained only by its high price.

To see how useful gold is when cost doesn't matter, have a look at spacecraft. Gold foil everywhere.

As for how much gold and other valuable metals are out there, take a look at 16 Psyche, a metal-rich asteroid that NASA already has plans to visit. It's basically a solid block of metal about 253 km in diameter, weighing about 10^19 kg. It's thought to be the core of a failed or destroyed planet, and so would be made up of the heaviest elements including gold and platinum. If current gold production were 2.5 X10^5 kilograms per year, we're talking about enough gold to replace all gold mining for, essentially, forever. Or roughly 10^13 years if you like. That's assuming we will continue to find gold on Earth at a constant rate. Even if gold only makes up 1% of that asteroid, it's still 10^11 years worth of gold.

And gold mining on Earth is HARD. Huge amounts of earth have to be processed per gram of gold. A working gold mine can have ore with as little as 1g/tonne, and a high-grade ore might be 5-10g/tonne. So you might have to move as much as a thousand tonnes of rock to recover a kilogram of gold. That does a lot of environmental damage, uses a whole lot of energy, and that's also why gold is so bloody expensive. What would it be worth to be able to shut down every gold mine on Earth, both economically and in terms of environmental damage?

The same goes for iron, nickel, platinum, and a host of other metals. One asteroid would provide more precious metals than all that has been mined in Earth's history.

Other asteroids have huge quantities of other critical resources that could be used to enable off-world manufacturing. One day Earth could be a giant park, with all heavy industrial activity offloaded into space where it can't pollute anything.
  #48  
Old 08-06-2019, 03:50 PM
scr4 is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Alabama
Posts: 15,957
Quote:
Originally Posted by XT View Post
Um...well, with a 2 second search, I found this article. It is Fox News, and mostly linking because it's a joke, but the answer is there are LOTS of asteroids out there with a lot more potential for gold (and everything else) than on Earth.
I can't find any reputable cite to back this up. You'd think if there was a credible paper that backed this up, someone would have added it to the wikipedia page

Quote:
But the biggest thing is...mining them wouldn't damage THIS planet.
How much mining equipment would we have to launch into space to start the mining operation? How much pollution will that produce?

Last edited by scr4; 08-06-2019 at 03:50 PM.
  #49  
Old 08-06-2019, 03:57 PM
scr4 is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Alabama
Posts: 15,957
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Stone View Post
We use gold in very small quantities, because it's really expensive. But ask yourself, what other uses might be have for a material that can be easily formed into any shape, which never corrodes, which has high thermal and electrical conductivity, etc?
In other words, it's a very soft metal that doesn't form very many chemical compounds. I suppose it would make a nice safe fishing weight.


Quote:
Anywhere we have insulation against heat we might use gold reflectors. Gold would make a good lining for caustic vessels. The industrial uses for gold are endless, and constrained only by its high price.

To see how useful gold is when cost doesn't matter, have a look at spacecraft. Gold foil everywhere.
No, that's not gold. Those multilayer insulations on spacecraft are made of aluminum-coated polyimide. The gold color is the color of polyimide film.

The only gold I've ever seen on spacecraft are coatings on electrical connectors and a few infrared telescope mirrors.

Quote:
As for how much gold and other valuable metals are out there, take a look at 16 Psyche, a metal-rich asteroid that NASA already has plans to visit. It's basically a solid block of metal about 253 km in diameter, weighing about 10^19 kg. It's thought to be the core of a failed or destroyed planet, and so would be made up of the heaviest elements including gold and platinum.
Cite for the heavy metal content estimate?

Quote:
And gold mining on Earth is HARD. Huge amounts of earth have to be processed per gram of gold.
Which do you think is easier, developing a cleaner mining method on earth, or developing an asteroid mining method?

Last edited by scr4; 08-06-2019 at 04:02 PM.
  #50  
Old 08-06-2019, 04:01 PM
XT's Avatar
XT is offline
Agnatheist
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: The Great South West
Posts: 35,256
Quote:
Originally Posted by scr4 View Post
I can't find any reputable cite to back this up. You'd think if there was a credible paper that backed this up, someone would have added it to the wikipedia page



How much mining equipment would we have to launch into space to start the mining operation? How much pollution will that produce?
Like I said, I linked to it more for the tongue in cheek factor that it was from Fox than anything else. That said, you can Google plenty about estimated resources on near Earth asteroids alone. We are talking about trillions of potential dollars in resources just from stuff relatively close.

As to the second part, I don't know. Basically, we aren't there yet. We aren't really that close yet. My WAG is you'd need to first build the infrastructure similar to what Sam was talking about on the Moon. It's a lot easier to launch from the Moon than from the Earth. You make rocket fuel there, launch it into orbit to a distribution station, then use that to logistically support (almost certainly mainly automated) mining operations of the nearest asteroids. In the short term it might be more pollution for the Earth, but long term? It's a lot better to be mining, say, rare earth metals on some atmosphere-less rock than here on Earth. Same goes for producing rocket fuel for exploration on the Moon as opposed to here on Earth then sending it into orbit. Once you start getting materials in the pipeline, it would also be a hell of a lot better manufacturing them in orbit than on Earth too.

We are talking in the next few hundred years, not tomorrow, however. But it DOES make sense and, to me at least, it's inevitable, unless we die out before we get to that point. It's basically our species modus operandi...we expand to the limit of the local resources, then we move outward to find new resources. Right now, that expansion is the solar system, which has resources for...well, pretty much for the next few 10's of thousands of years, at least. After that, we'll just have to see.
__________________
-XT

That's what happens when you let rednecks play with anti-matter!
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 03:47 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017