Obama Space Plan: Return to Moon: "No Go"

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Johnny Rico, Sep 8, 2009.

  1. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Not necessarily. A simple aeroshell and a ballute can suffice for that, assuming the return vehicle doesn't have to transport people. It could end up being cheaper than air freight, especially if the heat shields are also manufactured in space.

    I don't think space mining is ever really going to catch on since there will always be a competitive as well as political advantage to ground-based operations. Energy and certain rare resources have the virtue of being scarce enough that you won't always be able to find them on Earth anyway.
     
  2. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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    I think that's basically what I said a few posts up?

    If someone can make a profit, it will be competitive. Political advantages depend on the politician.



    Which is precisely why it might be more profitable at some point to mine these things in space.
     
  3. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Sort of. You're thinking that the return cost to Earth would be minimal, and I agree. It's just that the cost of mining it in the first place makes it a less than promising investment. Doing stuff in space is incredibly expensive, after all, and that creates alot of non-technical barriers of trade and transport (see below).

    That's just it: there are no politicians in space, and it's unlikely that there will be many U.S. congressional districts in close proximity to high-value ore veins. When prospectors find these things, they're likely to exploit them independently instead of go through the trouble of annexing those asteroids in the name of the United States.

    And profit has to do with things in space being a hell of a lot more expensive than things on Earth. You might think of it as Cosmic Inflation Economics: since everything in space is expensive anyway, a twenty billion dollar space flight isn't really that expensive in light of the fact that a pound of ground beef costs two hundred thousand dollars in a lunar supermarket. Since nobody's going to walk around with that much money in their pocket, space communities will probably issue their own form of currency that is alot more manageable, but the exchange rates aren't likely to favor space developers over ground developers.

    Of course, hyperinflation produced by an already astronomically expensive space infrastructure would have to follow extremely high wages in order to make the system sustainable, which again means that the vast majority of customers who are in a position to use those resources will all be in space anyway.
     
  4. STR

    STR Captain Captain

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    ^You're close to hitting the mark here. Inflation is the key to spacefaring, but we're not going to have inflation caused by space. We're already going to have inflation when resources on earth get so rare that mining in space becomes cheaper than trying to find it here. This may not ever happen. It certainly won't for a lot of resources (Fe, Al, Ti), but Tungsten and Platinum are very valuable in a lot of high tech industries, and there is a very finite amount of those elements on earth.
     
  5. Lindley

    Lindley Moderator with a Soul Moderator

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    My assumption is that you don't want it to re-enter. Mine it up there, use it up there, keep it up there. Save the energy cost of lifting all those tons to orbit in the first place.
     
  6. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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    ^ why not use it down here too? If a business case can be made.
     
  7. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    One problem with this whole line of thought is this, if I mine a material out of the moon, return it to earth and build a product out of it, I can't then legally sell it because I didn't own the original material. The United States signed the united nations 1967 moon treaty, the material I mined out of the moon is the common property of all mankind.

    How can I sell it?

    Asteroids would be a different case.
     
  8. CaptJimboJones

    CaptJimboJones Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Or we could just put the same investment and effort into developing renewable fuels and solar energy, which would likely be far more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
     
  9. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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    I believe that treaty only applies to sovereignty. You could still mine it and utilize the resources.

    How does that help when you run out of say.... aluminium?
     
  10. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Not on Earth, no. What I mean is, the cost of doing things in space is inherently expensive to the point that any spaceborne economy will already be inflated with respect to its terrestrial counterpart. Since wages will have to keep up with prices, this isn't much of a problem, but it stands to severely complicate exchange of goods between space and Earth.
     
  11. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I repeat: developers are more likely to exploit those resources independently. The Moon Treaty is probably another political reason why this would occur.

    To simplify, this is how you sell it: you mine the ore yourself, you make the ore into a useable product, then you sell the product (which you, having worked and refined, now own) to whoever you want.
     
  12. STR

    STR Captain Captain

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    No one will develop space until it is economically equal or preferable to do things there versus here. If it costs $1million to move a pound of Element X from the moon to Earth, no one is going to mine it until it's comparable to the alternative (mining it here). IF AND ONLY IF Element X reserves on Earth get so depleted that E-X costs ~$1M to find and recover via earth mines, will someone get the capital to go out and get it from the moon.

    A space-faring civilization with even a vaguely market economy will be, by its nature, hyper-hyper-inflated compared to ours. Resources will be (no pun) astronomically priced, because no civilization will leave its own world en mass before it has stripped it clean of anything useful.

    Until we reach that point, all space expeditions will be for flag planting and science nerds. The sole provinces of governments and non-profits.
     
  13. ProtoAvatar

    ProtoAvatar Fleet Captain

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    Your analysis omitted one factor.

    One pound of Element X may be chaper to exploit on Earth than on a near-earth asteroid (for example), but 1 billion pounds of Element x may be cheaper to exploiit on a near-earth asteroid than on Earth.
    Why?
    Because any extraterestrial mining will require a large initial investment (much more than any earth-bound mine). But once the necessary apparatus is in place, it will be much cheaper to dismantle a near-earth asteroid made from Element X and send the bounty to Earth than to dig continuously for scraps (comparatively) of Element X.

    In conclusion - on the short-term, extraterestial mining is, indeed, priceier than earth-bound mining. On the long-term, it can be much more profitable.
     
  14. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    But that assumes that ALL prices will have to even out before development occurs. Realistically, only the cash cow for development has to break the even point when it makes more sense to hunt for it in space than it does on Earth. At that point you have to develop space in order to capitalize in it, but that doesn't help you if a pound of beef still ends up costing twenty times as much in space as it does on Earth.

    This produces a disparity between Earth and Space based prices, basically a kind of orbital inflation rate where (if you're lucky) the price of a basket of goods in space keeps pace with the price of a day's work to the point that direct comparison of costs ceases to be meaningful. When that happens, using those cash cow materials becomes more cost effective for space-based communities than it does for investors on Earth.

    Of course, any number of weird things can happen before/after/other than that. So much in economics is just arbitrary mathematical tinkering, it mostly depends on who's in charge when development ramps up.

    Not necessarily. If it became a political priority we could already do it RIGHT NOW, it would only take ungodly amounts of government subsidies to set everything up first. Once the communities are in place, resource exploration and extraction could begin, again with prices balanced by massive orbital subsidies, and slowly develop from there to a point of self-sufficiency.

    Those subsidies aren't exactly infeasible; if we spent half as much on space exploration as we did on our military we could have colonized the moon by now. I guess the thing that is required isn't so much a total collapse of our ecology and nautral resources as much as a really good reason to build rockets instead of aircraft carriers.
     
  15. Lindley

    Lindley Moderator with a Soul Moderator

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    Almost makes you regret the whole "no militarization of space" thing, huh?
     
  16. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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    ^yep, military one-up-manship would have had us on Mars by now.
     
  17. Buck Rogers

    Buck Rogers Captain Captain

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    Well that being said I think that the Orion spacecraft systems with Ares 1,and 5 could be redirected to Mars instead of the moon,but don't count the United States out of the running,when it comes to returning to the moon.

    It's not economically feasable,and 8 Billion saved could be used to keep station running,and beef up Ares 1,Ares 5 programs with one change in destination Mars by 2015-2020 remember we have Ion drive tech right now,and that is successfull on a small scale all we have to do is expand our Ion drive program ,and attach it to an Ares/Orion spacecraft built in space to go to Mars for landing instead of moon of which can be done later as a automated mining outpost for He3.

    that's my take on this

    Signed

    Buck Rogers
     
  18. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    If you really hate your astronauts and if you want to gaurantee that nothing useful is ever done on Mars again, yeah, that would be a great ideal.

    The problem with Constellation is that it duplicates Apollo solutions to Apollo problems. We don't have Apollo problems, so duplicating their solutions doesn't make a lick of sense. We have more time, we have better computers, and we have a better understanding of how to build and maintain structures in space; the old approach worked for its time, but what they're basically trying to do is the equivalent of Christopher Columbus struggling to develop GPS, fiberglass and outboard motors just so he can accomplish the trip to India with an outrigger canoe.

    The better solution would be a type of mobile laboratory, something close to or larger than Mir with a VASIMR engine or something similar mounted on it. The ship can take its time, because it has plenty of time to take, plenty of provisions on board, plenty of abort modes, and ample radiation shielding so even if you have to turn around and crawl home, you won't die in the process. The advantage of such a craft is that you only need a relatively inexpensive capsule to rendezvous with it in orbit to transfer astronauts, equipment, food and fuel between journeys, instead of having to haul forty tons of spacecraft into orbit every time you want to fly somewhere (we don't HAVE to do that anymore, because unlike the Apollo astronauts we actually know how to build and maintain structures in space for long periods of time).

    Again: Ares/Orion would be a wasteful thing to mate to ANY useful engine system. At this stage in the game, any space craft you put into orbit that still has to reenter the Earth's atmosphere can never be as good an orbiter as one that never EVER has to return to Earth. The heavy heat shield and all other safety issues involving compatibility with launch systems and reentry survivability add complexity to the system that takes up vital weight and limited space, and Orion is even designed to be semi-reusable.

    Really, it's as simple as this: the space shuttle was at best a mediocre spacecraft and a mediocre aircraft. Cut off the wings, the landing gear, the heatshield, the the cargo bay doors and the SSMEs, it becomes an excellent orbiter, especially since the lack of a requirement for aerodynamics and reentry survivability means you can add propellant tanks for the OMS engines (bolt them right onto the wing root) and fly the thing out to GTO or higher. But if you have to carry around a dozen tons of "if any one of these systems fails we'll be incinerated on reentry," that's a dozen tons of shit you don't need for ninety percent of the mission.
     
  19. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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    You do know they canceled Ares I/V because they were flawed. Not because the Moon was?

    Your argument is like saying "I was building this rowboat to go from the U.S. to England, but that's not working out, so now I wanna build the same boat to go to China instead"
     
  20. Buck Rogers

    Buck Rogers Captain Captain

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    I wasn't aware that the Ares1/V was canceled Your reply was kinda funny at first,but I agree with you that my argument was based on a unknown fact IE: the cancelation of the the Ares Program all together so I take back what I said in my previous post.

    Signed

    Buck Rogers