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mining mascon moonstroids and docking for lunar space elevator delivered asteroids.

the biggest asteroids for mining---are just below the moons surface
  (+8, -1)
(+8, -1)
  [vote for,

When you hear about all this asteroid mining crap, it gets irritating because there's no profit to be made off bringing asteroid ore to the surface of the planet---no matter how concentrated it may be. A pure golden goose egg asteroid could not profitably be brought back to earths surface, even if it did exist. But people are in love with the idea of space hotels or space stations on the moon. So you need stuff to build them with, and getting the stuff there is so expensive that it would require materials mined in outerspace and/or the moon. So if you're willing to entertain the delusion of giant space and moon stations and massive fuel depots and other depots in orbital or outerspace---you must think seriously about it.

So for space stations of the future, its asteroids and or the moon. But I say, why not both?!

My answer is that the best way to do it is to base the mining/processing equipment on the moon, at the base of a space elevator. Asteroids can be crashed or lowered onto the moon. In addition, extremely large deposits of many many impacted asteroids over a billion year are below the moons existing surface. You mine and process as needed on the moon. When necessary you can use the space elevator to put mass back in lunar orbit. From there, you can rocket it easily to earth orbit or to mars.

The idea of processing asteroids in a mother-center location makes sense. It does NOT make sense to sell the idea of processing them in orbit, or on site. Processing centers are large. A lot larger than the ISS. They should be static.

When you get serious about looking for large in tact asteroids closest to earth’s surface ---where we live. It becomes apparent they are just below the moons surface.

While large asteroids have impacted earth’s surface, terrestrial geological processes have rusted, diluted, and subducted these asteroid bodies to the point where finding and mining them is difficult if not impossible. Most of the really big ones are actually under large depths of water , making it even more difficult to mine Whatever may be left of them ( which may be not very much at all if anything ) . The moon --on the other hand leaves asteroids intact and just below the moons surface. Not very deep at all. I estimate at most when you look at the estimated thickness of the moon's Maria, and the highest mountain being 4km in height above the lowest lowland ( the Maria ) . It’s just not really likely a single one of the massive asteroid impactors on the moon is under more than 500 meters of boulders and regolith.

over billions of years of the moons existence, large asteroids have struck the moon and are lying just under the moon’s surface, relatively intact and unchanged.

These asteroids are mostly identified through their gravity mass concentration (mascon ) signatures that are already mapped out as a result of gravity mapping of the moon for the purpose of orbital insertion and near space navigation .

It turns out our already highly details mascon maps of the moon’s surface would be a perfect guide for mining asteroids on the moon. Just go to the site of mascon and start digging .

So now, if you want to mine asteroids---the best place to do that --is on the moon!

Finally, if you read the comments section you will see some debate about the merits of mining free-floating asteroids passing by earth, versus mining the moon for sublunar surface asteroids----however

One of the bonuses of mining the moon for mass and material that is needed to be placed in orbit ( of the moon or of earth or of the sun ) ----is that it would dovetail well with the first planned space elevator. You could use the planned 'liftport' lunar space elevator to lift lunar mass into lunar orbit without the use of fuel. Whereas steering rockets requires fuel ( asteroid miners make the science fiction presumption that asteroids will have the right mass for turning into fuel easily and can thus maneuver as needed by scavenging. )

AND FINALLY the moon has been discussed as a 'home' graveyard for directing floating target asteroids. Once they are crashed or lowered to the moon by space elevator, They can be stored on the moon at NO cost, without any corrosion UNTIL they need to be mined. The mass can be transported to the mining/processing station at the base of the lunar space elevator.

teslaberry, Jan 28 2014

lunar space elevator http://www.gizmag.c...nar-elevator/23884/
liftport space elevator can be used to move lots of kilotonns of mass to lunar orbit without fuel on an industrial scale. [teslaberry, Feb 02 2014]

a stable home for redirecting asteroids http://spirit.as.ut...3/Adamo_11-7-13.pdf
moon as home for asteroids. [teslaberry, Feb 02 2014]

moon cratering and asteroids below the surface http://www.nasa.gov...and.Future.Moon.pdf
moon surface asteroids [teslaberry, Feb 02 2014]

mascons http://www.sciencem...1/3842/680.abstract
the map of mascons [teslaberry, Feb 02 2014]

lunar crater isostatic formation http://www.sciencem.../6140/1552.abstract
impact craters formation [teslaberry, Feb 02 2014]

mining the moon revisted http://www.lunar-re...ScienceMag/1475.pdf
lunar mining. [teslaberry, Feb 02 2014]

gravity of the moon http://en.wikipedia...itation_of_the_Moon
just a nice little map. cannot beat wiki [teslaberry, Feb 02 2014]


FlyingToaster, Jan 28 2014

       [+], and what [FleigendeBrattenhurd] said, and whot's a 'mascon'?
Alterother, Jan 28 2014

       //looking for large in tact asteroids//   

       thesE woulD bE asteroidS thaT makE gentlE enquirieS beforE impactinG?
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 28 2014

       You do realize that asteroids routinely pass inside the moon's orbit, right? In fact, many of them impact the atmosphere on a regular basis. And while the majority are small, larger ones can be found there as well.   

       It's also much easier to reposition an asteroid than it is a to lift a meteorite from the moon's surface. The former can be done with a small ion engine that uses the waste portions of the asteroid for reaction mass, the former requires a significant rocket engine, fueled with volatiles you can't actually find on the moon, so you have to import from earth.   

       Put simply, you're not the first to think of this, and the others have put a lot more time into actually figuring out the ROI than you did.
MechE, Jan 28 2014

       [MechE], tsk, tsk, you are forgetting the usefulness on the Moon of "electromagnetic launchers", since there is no air resistance. And solar power is widely available on the Moon, too. All it needs is a world- girdling set of transmission lines, and any place could have solar power almost 100% of the time*.   

       *the exceptions being when the Earth gets in- between the Sun and the Moon, not very often, and only for a few hours at a time.
Vernon, Jan 28 2014

       MECHE --no, mining and processing an asteroid have existing technologies that can easily be reused in low gravity situations similar to earths own. mining an asteroid in almost zero gravity conditions, let alone processing it using high amounts of heat ---where the heat cannot disspitate in ordinary means requires MASSIVE NEW TECHNOLOGICAL INVESTMENT. to be made. gravity is your friend.   

       but please send me links of any detailed porposals of locating mascons for mining on the moon.   

       FURTHERMORE. THE EXISTING NUMBER OF STATIC BURIED MASCONS ON THE MOON measured in kilograms---CAN BE EXPLOITED far more quickly and cheaply using less fuel and energy than by WAITING for the random asteroid that passes by now and then and attempting to match speed with it while you mine it. or attempting to change its orbit around earth, which is expensive. moon mass---of cumulative asteroids of BILLIONS OF YEARS of strikes is extremely high. and just because the moon has a delta-V that is relatively high compared to a free floating asteroid, does not mean the delta V has no advantages to a free floating asteroid. the delta V is useful for deployment of existing mining and processing technology . it's also useful because you can keep the mined materials in static location until you need them. there are indeed graveyard orbits, but even those aren't perfectly stable and any 'way station' orbit for mined mass in space will require more fuel than a storage depot on the moon to maintain its stability.   

       MAXWELL you can go online and actually just read a bunch about people who have published detailed analysis about moon impacting asteroids. the mascons are SIGNIFICANT and they are the remnants of the asteroid.   

       of course, much of what you see on the moon is a mixture of impacted dustified moon dust with HIGHLY diluted asteroid and micrometeriod we call regolith. regolith is almost ALL moon. which means a mostly earth like soil composition of oxygen, silicon and the other soft metals---magnesium iron calcium titanium etc.... the lunar lowlands have more iron and high lands more soft stuff.   

       so YES you can find a large amount of asteroid mass BELOW the surfact of the moon at the site of impact. even though you are correct in assuming much (but not all) of the asteroid is incinerated upon impact.   

       the ACTUAL issue underlying the reason the moon is very attractive for mining asteroids is that its surface is dead of all tectonic hydrologic atmosperic and other processes that could affect a buried asteroid. the very surface surfac tof the moon is bombarded by high energy particles and this is the last remaining process of 'change' that affects all astronomical bodies that have lost their surface atomsphere and hydrosphere. this is aptly called 'space weathering' and space weathering has not really affected the subsurface mascon asteroid mass on the moon. whereas , on the earth geologic biologic hyrologic and other processes have basically dissolved and diluted and or buried very deeply most all remnants of asteroids.   

       the moon is a repository of old asteroids. the earth simply amalgamates them into itself . in this way--- the earth is more sophisticated and complex. and ALIVE in an asto-cosmological mother gaei kind of way.
teslaberry, Jan 28 2014

       Um, every heat dissipation problem in orbit is also found on the moon's surface. The only advantage on earth is atmosphere, which neither of the former have. And that's generally applicable. There are very few terrestrial techniques that would apply to a low gravity, no atmosphere environment that wouldn't also apply to a microgravity environment.   

       Likewise, asteroid mining schemes are generally figured in tonnes, or kilotonnes. Not the kilograms of intact mass you are talking about. Again, the economics are relatively easy to figure out, and they money boys are chasing asteroids, not the moon.
MechE, Jan 29 2014

       i'm saying they should be chasing the large number of asteroids that are ON the moon.   

       they money boys be full of shit , no one with real money is investing in these hairbrained bulshit ideas of mining in space, let alone mining under water ( which there are a couple projects working on this ) mining on land is where its at still and for the coming future.   

       however---- if you are going to mine asteroids. theyre on the moon.
teslaberry, Jan 29 2014

       There's a moon in the sky It's called the moon And everybody is there, including, Saturn, Mercury Saturn, Venus Saturn, Mars Saturn, Jupiter The Van Allen Belt   

       Roll-roll-roll-roll-rollin' in Andromeda Won-ton-ton-ton rama-in-Andromeda   

       There's too many rings---This is the Space Age There's too many things---This is the Space Age Just ain't no atmosphere tonight   

       If you're lucky you get to ride in a gold meteorite If you're not, you get a mouth, a mouthful of red Kryptonite You better move over Here comes a Super-nova Kryptonite- - - Destination moon   

       If you're in outer space Don't feel out of place 'cause there are thousands of others like you Others like you Others like you   

       Well there's a moon, it's in the sky It's called the moon And everybody is there 'cluding 'ranus Neptune 'ranus Pluto Destination moon   

       Many gamma rays around it Van Allen Belt surrounds it This is the Space Age Please don't worry This is the Space Age Just don't worry This is the Space Age Others like you Ahhh ahhh..........
normzone, Jan 29 2014

       //It's also much easier to reposition an asteroid than it is a to lift a meteorite from the moon's surface.//   

       See, I didn't get that from the original idea. Do we need to ferry tonnes of minerals back to Earth? We have enough material here already to make do. Seriously, why would we payload back to Earth the heaviest possible substances, aka, mineral ore or even refined metals? It sounds like a massive waste of resources.   

       The long view has the products of space mining used in space, for ships, stations, and Dyson whatevers. Sending mining products back to Earth is a red hearing. If you absolutely positively need the resources down here, then build the finished products on the moon and ferry those down, as they're bound to be lighter than slabs of metal.   

       The moon has ore in mascons and also has a vast work area, complete with gravity. Pollution is practically a non-issue. So, we don't have to vastly reinvent mining techniques to go after asteroids, we just apply a 1/6 factor and use the moon. Ask any astronaut, working in zero gravity is tricky. The moon's 1/6 gravity is probably pretty freakin useful for mining and industrial fabrication.   

       So, aside from bunning this idea, I propose that we abide by the principle that space materials stay in space, and we suffice with what the Earth already has for purposes here. This saves energy and promotes space exploration/colonization.
the porpoise, Jan 29 2014

       //we could send out small spacecraft to latch onto large asteroids directing them back to earth where mining is easier.//   

       So, giant hunks of rock falling from the sky AND more open pit mines?
the porpoise, Jan 29 2014

       Not to dispute that the money going toward asteroid mining may (or may not) indicate that it has better ROI, but I do agree with [teslaberry] that lunar mining methods could be much more similar to terrestrial mining method than asteroid methods would be.   

       On the moon, your tools and any materieals you chip off won't go flying away. You might need some extra ballast to be able to get the same amount of downforce that you would get on earth, but that can be obtained locally.   

       On the asteroid you'll need some system to hold the tools in contact with the asteroid yet still allow moving around. You'll also need a good way to collect the material that is mined. You may be able to take advantage of the microgravity in some ways, but it seems like many tools will need to be completely reinvented.   

       If you want to crush up the material then sort it by density, having some gravity will make that material handling equipment much more traditional and you'll be able to separate by density without using a centrifuge.   

       Cooling will not be a trivial problem for either case, but it seem like there would be a lot more options on the moon. On the moon there may be some limited quantities of ice and/or water to be had locally. There are large areas of relatively flat smooth surface covered presumably with easily diggable material whereas the astoreoid will likely be entirely composed of hard materials. Maybe a cooling loops could be installed in the ground. Maybe we coudl just scoop up large piles of moon dust that has been in the shade, transfer the heat into this dust, then dump it back in the shade until it cools again.
scad mientist, Jan 29 2014

       I disagree, but it partly depends on what your are mining and how. One major concern is that almost all extant mining equipment is combustion powered. Which has obvious limitations on the moon. Second, most mining equipment has hydraulic components. Those don't do so well in alternating temperature extremes every 14 days. Also, are we talking about human miners, or robotic ones, because I can make cases for both having advantages in micro-g, but the advantages are different.   

       And it is completely possible to sort by density without gravity. First, crush to a uniform size, and then push the components with a uniform force. They will follow different trajectories based on density. This is one of the techniques used to separate recycling on earth, where an air blast serves to provide the force. Only problem is, on earth, it can only be done coarsely.   

       Finally, asteroid have one major advantage. You don't really have to mine them. The ones that would be targeted represent relatively pure chunks of nickel-iron. You basically start at the ore crushing step, and work through refining from there.
MechE, Jan 29 2014

       I also second what [the porpoise] said.   

       Although I think the idea behind asteroid mining is that we hope to find large quantities of very valuable minerals like gold and platinum that would make it worthwhile. While some of those could be useful for construction in space, (a spacecraft build of 1/4" sheet gold instead of sheet steal would look rather nice) because of our tendency to hoard gold as a currency, it may seem economically worthwhile to bring it down to earth instead.   

       Hmm, if we're using it as a currency stockpile, maybe we should just leave it on the moon. That will make it much more difficult to steal too. For an individual, that won't make sense because there is no possibility of getting it in case of economic collapse, but it could make sense for a nation's gold reserves.
scad mientist, Jan 29 2014

       Going out to space to find currency seems a bit like arriving at a virgin planet and immediately deforesting the place by collecting leaves for use as currency.
the porpoise, Jan 29 2014

       mined materials in space will be used IN SPACE> no one is even arguing about that any more.   

       mining materials on the moon can stay there, or be transported to space.   

       depending on the existing trajectory of an asteroid----you will require various amounts of energy to redirect it. you cannot know how much energy, because you cannot knwo which asteroids you will mine until you prospect them. while you look for the perfect asteroid from a distance. you will always have to travel up close to see the internal makeup. some people are focussing on the 1 in a million asteroid that is actually an intact piece of a former planetismal CORE and is like a giant valuable metal crystal. yes ---those cna be incredibly valuable, but also rare, and not consistenly found.   

       mining those will be like treasure hunting for the choicest asteorids. and you don't know where and in which directions and speed sthey will be going.   

       on the moon, you have a whole collection of many asteroids you can inspect. they are all static with respect to one another and with respect to you , and to any equipment you may use on them.   

       they are also near large deposits of water ice on the moon that can be used for processing.   

       mining free floating asteroids compared to mining the moonstroids is a joke, even if it is slightly more costly to overcome the escape velocity delta V required to get these final materials into free space-------it is predictable and thus superior as a business model for mining than the unpredictable freefloating asteroid game of chance. you cannot base a business model on that kind of unpredictability---even with insurance.   

       and i don't think too many companies will be selling insurance on these types of risky endeavors.
teslaberry, Jan 29 2014

       You need large amounts of energy, but very little power. A small solar panel does the trick. To lift from the moon, you need much more power.
MechE, Jan 29 2014

       Nukes on the moon would be welcome. Agree with scad re use of the moonstuff as a heat sink.   

       For a scifi premise there could be a lunar mining endeavor in which new tech has located a subsurface asteroid made of gold. Shady hit men then in earnest start killing these scientists because an asteroid full of gold would tank the price of gold. When this gets out, gold tanks anyway which it turns out was the main goal of the moneymen behind the operation, who had no intention of messing around on the moon. But the asteroid is really there, and the last laugh is on the moneymen who buy up all the earth gold when the price tanks, and then are stuck with it when the moon gold starts coming in and gold is as cheap as aluminum.
bungston, Jan 29 2014

       The concept of the moon as a deep freeze for space objects is pretty sweet. You could go a lot of directions with that.
bungston, Jan 29 2014

       onE questioN abouT lunaR asteroidS. hoW deeplY impacteD arE theY? iF yoU havE tO removE A kilometrE oF overlyinG rocK, iT becomeS A lesS attractivE optioN.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 29 2014

       // When you get serious about looking for large in tact asteroids closest to earth’s surface ---where we live. It becomes apparent they are just below the moons surface.//   

       My recollection of long-ago astrophysics classes, and a quick internet search, discredits this claim.   

       In the 1970s and early ‘80s, I was taught the then prevailing theory that nearly all lunar impactors were completely vaporized. More recent theory, backed by simulations and spectroscopic analysis of the Moon, suggests that impacts above 14000 m/s completely vaporize the impactor, while those below 12000 m/s leave much of the broken remains of the impactor concentrated in the central peak of the crater. Impactors from the main asteroid belt, from where most are believed to originate, range in impact speeds of 6000 to 16000 m/s. Accounting in detail, this suggests that about 25% of craters contain much of the remnants of their impactor – not buried in a single mass, but broken and scattered.   

       That we find a lot (about 500,000 kg) of solid, mostly iron meteorites shallowly buried on Earth, rather than broken and scattered or vaporized, is because atmospheric drag slows them to impact speeds of only about 300 m/s. I can’t think of a natural mechanism that could allow such a low speed impact on the airless Moon, so wouldn’t expect to find intact metallic impactors buried on the Moon.   

       // When you hear about all this asteroid mining crap, it gets irritating because there's no profit to be made off bringing asteroid ore to the surface of the planet. //   

       Lot’s of profit-oriented folk have concluded otherwise – sort of.   

       3554 Amun, for example, is estimated (by John S. Lewis ca 1997) to have about US$20,000,000,000,000 (20 trillion) worth of precious metal (mostly gold and platinum). The main business problem with such a venture is not naive return on investment (which, taking Lewis’s estimate of a $100,000,000,000 (100 billion) cost, would give an enviable 200:1 ROI), but that such a huge supply of precious metals would reduce their market value so much it not only reduced the venture’s ROI, but might crash the value of existing gold holdings, causing economic and political catastrophy. Whether carefully supplying the market over decades could keep the venture profitable is controversial. Whether such economic and political worries are founded is, IMHO, more in the realm of soothsaying than science.
CraigD, Feb 08 2014

       craig D   

       #1 a solid gold asteroid is a solid lie. estimates are sheer nonense. if you belive any of this nonsense, i have a bridge to sell you.   

       #2 your remarks about impactor speed and vaporization are actually VERY thoughtfull. thank you. I think this is very root of the question. whetehr or not the moon is a good place to begin as a base for processing asteroids, some of which can RELIABLY be found in pieces on the moon. arguably the impactors were mostly vaporized . this too ahs some value. an thorough analysis of crater ejecta could determine if if the composition of whatever survived under the moon surface is even worth mining. there undoubtedly is PLENTY on the moon. it is gravity repository. and no , on earth the surface processes of our planet destroy meteor mass left over, while on the moon they do not. all you need is a small percentage of that mass to survive and you still have a very large amount of mass comprised of dense concentrated remnants of asteroids all in one place on the moon.   

       considering you can crash foreign space travelling meteors on the moon without restrictions by govenrments----or even lower them gently by future lunar space elevator to the moons surface. the moon offers huge options, and flexibility as the first place to begin builiding a space mining extraction and processing operation, as opposed to freefloating space ships chasing asteroids in order to do what with them? process them on site? crash them into the earth? return them to low earth orbit for why?   

       no--the moon is the way to go. but the speed of impactors is very important for making decisions about which craters to explore on the moon. thank you for that.   

       talk of solid gold asteroids makes you sound like a naive and under the spell of hucksters. so please, be mindful of that too.
teslaberry, Feb 11 2014

       No one said solid gold. But the estimates of platinum group metals in metallic asteroids are probably reasonable.   

       Let me repeat this, since you have failed to grasp it. You have not come up with anything new here. Despite that, the interest is still in asteroid, not lunar mining. The reason for that is that people have worked through the relative difficulties, and asteroid mining is by far the easier of the two. Especially if you're talking about deliberately crashing asteroids into the moon to mine, rather than placing them in low or medium earth orbit.
MechE, Feb 11 2014


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