SSI Space Manufacturing 14: Extraterrestrial Prospecting Session

Asteroid Ida

Extraterrestrial Prospecting

Michael A’Hearn, University of Maryland
“Water or Rocks: Resources for Earth or for Exploration?”

Brad Blair, SSI, and Prof. Leslie Gertsch, University of Missouri-Rolla
“Mining Methods for Asteroid Utilization”

Mark Sonter, Asteroid Enterprises Pty Ltd.

“Mining Concepts Development for Assessing Asteroid Resources”

Dr. Faith Vilas, University of Arizona
“Resources from Asteroids: What We Can Expect From What We Now Know”


Michael A’Hearn, University of Maryland
“Water or Rocks: Resources for Earth or for Exploration?”

NEOs
— longer return from the moon
— no gravity wells to escape from as on planets and moons
— Resources in a comet

  • half the mass is water
  • organics — CO, CO2, CH3OH
  • minerals – TBD – silicates known but what else?
  • don’t know much about the mineralogy of comets

Mining NEOs

–  can return small NEOs to locations where water and other resources are required
— very porous mix of ice & rock
— won’t sink into it — very low gravity
–  can literally walk off a NEO — escape velocity is very low
–  can’t use traditional mining techniques

Brad Blair, Space Studies Institute
“Mining Methods for Asteroid Utilization”

— Mining needs to be a profitable enterprise
— Settlement is where space needs to go — can map out everything we do on Earth in space
— First mining mission could be a partnership with a government entity interested in reducing collision risks with Earth
–mining is a very risk averse industry – need to keep that in mind with NEO mining
— Public-private partnership to deal with planetary defense

NEO Mining Options

  • bag and boil for volatile extraction
  • magnetic rake for high grade ore
  • take small asteroid pieces home
  • new moon — Earth orbit
  • hot knife — cut up comet core with nuclear heat

Mark Sonter, Asteroid Enterprises Pty Ltd.
“Mining Concepts Development for Assessing Asteroid Resources”

— Asteroids are a resource for and a threat to all human life
— Currently more than 7,200 near earth asteroids
— Expect to discover many more in coming years
— Itakowa is close to being a proper size for mining — Japanese Hayabusa probe landed there
— To NEO mining work, need to minimize project risk, payback time, etc.
— Platinum worth $4,000 per ton; water worth $1 million per ton
— Awaiting development of market in orbit for water delivery

Dr. Faith Vilas, University of Arizona
“Resources from Asteroids: What We Can Expect From What We Now Know”

— 538,271 asteroids discovered
— 7317 Near Earth Asteroids
— 66,000 NEOs
— 18,000+ potentially hazardous NEOs