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Space Science

Two ESA Craft To Observe Asteroid 21 Lutetia 25

Posted by kdawson
from the like-a-potato-in-the-sky dept.
japan_dan writes "Two ESA spacecraft will observe 21 Lutetia during Rosetta's flyby on 10 July: Rosetta from 3,160 km and Herschel from 450 million km. Herschel's PACS and SPIRE spectrometers will view Lutetia in far infrared, while Rosetta will gather data in a variety of wavelengths. Since the observations will be coordinated during and at closest approach, scientists will later be able to correlate the data to produce a map of the thermal radiation emitted by Lutetia. There are a pair of animations modelling the expected temperature distribution over Lutetia at the link. The joint observations are part of a series of 8 sessions planned in the next couple of years by Herschel scientists to study objects that will be visited by spacecraft."
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Two ESA Craft To Observe Asteroid 21 Lutetia

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  • 21 eh? (Score:4, Funny)

    by thijsh (910751) on Friday July 09, 2010 @12:32PM (#32851792) Journal
    I would love to see those sweet pictures...
    • by KarrdeSW (996917)

      I would love to see those sweet pictures...

      Asteroids are so much hotter once they can drink legally.

      It's too bad that Lutetia still can't rent a car...

    • As a kid, he tried to observe Lutetia, who was just an asteroid, and dreamed of becoming an astronomer with a big telescope. He then moved to starlets, and he finally ended up as a paparazzi.

  • Amazing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Inspirius (1589201)
    Is anyone else continuously amazed that we can observe events like this from 450 million km away? The precision that must be required to see something relatively small, going so fast and so far away.
    • I am more amazed by double and triple rainbows...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Robotron23 (832528)

      I share your amazement, and the notion you mentioned can be extended to everyday matters too.

      A friend of mine had to get permission for use of an image from a fellow in Arizona recently, she being in Britain (as am I). The fellow granted permission the same afternoon, which for some reason got me thinking about all the headache the Internet takes away with communication. That same thing would have taken closer to two weeks pre-Internet, and the time and cost would be higher.

      Hubble's images are just the same

    • by boristdog (133725)

      Well it is asteroid "Lutetia" which was the Roman name for the city of Paris, and Paris IS the "City of Light"

      So of course we can see it!

      -yeah, it's a stretch.

    • Herschel will "observe" the asteroid from 450 million km, or about 3 AU. While I'm sure useful science will come from it, to say that it's participating in an observation with Rosetta's actual closeup flyby seems analogous to saying I'm participating in measurements from my roof.

  • by Robotron23 (832528) on Friday July 09, 2010 @12:57PM (#32852098) Homepage

    I spotted a post on Slashdot a couple of weeks ago which pointed out a couple of advantages of exploring the asteroid belt as a rich source of minerals and possible mining. On this strength of that brief but well worded comment I did some research myself and right now I'm currently reading the only book I could find that seemed accessible enough to a person with limited knowledge of space mining and the possibilities therein: (Mining the Sky by John S. Lewi). This as opposed to planets or moons which carry with them an atmosphere. Most of the prime candidates there possess thick atmospheres that carry a massive burden of cost for any robotic or manned mission to bring back much of anything for purposes of study or (looking further ahead) economic purposes.

    Asteroids by definition lack atmosphere, being in layman's terms large rocks with a pretty huge size variance. Anyone who has read Greg Bear's Eon will be able to appreciate the magnitude of some of the bigger asteroids. With present-day technology, were the funding and the will present we could in two or three decades time extract dozens of kilos of material from an asteroid and, though risk would be a factor, ferry all of that back to Earth. That's hundreds of kilos of precious material if an initial group of say ten were launched. However speaking realistically giving the sheer amount of difficulty space has had in recent decades, plus other projects eating up chunks of NASA/ESA/Roscosmos/JAXA budget, we're looking at much lower amounts. That we have publicly funded projects as opposed to privately spearheaded initiatives in the present day doesn't help; space agencies do not seek to maximize monetary profit.

    A small asteroid typically contains trillions of dollars in valuable metals. It doesn't take a genius to infer that investment in research leading to the mining of these bodies could make a profit. The return on capital employed (ROCE) would be unusually long...and that risk understandably puts off a lot of potential investment - it needs to be done on a fairly impressive scale, proven and reported by mass media for the ROCE ratio to improve. Valuable metals that have steady demand or even rising demand in some cases especially with China, India and Brazil developing as they are, could receive supplies from relatively cheap, unmanned drills. If prices of say...platinum and titanium keep rising and the private sector begins to take the helm from the clumsy, bungled pork-heavy governments I daresay asteroid mining would appear economically feasible to private enterprise in a generation.

    Finally; the technology developed for mining asteroids would - just like lots of other space tech - have applications on Earth too. It'd be diverse to the point where we can't envision with accuracy all the technology could come of this kind of venture that would benefit humanity wholesale.

    • by khallow (566160) on Friday July 09, 2010 @01:19PM (#32852322)

      A small asteroid typically contains trillions of dollars in valuable metals.

      This is incorrect. If you dumped several times as much gold as ever has been mined in current human history, you aren't going to get market price for it. How much those asteroids will be worth will depend on how much people are willing to pay for what is delivered. We simply don't have a viable economic model for the resources of one or more asteroids being sold on a market.

      I favor the idea that this could lead to industry using the metals with the best physical properties with little price differentiation between materials (perhaps price being more dependent on amount of demand or energy cost of the material). For example, gold probably would be applied to a lot more things than it currently is. Building wiring could be made out of gold instead of copper or aluminum, simply because gold has the lowest resistance of room-temperature wiring. A gold/copper alloy (or gold-plated copper) might be the best choice for plumbing (due to gold's corrosion resistance, platinum is another choice here). Gold plating would be an option for metal roofs, car parts (which don't experience significant wear), fences, hulls of ships, antennas, and general electronics.

      Point is that any planning today to mine an asteroid has to take into account a lot more risks than one would first expect. There are various ways to deal with them. One is to nail down the risks (say through trial and error). Second, is to make it so cheap that you still could run a viable business even with huge risks. Third is to acquire a stream of government or other public funds so that someone else sucks up the risk and cost for you.

      • by Coren22 (1625475)

        Who says the minerals have to be returned to Earth's surface? Asteroid mining opens up construction in orbit of much larger space stations and vessels, and would allow the work towards a possible generation colony ship to another solar system. Returning the materials to Earth's surface just seems to be a waste of energy as we already have most of what we need here. Building a viable space station or moon base is worth way more.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by khallow (566160)

          Who says the minerals have to be returned to Earth's surface?

          That's currently the market to consume such resources.

        • Returning the materials to Earth's surface just seems to be a waste of energy as we already have most of what we need here. Building a viable space station or moon base is worth way more.

          Only if building it in orbit is cheaper than building it on the surface and launching it. No gravity and no atmosphere are huge hindrances to construction.

      • Building wiring could be made out of gold instead of copper or aluminum, simply because gold has the lowest resistance of room-temperature wiring. A gold/copper alloy (or gold-plated copper) might be the best choice for plumbing (due to gold's corrosion resistance, platinum is another choice here). Gold plating would be an option for metal roofs, car parts (which don't experience significant wear), fences, hulls of ships, antennas, and general electronics.

        Gold is over twice as dense as copper or steel. That much weight could be an issue in a lot of those applications, particularly roofing. There's a reason why we use very thin metal roofing material: weight. Adding even a very thin layer of gold to that could have a negative impact on weight constraints. Also, gold is highly malleable, which is bad for any parts that are load-bearing or sustain impact events.

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Building wiring could be made out of gold instead of copper or aluminum, simply because gold has the lowest resistance of room-temperature wiring.

        No it doesn't. Silver is the metal with the lowest resistance (1.58e-8 ohm-m), followed by copper (1.68e-8 ohm-m). Gold comes in third (2.44e-8 ohm-m), only slightly ahead of aluminum (2.82e-8 ohm-m).

        • by khallow (566160)

          No it doesn't. Silver is the metal with the lowest resistance (1.58e-8 ohm-m), followed by copper (1.68e-8 ohm-m). Gold comes in third (2.44e-8 ohm-m), only slightly ahead of aluminum (2.82e-8 ohm-m).

          Huh. So why do they use gold (when they do) in electronics over these other metals? Is it just for corrosion resistant contacts?

          • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold#Electronics

      • by rtboyce (145916)

        Your point is well taken, but you're mistaken about gold. Gold is an excellent electrical conductor but copper is a better one, and silver is best at 20 degrees C.

        See https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Electrical_resistivity [wikimedia.org] .

    • by Svippy (876087) on Friday July 09, 2010 @02:42PM (#32853320) Homepage

      I spotted a post on Slashdot a couple of weeks ago which pointed out a couple of advantages of exploring the asteroid belt as a rich source of minerals and possible mining. On this strength of that brief but well worded comment I did some research myself and right now I'm currently reading the only book I could find that seemed accessible enough to a person with limited knowledge of space mining and the possibilities therein: (Mining the Sky by John S. Lewi).

      Fry: Wow! Mining a comet! That sounds fun.

      Farnsworth: Yes, there's no safer occupation than mining. Especially when you're perched on a snowball whipping through space at a million miles an hour. [He mimes a snowball whipping through space at a million miles an hour.] Safe!

  • android 2.1 (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Everybody who read android 2.1 instead of asteroid 21, stand up.

  • Worst summary ever? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fotoguzzi (230256)
    From the summary I cannot determine the name of the asteroid or the two spaceships. I can guess, but then why would I need a summary?

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