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Space Science

Project Icarus: the Gas Mines of Uranus 155

Posted by samzenpus
from the cue-the-obvious-jokes dept.
astroengine writes "When considering the fuel source for a fusion-powered interstellar probe, wouldn't it be a good idea to set up a colony on the moon and start pillaging the lunar surface for its helium-3 riches? Not so fast, says Adam Crowl of Project Icarus, there may be a far more viable source. What about the gas giants? Although Jupiter's gravity could pose a problem and Saturn's rings might get in the way (and forget Neptune, that place is one hell of a commute), perhaps the helium-3 in the Uranian atmosphere could be mined using atmospheric balloons?"
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Project Icarus: the Gas Mines of Uranus

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  • by linatux (63153) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @11:43PM (#36315968)

    this is actually an interesting article. Certainly more thought-provoking than the latest smart-phone malware.

  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @11:48PM (#36315996) Homepage Journal

    Rather than shipping factories to outer planets and extracting helium-3 from a dilute mixture, why not use technology that already exists? Irradiate lithium in a fission reactor, get tritium as a result, and let it decay to helium-3.

  • never ever ever (Score:1, Interesting)

    by slashmydots (2189826) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @12:58AM (#36316334)
    It's never ever ever ever ever going to happen. It takes more energy to go to another planet and get the fuel than you would ever get from the fuel. To simply accelerate the mass of the helium itself to a decent speed takes such a huge portion of the energy it contains, possibly more actually, that it would be more expensive than any other energy source ever invented. You could launch coal into space from earth for cheaper and run a steam powered spaceship for cheaper than dragging gas back from a distant planet.
    I have a theory about this. Hmmm, energy is a hot topic right now. Getting lots of energy gets attention from the media and government. NASA is getting de-funded. I think this entire thing is an exaggeration to get more space travel funded.
  • Re:never ever ever (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thej1nx (763573) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @02:37AM (#36316782)

    It cannot be helped if you lack imagination. With your limited logic, yes the plan definitely seems unfeasible.

    But let us look at the obvious flaw in your argument. First, define "decent speed". The energy you are actually expending is in achieving escape velocity. Once you are in space and already moving towards Earth, little energy is required. There is no friction so as to speak of, in space, for one thing. And who said the fuel needs to reach us within a week? The ship might take 30 years. Or more. Think of it as a leisurely speed. With a few such ships being launched at regular intervals, you can establish a constant chain of supply.

    Second flaw in your logic, you are a tad too eager with the "never ever". Like those other idiots who announced that the man is not meant to fly and will "never ever" do so. You fail to account for new technologies or creative solutions emerging. If we humans are good at anything, it is at solving problems. All that is needed is that we should actually WANT to go to other planets and mine them for resources. And that we should allot resources towards finding a way to do this.

    Idiots like you of course, are short sighted and simply figure that it is a waste of your tax-money since only your kids/grandkids will benefit instead of you. Who cares if the mankind stays chained to a single planet and gets wiped out in a single catastrophe, since you do not think it likely within your own lifetime. And you do not give two hoots if your kids die cursing your name, for your short-sightedness.

    It took decades/centuries of research and inventions before we got to the point where we actually directly benefit from Wright Brother's initial flight efforts. And at that time idiots like you existed who denounced it all as a waste of money. Now you will happily hop into a flight, since you are benefiting directly. If I pointed out how we have benefited from investing into NASA(ear thermometers used for babies, scratch resistant glasses, sports/athletic shoes, communication satellites that provide you with TV, telecommunications, safety grooving on highways that prevent accidents, water filters, CAT scanners, computer microchips which led to PCs and Laptops, insulation, speedo swimsuits, memory forams, rust-proof coatings to name a few), you will just poo-pah. You will rather have folks die instead of having NASA contribute to the MRI technology that saves lives across the world. Because NASA funding as per geniuses like you, is a waste of money.

    Folks like you would demand moronic laws in the name of "think of our children" but when it comes to actually making their future a little better, folks like you don't actually give a shit about your children and your grand-children. After all, YOU are not benefiting immediately. Right?

  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Thursday June 02, 2011 @03:05AM (#36316906)

    "It does seem to be sufficient short-term profit to motivate private industry. If we humans ever go to those worlds than it will be because a nation or a consortium of them believes it to be to its advantage or to the advantage of the human species...

    Just now, there are a great many matters pressing in on us that compete for the money it takes to send people to other worlds. Should we solve those problems first or are they a reason for going?"

    No, we shouldn't, thanks for asking. That's a common argument, but unfortunatley wrong. Basically put spin offs from the investment in the space program and other research from after WWII and through the cold war have transformed our technological civilization.

    ... to the point that landing on the moon was just about a flag. In the case of the Apollo program, $150 billion in todays money was dumped on our brightest minds (about 400,000 people, many highly skilled jobs) top universities and our most cutting edge industry. If it all crashed and burned on the launch pad it wouldn't have mattered, the boost to humanity was awesome.

    If you look at list of the problems we need to solve on this planet, they read like a list of technological problems to get to the stars. No 1 might be clean, cheap, unlimited energy that fusion would be a good candidate for. No 2 might be ecosystems - we'll need food and air recycling for long space flight. It goes on. It's the teach a man to fish principal. We need to skip frittering away resources on what seems to be the most pressing and urgent problems and go straight for the big goals.

    Dare I say it, we have our problems now, and are poorly equipped to face them because we gave up on spaceflight some time in the 1970s and worried to much about problems to close to home.

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