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NASA's Garver Proposes Carving Piece Off Big Asteroid For Near-Earth Mining 110

Posted by timothy
from the worth-it-at-any-price dept.
MarkWhittington writes "According to a July 26, 2013 story in Space News, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver mused about what appeared to be a change to the space agency's asteroid snatching mission at the NewSpace 2013 conference. Apparently the idea is to send a robot to a larger asteroid than originally planned, carve out a chunk of it, and then bring it to lunar orbit for an crew of astronauts to visit in an Orion space ship. Garver's proposed change would widen the number of target asteroids and would test technologies important for asteroid mining. But it would also increase the complexity and certainly the cost of the asteroid mission. There are a lot of unanswered questions, such as what kind of mechanism would be involved in taking a piece of an asteroid and moving it? At the same conference Garver had hinted at a willingness to consider mounting a program of "sustainable" lunar exploration, as some in Congress have demanded, concurrent with the asteroid mission."
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NASA's Garver Proposes Carving Piece Off Big Asteroid For Near-Earth Mining

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  • Re:It's a trap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @03:54PM (#44407913)

    There's a ring of truth to that.

    While we've landed on the moon physically, technologically we just aren't there yet. It isn't currently practical to commercially exploit yet (i.e. where the gain of doing so outweighs the losses.) While landing on the moon is surely a neat thing to do, and I myself am a big fan of NASA, doing so on the government dime just doesn't make sense right now. We're not in a space race with the Russians anymore and communism died in the 80's (save for a few select groups still in denial,) so we don't have anything to prove.

    The private sector is currently in a race of its own to make getting to space more practical daily, and I think we should let it continue on that course. Space continues to see more and more commercial exploitation all the time, and the private sector will take us to the moon in the appropriate time. I think NASA's resources are probably best spent on the theoretical - the mars rovers for example are a good place for NASA to be.

  • by garyebickford (222422) <gar37bic.gmail@com> on Sunday July 28, 2013 @04:16PM (#44408043)

    I don't see whatever it is you replied to, so I don't know what the 'nonsense' is that you refer to but it's not at all clear that Eminent Domain has any relevance - before E.D. can be relevant it must be established that a nation has de jure control over space activities (which gets into the question of whether an entity in space is still a 'person' under national law).

    I have just returned from a very interesting panel discussion on Saturday afternoon (yesterday as I write this - video should be available on the website soon if not already) at NewSpace 2013 [spacefrontier.org] regarding the question of 'ownership' and right of use, mining claims, etc. This is an area of vigorous debate, and it will continue to be for the next 50-100 years. Most of the questions will end up being settled in court rather than in legislation, using rules derived from common and maritime law as much as the law of individual nations.

    It's worth noting that the original attempt to control slots in Geostationary Orbit, which created a global monopoly called IntelSat, was eventually (and fortunately) overturned after 20 years of poor use. Now those slots are managed more effectively without government control, by a cooperative and competitive process among players. (IntelSat is now just one of those players, and does a good job.) One of the big risks of space exploitation is the potential for an attempt at a huge governmental central planning bureaucracy, which would almost certainly delay the benefits for decades, and would very likely kill the potential for space exploitation entirely.

    If some space exploiters become trillionaires, they will do so in the process of improving the standard of living for the people of Earth, likely by a factor of 10.

    What is pretty well established: under the Outer Space Treaty, a nation is responsible for the actions of 'persons' (corporate or natural) of that nation. Each nation is also responsible for any harm to the persons or property of other nations. No nation, and thus no person, may establish ownership of any celestial body, but there is some debate as to what a 'celestial body' entails, howerver the treaty does establish the principle that exploitation of the resources is part of the intent. So at this point some(most?) analysts believe that once you remove part of the body, that part is yours. This follows from 19th century mining law - a miner does not 'own' the mine - the government essentially licenses the miner to remove material, and the material removed becomes the miner's property. A smaller selection believe that once you 'move' a body, it's yours - what 'move' means is up for debate.

    But one strong voice on the panel argued that in essence, the Outer Space, Moon and other treaties among Terran nations are de facto, and therefore in the long term de jure, irrelevant and without standing. Just as the American colonists eventually rejected the laws of Britain as applied to the colonies, 'spacers' will eventually if not sooner establish their own rule of law amongst themselves, which will be derived from existing common and natural law, and precedents as they might apply, probably primarily in tort (civil suit)). Her fundamental point was that the nations of Earth do not have, and are not likely to have, any method of enforcing their laws outside of some relatively small region around the planet, and this is as it should be - the laws of space should be based on the experience and needs of those who live and work there (and will be derived from applicable precedent here on Earth, such as maritime law.)

  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @04:19PM (#44408059)

    Yes, mining asteroids sounds like a nice plan. But much like flying cars, I do not see it happening any time soon. But fuck, it's great to talk about, isn't it?

    NASA is trying to rationalize its existence. Most of the public isn't interested in progress in science, but the promise of money makes us drool.

    Of course, any resulting money would go to whoever gets to market the metals, and the public would get nothing but the bill for bootstrapping it.

    If we want the Federal government to boost the economy, we should think more top-down, and ask "where could we invest this amount of money to produce the most bang for the buck?". I'd be more in favor of policies that promote manufacturing, since our economy is rapidly converging toward nothing but flipping hamburgers and gambling on the stock market.

  • by CanadianMacFan (1900244) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @04:37PM (#44408147)

    I'm glad that flying cars are taking time to get here. Have you seen the idiots attempting to drive in two dimensions? Now picture them trying to do so in three. Wait until cars can completely drive themselves before we start getting them going up in the air.

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp

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