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NASA Space

NASA Funded Project Could Mine Asteroids For Water With Sunlight 37

MarkWhittington writes: One of the more precious resources that asteroid miners are going after is water, something that is in abundance on Earth and, oddly enough, in space as well but not as easily be acquired. Iron, nickel and platinum group metals will certainly be valuable, but future space travelers will need water, not only for drinking, bathing, and agriculture but for rocket fuel. A story in Space.com reports on a new asteroid mining technique being funded by NASA that would use sunlight, concentrated by mirrors, to extract water out of excavated asteroids. The process is called "optical mining."
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NASA Funded Project Could Mine Asteroids For Water With Sunlight

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  • So, once they bag and bake the asteroid to get the water out of it, why don't they use the solar collector to heat the water to make super (super!) heated steam. This can then be directed to propel the asteroid in the opposite direction. I believe a similar scheme has been proposed on earth to make laser (which are based on the ground) launched rockets using water as the working medium. If the water can't be heated enough to get a fast jet, you could always electrolyze it and just combust the oxygen and

  • I see what you dig there...

  • Troy Rising (Score:5, Funny)

    by ma11achy ( 150206 ) on Tuesday September 22, 2015 @04:33AM (#50572613)

    Someone's been reading John Ringo :)

    Either way, it's terrible leaving all that energy go to waste. Let's start bootstrapping ourselves up the Kardashev scale.

  • Sounds like this is the Martian way!
  • by Intrepid imaginaut ( 1970940 ) on Tuesday September 22, 2015 @05:40AM (#50572783)

    I've often wondered whether enclosing the mining location in an envelope of some sort was really the most effective way to collect material in space. Surely either giving the target a spin or taking advantage of its existing spin while melting a spot, followed by an "ice cream scoop" collector might be more efficient? Afterwards it might end up looking a little like Vesta [nasa.gov].

    • Surely either giving the target a spin or taking advantage of its existing spin while melting a spot, followed by an "ice cream scoop" collector might be more efficient?

      You realize that spin won't generate a centrally directed gravitational field, right? That your mining operation will look rather like a wet dog shaking itself off in space, with stuff flying everywhere, and your mining equipment will have to be digging "upwards" towards the core? And that focusing light on the same spot of a rotating target (else goodbye efficiency) is much more difficult?

      • You realize that spin won't generate a centrally directed gravitational field, right?

        That's rather the point, you need to think in terms of space, not terrestrial mining. The actual mining and melting apparatus would be floating above the surface collecting material as it melts with the exception of the "scoop" which would be just behind the hotspot.

        And that focusing light on the same spot of a rotating target (else goodbye efficiency) is much more difficult?

        Again you're missing it, the rotation would be the means by which the surface moves rather than trying to move your mining apparatus around the surface. It would take a lot of energy to melt material in a timely fashion but it's not as though th

        • by tomhath ( 637240 )
          I imagine it would be for more efficient to just send a tank of water from Earth rather than sending all that apparatus to an asteroid and having the water there.
          • Not at all, at least not in the mid to long term, especially if you need the enormous amounts of water that a space station or any kind of space-based industry would swallow.

  • space travelers will need water, not only for drinking, bathing, and agriculture but for rocket fuel.

    ...Convincing /. that bathing is the second most important item on that list.

  • So breaking a mining mirror...is 7 years bad luck, or 7 year round trip to refit?

  • One of the more precious resources that asteroid miners are going after is water, something that is in abundance on Earth and, oddly enough, in space as well

    Why is that so odd? Where do you think the water on Earth came from?

If you can't understand it, it is intuitively obvious.

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