Why the US has not been back to the moon?

Discussion in 'Astronomy, Exobiology, & Cosmology' started by Mind Over Matter, Jan 12, 2012.

  1. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    Billy T,

    Once again we have been over this before, your argument is fallacious. A materially self sustaining asteroid mine be it fully automated or a manned colony would be profitable because the earth would not need to send up any supplies. Once you send up the mining equipment and crew, it continues to return materials virtually indefinitely.

    Imagine had the European empires tried to utilize America like we utilize space. Instead of sending indentured servants, slaves and conquistadors to pillage and rape the land, then sent ships with all the supplies it would need for the way there and back and the people would not stay their but travel back in rotations. We would still be exploring the Americas to this day!

    In short until we undertake one-way trips into space, space will remain uneconomical. Mind you already one-way trips is quite economical for the unmanned spacecraft we send up, its only a matter of time until we can make them competent enough to create self-replicating asteroid mines.
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  3. billvon Valued Senior Member

    That's true whether that self sustaining mine is on the earth or in space. And a mine on earth will be much, much cheaper to set up - thus the ore it produces will be that much cheaper, and will out-compete extraterrestrial ores.

    Uh, that's what they did. They formed colonies. That's where the US came from.
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  5. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    The earth's resources are fundamentally limited and of far lower purity. More so for the colony in space sending materials up to it is already exorbitantly expensive, mining its own is much cheaper. Look at it like this: how many people do you think the earth can support? Space could support a virtually infinite population. According to John S. Lewis in the book mining the sky the solar system alone could support a population of 10^16 people, virtually all of them living in the asteroid belt alone.

    No shit sherlock, that's my point. Living off the land and one-way trips through indentured servitude and eventually slavery made the US what it is today.
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  7. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    No it is not, but this exchange is getting repetitious. I give referenced data, including fact that there is three times higher gold concentration in the oceans than in highest known asteroid´s meteorite, more than 10 times higher in several rivers, and biological and geothermal process exist on Earth (but not cold asteroids) which make gold seams that are mined nearly 100 times richer ore than the best known asteroid´s meteorite, I give cost analysis, and I discuss a few of the technical problems present only on asteroids like:

    (1) In very low gravity new ways will need to be invented to crush mined chunks into chemically process able dust as the ball of a turning ball mill will fall with almost no kinetic energy and do no grinding. OR
    (2) The molten precious metals in the smelter will cling to the oxides by surface tension and not be drawn off into a liquid stream by gravity as on Earth.

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    GRAVITY IS REQUIRED to overcome liquid gold´s surface tension forces.

    You in contrast just produce unresponsive hand waving replies, with zero economic analysis, and ignoring dozen of much greater cost factors than mining on Earth. You give zero estimated of how many deep space probes will need to re-fill with space made H2 & O2 fuel each year just to pay the interest on the capital invested. You naively seem to think there is no cost once some equipment is sitting on an asteroid. The interest will be many millions of dollars each month for what you seem to be speaking of - colonization!

    Stop waving your hands - pick up you calculator and find the capital cost of mining even on Earth (In space it will be dozens of times higher as the entire support structure must be built. For example the cost of the electric power company is divided among >10,000 users.)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 25, 2012
  8. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    OOOuu gold, so what? I'm talking steel, nickel, carbon, rare earths like platinum, and energy: ~1300 watts per meter continues supply in fact. Many of the larger asteroids also have differentiated cores (hence were the giant Iron-Nickel asteroid come for: cores of failed planets) we have yet to go up there and determine that they do in fact lack seams of metals like gold.

    So? technologies needed to be developed to invent mining and smelting to begin with. Also a simple centrifuge solves any gravity related problem, the fact you could not figure that is stunning.

    Not at all I keep requesting you read the book "Mining the Sky" John S. Lewis, and argue with him. Its well referenced, I just don't happen to have it on me at present, cause you know, Africa.

    I'm confused by this statement, what deep space probes? probes don't mine. I did before on another thread provide estimates on how much a small electrolysis plant could produce per year. But if you want more detail estimates I again recommend you read "Mining the Sky".

    Yeah cause everyone going to have a bank loan them the money to finance this

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    First off generally investors are as close minded as you, so if this is to happen its going to be off of someones own savings, without interest. If the mine is fully automated and self-repairing, self-replicating it will in fact have no costs once up there.

    Well gee the cost of electricity in space is not hard to come by, again you got a continuous supply of ~1300 watts/meter of light. Simple crystalline silicon solar panels of 15% efficiency could be built in situ (no gravity would help in fact in producing single blemish-less crystals of silicon) at an asteroid mined and shipped to earth via fuel made in situ or solar sail made in situ. Mass production of solar panels in space could allow for building space based power plants in GEO and beaming down gigawatt to earth virtually continuously.

    When you derive capital cost you fail to take into account long term demands of humanity on the planet: we are having problems at just 7 billion, imagine 10,20,100 billion people, space is the only place where the resources are limitless enough to supply the people of the future.
  9. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Again, not one dollar estimate. Ok, just tell me how many times more expensive doing "X" in space or on an asteroid X would be.
    That says nothing about the cost and is the near earth value. If it were not many (about 7 or more) times more expensive per KWH generated in space, we would be taking advantage of that 1300s/m^2 just out side the Earth´s atmosphere. We already have demonstrated all the technology needed: Deployed large arrays of solar cells; made and sent microwave beams down to the Earth´s surface. For example to measure precisely the sea surface height and thus the currents. (The western side of the Gulf Stream is more than a meter higher than the eastern side due to Corillois effect) We have tested small versions of “rectennas” capturing microwaves and converted their frequency to 60hz AC, but as this 1300W/M^2 “free in space" energy cost >10 times the price of a KWH made on Earth with a gas fire conventional generator no one on Earth is interested in it. THUS TELLING THERE IS FREE 1300W/M^2 IN SPACE only reflects your ignorance of the cost factors related to using it (on Earth or even in NEO space for economic reasons. The solar cells used in space are typical dual layer devices to get higher efficiency and thus smaller arrays for same energy collection with less weight to lift, etc.. They costs at least 5 times more than those used on Earth, but in space the cheaper ways of getting electric power do not exist - no gas pipelines, etc. ).

    Do you have even the slightest idea of what a plant making photo-voltaic cells costs? (Capital cost is more than 2/3 of the cost of an Earth made solar cell as on Earth Si is very cheap.*) Just getting the SiO2 in space or from an asteroid and converting it into Si there would make the solar cell more than 10 times more expensive – but of course you still need the factory to make the cells from the Si.

    Enough with your hand waving – lets see some even half way realistic analysis of the dollars required.
    Of course, one could in principle spin a smelting furnace to separate the liquid metals from the oxides of their ores, but the cost of the metals produced would be more than 1000 times greater. You spinning smelting furnace is trapped in a “catch 22.” The centrifugal force, F, produced goes as shown in this figure:

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    Note to cut the rotational speed in half the radius must be four times greater.
    From: http://www.calctool.org/CALC/phys/newtonian/centrifugal which is a site that gives a convenient calculator. Here are a couple of your “catch 22” choices that produce Earth´s free 1G acceleration (but only at the ID of the smelting furnace – linearly less as you approach the spin axis):

    CATCH 22 CATCH #(1): A 12 meter ID (typical on Earth) for the spinning smelting furnace AND a 360 degree revolution every 5 seconds. OR:
    CATCH 22 CATCH #(2): A 2 meter ID (cheaper size with less production capacity) for the spinning smelting furnace AND a faster 360 degree revolution every 2 seconds.

    SUMMARY: No, not "stunning" - I knew centrifugal force existed, but did not make “senseless hand waving claims” that it could feasibly overcome the surface tension in near zero gravity, as you did. Conceptually, yes it could, if you don´t mind paying 1000 times more to do so. BTW, your smelter will be 5 times more expensive, even if it did not need to spin, as its heat will come from costly electric power, not cheap natural gas or carbon also burning in the zero cost air.

    What is stunning is your lack of any understanding of how impractical AND COSTLY spinning a smelting furnace would be.

    Enough with your hand waving – lets see some even half way realistic analysis of the dollars required.
    Agreed “probes don´t mine” but many are aware of the huge cost per Kg of any delivery back to earth, (and the fact that earth bound people paying the bill want some benefit) so after noting the high cost (>$10,000/ gallon) of fuel from Earth taken to the moon, they have been suggesting (correctly I think) that the most economically attractive thing to do in space is to make fuel for deep space probes. What they never mention is that the “re-fuelling station” asteroid is not near earth except every few years and yet something like probe re-fueling every few months is needed just to pay the capital´s interest cost, if the fuel cost is to be less than simply lifting it out of Earth´s gravity well. Just holding liquid H2 for a few months in a tank is costly.
    Even if some investors were willing put up a few trillion dollars (Planetary Resources** crude estimates of the cost of their plans) and did not expect any return on their investment (Never the attitude of the very rich – if it were, they would no longer be “the very rich.”) there is still the “opportunity costs” If your understanding of economic is so poor, you don´t know that term, ask and I will explain it to you. (Opportunity costs are real costs just not out of pocket costs.)
    What you are ignoring here, is that as nations gain wealth, most have so few babies that their populations are shrinking and median age is rising. With even 10% of the funds you think the very rich will give, ALL nations could have adequate birth control in place. Long term, with the BRICs etc. rapidly growing prosperous, the Earth´s problem is shrinking populations. All the developed nations give financial rewards for having babies already. Periodically in Russia they give a new house to randomly selected couples who produce a new baby! France also has huge rewards, but I forget the details. In China, starting about 2030, the population decline begins!

    SUMMARY: You have the wrong solution to the wrong problem!

    I was, I admit, surprised today to read: "This demographic shift could help India enjoy increasing national prosperity. The country appears to be at an early stage of declining fertility, leading to fewer young mouths to feed at the same time that it has a greater number of wage earners. ..." - In the weekly Asian news letter update from the Matthews International Capital Management, LLC

    * There are more than 100,000 TONS of very pure SiO2 you can just pick up with your hands on Earth - We call these deposits "beaches." They were produced (for free) by natural weathering processes, WHICH DO NOT TAKE PLACE IN ASTEROIDS. There expensive mining and material processing will be required to just get the pure SiO2 separated.

    ** Planetary Resource´s rich supporters will make big profits with an IPO as they sell stock to saps who fall for their hand waving arguments - many of which you too give. I just hope the investors learn something from Zuckerman´s self enriching IPO and say: "Thanks but no Thanks." At least Facebook does have some ability to generate net income, but mining asteroids etc, DOES NOT. If you think it does, at least discuss the surface tension cancelling catch 22 problem - or can you ignore physics too? (as well as you do economics)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 25, 2012
  10. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    Again your assuming lifting all the equipment from earth, I'm stating we lift far less and have it manufacture solar panels and solar power plants virtually indefinitely and possibly exponentially. We don't need high efficiency panels if they are manufacture in space, we don't need to bring up microwave antennas, or support structure, or even fuel to move it out of LEO. All we need is an asteroid mine, manned or automated, that is self-replicating.

    Once we send up the factory it keeps producing, virtually indefinitely, without further investment, thus throwing out your cost estimates.

    Where are you making these assumptions? Why electricity, how does it cost 1000 times more, or 5 times more? I don't see how the centrifugal calculations make provide evidence to your argument. We could spin a station with nothing put a tether and a counterweight.

    No what is stunning is your lack of imagination: we could spin a station to any 1 g with a tether and a counterweight. Assuming its just two identical facilities at either end of the line the extra weight of the tether and elevator system is minimal.

    Again this "cost" is based on the assumption that all the fuel and materials needed to get it back has to be sent up there. Again the asteroid mine would supply the fuel back and even the materials, dropping the amount of terrestrial materials that has to be returned to potentially zero.

    Why stop there, why not make fuel to move mining equipment? Once you have a station making fuel all you need is enough to get your equipment to LEO after that anywhere else in the solar system is propelled by asteroid fuel. Thus the price to get beyond LEO is now significantly lower. For example the fuel required to go from LEO to GEO doubles the weight needed in LEO (or half your weight in LEO needs to be fuel)

    Not a problem, the moon is only 3 days way, (2 weeks if we move things slowly through L1/L2) and we know it has a billion tons of ice in the caps, the cost of moving the fuel up means that only half of it will make it the earth, a forth if we consider the tankers making round trips. But such a system could return its initial weight in fuel within a handful of trips (I can't remember the number of round trips required from Lewis calculations)

    Well lets says we had never stopped Apollo, we could have built a moon fueling station with just a few Apollo rockets, Lets assume 2 trips per year which includes lunar exploration, since '70 to '90 that would be about 4 billion per year or 80 billion in government subsides infrastructure returning several hundred tons of a H2/O2 a year to LEO. Thats a good fold less then "several trillion". With that the price to getting to an asteroid is cut down by almost a half, and only a few hundred tons of cargo would be needed to setup a small (non-self repairing) mining facility.

    Oh I know about this and have posted about it before: the question is can we raise the stander of living of EVERYONE to a first world standard of living, we would have to double world energy and materials consumption at a minimum. Even at present the price of energy is going up, many materials are being increasing harder to mine as we use up all the easy to mine stuff, technology has made those alternate sources viable but has not be able to bring the price down to the good old days when oil was just a few meters below miners feet. So what will increasingly expensive resources do, well for one you can though out raising everyone standard of living to levels where they stop breeding the rodents, most likely famine and genocide will kick in like it always does when these problems happen at a local level, but this time at a global level. If only we had invested decades ahead of time we could have solves the energy and materials problem permanently.

    Yes, but its not in Geosync. orbit and getting up there is far too expensive. Getting it from space would actually be far cheaper. At the very least Lunar provided fuel would cut the cost down nearly in half.

    That hard to do even for you but for comparison, the Internet or the new fad of hydrofracing for natural gas were not profitable for decades and required massive subsidies and government investment to get off. If and when the day and age comes of AI smart enough to manage its self in space comes any investment price would not compare to the near infinite returns.
  11. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Still only hand waving - not one economical calculation. OK, perhaps you will do a physical calculation? (I bet you won´t. - You just prefer to wave hands.)

    On (2) assume rough shape and mass for your asteroid or dumbbell factory pair having 1 G and its average radius from the spin axis (or mass centroid). What energy is required to give it 1 g at the surface (or at ends of the two factories) and where would that energy come from (spinning solar cells? - I don´t think so as they would collect much less energy than non spinning ones.) Do you think you can take mass up at affordable cost, just to be a "counter weight"?

    On (1) Yes for several decades most of what is built on an asteroid, for example a factory that can make solar cells, will be sent from Earth. The interest on this huge investment with no return for decades is more than US can pay.

    "... Solyndra was a solar startup that was primed to succeed--it raised over $1 billion from investors, and managed to secure a prized $535 million federal loan guarantee in 2009 to build a solar panel factory. ..." From: http://www.fastcoexist.com/1678478/...g-for-solar-power-that-solyndra-went-bankrupt

    Solyndra went bankrupt even though it had customers, government support, and was built on Earth. You asteroid solar cell factory has no cheap Si, no supporting electric grid to hook into, no wearhouse just waiting full of high-tech equipment and supplies, no paying customers, etc, etc. - That all comes from earth and cost 1000 times more taken out of Earth´s gravity well. I.e. cost of at least 1 TRILLION DOLLARS, BFORE THE FIRST SOLAR CELL IS MADE.

    When it is, who will buy it and for what would they use it?

    How many trillions of dollars will the plant that mines, refines and zone purifies the silicon cost? - That all comes from earth for start up phase too and needs great amounts of energy (from where?).

    Enough with your hand waving – lets see some even half way realistic analysis of the dollars required.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 25, 2012
  12. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    You would need a massive infrastructure of economy, people, machinery, power, etc.

    Yes, it's possible - in a century or so.

    What you're suggesting is kind of like all the 17th century French need to do to reap the forests of the New World would be to make a forest-mining machine, and ship it all back to France.

    No, what they need is a colony, with economy, people, machinery, power, and a shipping industry. Which they got,. But it took colonization of the New World to do it.

    Do you know what a von Neumann device is? They're great. But they don't exist.

    We are centuries away from making a device that can replicate itself and do useful mining work.

    How we duplicate projects of that size now is what we call a colony - a miniature country with all its infrastructure.

    Don't get me wrong. It's not that we can;t do this. It's that it's at least a century away. Perhaps it would help the discussion if you defined your expected timeframe.
  13. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    But perhaps it will not fall as fast as the Facebook IPO has:

    "In the eight trading days of its young life on the public street, the stock has plunged roughly 26% while generating lots of activity and volatility along the way—not to mention plenty of financial pain for all the investors who were "lucky" enough to get a slice of the original plump offering."
  14. Exoscientist Mathematician Registered Senior Member

    Planetary Resources, Inc. has asked for suggestions for getting
    public involvement in their asteroid mining venture on their web site:


    The most common suggestion has been to use distributed computing or
    crowd sourcing to find valuable asteroid targets.

    Bob Clark
  15. fermions Registered Member


    The question you should really be asking is why we suddenly decided to go to the moon.
  16. Creeping Death Out of darkness came light Registered Senior Member

  17. spidergoat Valued Senior Member


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