China discovers never-before-seen ore containing a highly valuable rare earth element

Now, if the Psyche mission discovers a lot of niobium content in that "metal asteroid", there could be a great impetus for mining it. Or at least trying to find smaller hunks of the same stuff in the asteroid belt.
 
Sep 8, 2023
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Now, if the Psyche mission discovers a lot of niobium content in that "metal asteroid", there could be a great impetus for mining it. Or at least trying to find smaller hunks of the same stuff in the asteroid belt.
No need to go that far just yet. Earth's trojans are more accessible and screaming for visits.
 
I only knowo f 2 Earth trojans, and they aren't huge. Do we even know if they are metallic?

While I understand the hypothesis that they probably did not differentiate, so "rare earth" elements would still be mixed into their surface materials. are the the hypothetical concentrations high enough to support the cost of retrieval to Earth? We already get meteorites for free, and I have not heard of anybody thinking they are going to be an important source of such elements. If they were rich in elements that we need, wouldn't it be cheaper to dig into impact craters than to send enough space infrastructure to mine trojans?
 
Sep 8, 2023
21
8
15
I only knowo f 2 Earth trojans, and they aren't huge. Do we even know if they are metallic?

While I understand the hypothesis that they probably did not differentiate, so "rare earth" elements would still be mixed into their surface materials. are the the hypothetical concentrations high enough to support the cost of retrieval to Earth? We already get meteorites for free, and I have not heard of anybody thinking they are going to be an important source of such elements. If they were rich in elements that we need, wouldn't it be cheaper to dig into impact craters than to send enough space infrastructure to mine trojans?
Two is not a logical number; zero, one, and "many" are but not two. If two, why not three? Or ten, a hundred, whatever... And if they're not there, planet formation theories are in trouble.

Oh, and the newest found is almost a mile in size. That's industrial size.

As to looking in craters (on the moon?) it requires less energy to send probes to L4 and L5 than the moon. Finally, the trojan asteroids aren't going to be clumped at the Lagrangians, but rather orbiting them at various distances. Makes them hard to find from earth. Which is why a mission to park a probe there is called for.
 
To do a round-trip mission from Earth, it takes more energy to land on the Moon and return than it takes to go to a lower mass object like a half-kilometer diameter asteroid, grab a sample, and return. However, it takes longer to go the greater distances to the Earth's orbit Lagrange points.

Earth "trojan" asteroids have been looked for, and, so far, only 2 have been found. According to Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_trojan :

"An Earth-based search for L5 objects was conducted in 1994, covering 0.35 square degrees of sky, under poor observing conditions.[5] That search failed to detect any objects:

"The limiting sensitivity of this search was magnitude ~22.8, corresponding to C-type asteroids ~350 m in diameter, or S-type asteroids ~175 m in diameter."[5]
In February 2017, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft performed a search from within the L4 region on its way to asteroid Bennu.[6] No additional Earth trojans were discovered.[7]

"In April 2017, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft searched the L5 region while proceeding to asteroid Ryugu,[8] but did not find any asteroids there.[9]"

Of the 2 discovered so far, one is estimated to be 150-to-500 meters in diameter and the other is estimated at 1100-to-1260 meters, both at L4.

While it is conceivable that asteroids of this size might be moved to Earth orbits if they turn out to be more firmly compacted than the asteroids we have been able to visit and sample or impact, so far, there would be some serious hazards associated with bringing a kilometer wide asteroid to low Earth orbit - some sort of guidance of thruster malfunction, such as we have seen in multiple recent launch and landing attempts, could put that asteroid on a collision course with Earth.

So I expect initial visits will be scientific missions with sample return, and any mining missions would probably be scaled-up "samples" using similar strategies.

Perhaps, some day, materials could be landed on the Moon for refining before descent to Earth's surface, or even refined in orbit around Earth or even out at L4 or L5. But, it is a tradeoff between getting the raw materials to Earth's surface vs getting refining and perhaps manufacturing infrastructure equipment out to where the raw materials currently reside so that only finished products need be descended to Earth's surface.
 
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