The asteroid mission

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Yuri_Armstrong

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What plans are being made for the asteroid mission set to take place in 2025 as part of Obama's plan? Have they even decided which asteroid they are going to land on yet?
 
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MeteorWayne

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There is no real mission yet, so this will be moved to Space Business and Technology and merged with one of the discussions about it there.
 
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vulture4

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Asteroids are relatively small bodies with simpler structure and no weathering except by meteoroid impact. What is there scientifically that can be learned by a manned misison that cannot be learned with robotic systems at a fraction of the cost? Despite its problems the Hayabusa mission has certainly shown the potential for unmanned asteroidal sample return even with current technology.
 
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EarthlingX

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vulture4":62d98ach said:
Asteroids are relatively small bodies with simpler structure and no weathering except by meteoroid impact. What is there scientifically that can be learned by a manned misison that cannot be learned with robotic systems at a fraction of the cost? Despite its problems the Hayabusa mission has certainly shown the potential for unmanned asteroidal sample return even with current technology.
It is about the speed of light. Much more can be done with remotely operated robots with less lag.

If a manned mission returned from the asteroid visit, they would most likely bring back more than just nano samples. Technology needed for such a mission is a basis for anything or anywhere else - it is a minimal common ground. Going down is in most cases easier than going up.

If you follow ISS related events, you can see there is still a lot to be done on various life-support systems, as an example.
 
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MeteorWayne

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Good point about quantities. The 6 Apollo Missions brought back 382 kg of moon rocks, or about 64 kg per mission.

The 3 Soviet Luna missions brought back a total of 326 grams, or 0.1 kg per mission.

So each manned mission returned ~ 580 times more material than the unmanned. A lot of that has to do with the pricetags of course, as well as the consumables used by those humans which leaves space for more returned material.

MW
 
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Yuri_Armstrong

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Besides, asteroid mining could be very profitable. If humans can land on an asteroid it will show that it is possible that other men could go there as well, perhaps individuals from private companies looking to make a profit. An asteroid about 1 mile in diamater could contain over $20 trillion in precious metals. That sounds like plenty enough to offset launch and operations cost.

And on a more important note, landing on an asteroid will open up new options for the possibility of deflecting an asteroid from hitting Earth. And as stated earlier, we will be able to recover a lot more samples with a manned mission than an unmanned mission.

In addition, we will also finally land on another celestial body, which I think we are quite overdue for. 50 years of manned space exploration and we've only visited the moon.
 
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vulture4

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The Hayabusa mission, the very first asteroid sample return attempt, cost about $170 million. This is around 1% of the cost of a manned mission to an asteroid, so it isn't unreasonable to suggest that we could explore 100 asteroids with unmanned systems for every one that humans could explore. Some of the failures during the Hayabusa mission might have been fixed by a human crew, but others would likely have doomed the crew. Robotics are increasingly autonomous so the communications lag is not a major problem for control. Because of the small and relatively simple structure of most asteroids, analysis can generally be performed on site and sample return, if it is even needed, doesn't have to include huge quantities of material. Moreover, robotic probe technology is advancing rather rapidly. With current technology robotic probes are far more cost effective for scientific purposes.

Asteroidal material is valuable only if it can be returned to earth. It isn't clear whether most countries will agree to having tons of ore dropped through the atmosphere, but if they do it will certainly be an unmanned operation. Human flight to Mars and the asteroids will certainly be practical when we have a substantial LEO infrastructure and can use reusable systems for practical travel beyond LEO. But with current expendable vehicle technology planning a single massive manned expedition to an asteroid to bring back a few hundred pounds of rock just doesn't make sense. It would leave us poorer and still trapped in LEO, or rather, trapped on the ground.
 
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samkent

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Besides, asteroid mining could be very profitable.
Here we go again.


An asteroid about 1 mile in diamater could contain over $20 trillion in precious metals. That sounds like plenty enough to offset launch and operations cost.
Show me the numbers. Pick any metal you like. Bring back a shuttle load and prove you can get any where close to break even never mind a profit.


Run The Numbers!
 
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vulture4

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I hate to say this, but the environmental impact statement on hitting the earth with a 1 mile asteroid would be pretty absurd. What if it hit off target and took out Europe? What about the tidal waves? I'm sure there's a point where we could utilize asteroidal material at a reasonable price, but it requires much more advanced spaceflight than we currently have. We need a LEO infrastructure and fully reusable launch systems first.
 
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samkent

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I doubt he meant to drop it all at once.

More likely he meant to mine in orbit and bring down the final product. But that just increases the cost.

Imagine what a 1 mile asteroid would do to the orbit of other sats!
 
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Yuri_Armstrong

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Where did you get the numbers that 1% of a manned asteroid mission is 170 million? I'm not saying that's wrong, I just didn't know anybody had actually estimated it. By the time 2025 comes around our space flight technology will be more advanced than what we have now.

Like I already said, a 1 mile asteroid could hold $20 trillion worth of precious metals. I do not mean drop the whole asteroid through the atmosphere at once, or even change its orbit. In 2025 space flight will be cheaper and more advanced. So while it would be expensive to get a manned ship there and set up mining operations, and then return the materials back to Earth, there is a lot of profit to be made from mining an asteroid. This is a great incentive for private companies to push the final frontier.

As for NASA, setting up a base on a NEA could be pretty useful for later missions. Most of the mission costs now adays comes from ships trying to escape Earth's gravity. But on an asteroid, there's very little gravity, greatly reducing launch costs. And some NEAs have orbits that bring them to the heart of the asteroid belt- we could "ride" the asteroid and use that as a launch base for manned missions to Mars, as well as unmanned missions to further explore the outer solar system.

And comparing a JAXA unmanned mission for a NASA manned mission is comparing apples and oranges. While it's true that unmanned missions would be cheaper, we could bring back a lot more scientific samples with a manned crew. I definitley think that we need to keep exploring with unmanned probes, but manned missions are more important. We have a lot to gain from this asteroid mission and I'm looking forward to it. Good show Obama :)
 
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samkent

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In 2025 space flight will be cheaper and more advanced.
That’s what they said 40 years ago.


there is a lot of profit to be made from mining an asteroid.
That’s just a Star Trek dream. There is no profit at all to made from ET mining. Just look at any mining operation down here and then imagine transferring it to an orbital operation. Lets look at some numbers.

Best guess for a Soyuz launch is $50 million.
Capacity 500 lbs.
Gold $1200 troy oz.

So you would spend $50 mil to return $9 mil in gold. This assumes the asteroid has finished gold bars laying on the surface. Has NASA located any gold bar asteroids lately? Plus try unloading 500 lbs of gold in a short time frame and watch the price crash.



But on an asteroid, there's very little gravity, greatly reducing launch costs.
What does it cost to get the hardware up to the asteroid?

Star Trek dreams!
 
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Yuri_Armstrong

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samkent":373s1sgl said:
That’s what they said 40 years ago.
And... it is cheaper and more advanced. What a surprise.




That’s just a Star Trek dream.
Just because it's been in fiction means that it's not possible or viable? People used to think the same way about building an aircraft, much less about going to the moon.

There is no profit at all to made from ET mining. Just look at any mining operation down here and then imagine transferring it to an orbital operation. Lets look at some numbers.

Best guess for a Soyuz launch is $50 million.
Capacity 500 lbs.
Gold $1200 troy oz.

So you would spend $50 mil to return $9 mil in gold. This assumes the asteroid has finished gold bars laying on the surface. Has NASA located any gold bar asteroids lately? Plus try unloading 500 lbs of gold in a short time frame and watch the price crash.
Your situation is completely false. If something like this were tried today, then yes, you wouldn't make any money off of it. Keep in mind that this sort of operation isn't likely to take place before 2030. My point is that there's plenty of resources on those asteroids. Asteroids smashed into the Earth when it was forming, producing a lot of the natural resources we have today. And they are still buried in them today. Trust me, when it becomes economically viable, I bet it will happen.


What does it cost to get the hardware up to the asteroid?

Star Trek dreams!
There's a reason they planned this mission 15 years in the future. Instead of signing it off to some economically disastrous netherworld actually give it a chance instead of looking at it through today's technology.

"it's been on star trek! we cant allow it!!!" :roll:
 
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rcsplinters

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Occurs to me that a big value from visiting an asteroid might be leaving an instrument package. I'm not sure what functions might be valuable. Perhaps impact detectors, radiation monitors for long term data acquistion. Might even want to leave a static camera and modest telescopic system. Since you have humans along for the ride, it could be deployable with "some assembly required".

Another question, would you look for something with an eccentric orbit or more a planetary path? The eccentric orbit might provide a more variety of environments.

This is not to diminish the value of sample return, but I'm not sure that would be the only key mission objective.

Would sort of instrument package would you leave?
 
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samkent

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samkent wrote:That’s what they said 40 years ago.

And... it is cheaper and more advanced. What a surprise.

It’s cheaper now??? Where do you get your numbers on that?
Advanced? Soyuz? Are talking about the same thing? Yes they have made many changes but advanced? I don’t think so.


There's a reason they planned this mission 15 years in the future. Instead of signing it off to some economically disastrous netherworld actually give it a chance instead of looking at it through today's technology.
Who planned this mission?

In the 30’s they said we would have cars that drive themselves.
In the 50’s they said nuclear power would be too cheap to meter.
In the 60’s they said we would all have flying cars.
In the 70’s they said we would have bases on the Moon.

What did we get? NADA

Until Kirk needs some dilithium crystals we won’t be mining off planet.
 
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Yuri_Armstrong

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samkent":3gomw333 said:
It’s cheaper now??? Where do you get your numbers on that?
Yes. A reusable shuttle is cheaper than using staged-rocket vehicles which can only be used once.

Advanced? Soyuz? Are talking about the same thing? Yes they have made many changes but advanced? I don’t think so.
I wasn't talking specifically about the soyuz. NASA has advanced from using Mercury spacecraft to space shuttles, which is a pretty big advance if you ask me. As for the Soyuz, it has been upgraded several times over the years, though I do agree that they need to find a replacement for it.


Who planned this mission?
Obama did. It was in his speech.

In the 30’s they said we would have cars that drive themselves.
In the 50’s they said nuclear power would be too cheap to meter.
In the 60’s they said we would all have flying cars.
In the 70’s they said we would have bases on the Moon.
The nuclear power and moon base things are a result of the incompetence and shortsightedness of government. If your point is that people overestimate technological progress, then yes, you're correct. But these people also thought of space stations, reusable space shuttles, landing on the moon, space tourism, stealth aircraft, breaking the sound barrier, smart bombs, etc. etc. etc. Just because some of their predictions were wrong doesn't make them crazy. And I'm not saying when asteroid mining will happen, or if it even will happen, just that there's good reasons for it. And even if there is no asteroid mining, we still have a lot to gain from manned use of asteroids.
 
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rockett

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The real value of asteroid mining is ISRU. Not having to lift it outa the gravity well would be the only thing that might balance the books, and at present, that is questionable.

Otherwise, not worth shipping home, except extremely scarce (on earth) specialized stuff.

Only other practical value I can see to a tourist trip to one, would be collision aversion. Maybe we need to get some remakes of the asteroid disaster flicks out. That might spark some interest.
 
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bdewoody

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I have made this statement several times in several threads. Planning a manned mission to an asteroid ahead of a return to the moon or even the mission to Mars is an exercise in futility. Currently there is no valid need to send a manned mission to any asteroid. Robots can do it cheaper and better. The only reason for a manned mission to the Moon or Mars is eventual colonization and we ain't gonna put a colony on an asteroid. On the other hand we can establish a viable colony on the moon within a decade and on Mars within 50 years if we don't let stupid politicians get in the way.
 
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samkent

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samkent wrote:
It’s cheaper now??? Where do you get your numbers on that?

Yes. A reusable shuttle is cheaper than using staged-rocket vehicles which can only be used once.

Uuuuh how do I respond to that without …
Name one shuttle that is cheaper than a throw away.



I totally agree that sending men to an asteroid would be a bad idea from a scientific point of view.

But lets look at it from a different angle. . Don’t discount the power that they have.

It would allow the politicians to give the US public a ‘feel good’ shot in the arm.
It would give bragging rights again. We went farther than anybody (to date) again.
It would bring back many jobs to the space sector.
It would farther our space capabilities without expecting a whole series of new inventions.
And most importantly a relatively finite cost without decades or centuries of space welfare.

It beats another round of Apollo.
 
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Yuri_Armstrong

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Now you're beginning to see my point. Bringing back scientific samples would be one thing that they will do, but we gain a lot more than just that.

bdewoody":2r1rsu0a said:
I have made this statement several times in several threads. Planning a manned mission to an asteroid ahead of a return to the moon or even the mission to Mars is an exercise in futility. Currently there is no valid need to send a manned mission to any asteroid. Robots can do it cheaper and better. The only reason for a manned mission to the Moon or Mars is eventual colonization and we ain't gonna put a colony on an asteroid. On the other hand we can establish a viable colony on the moon within a decade and on Mars within 50 years if we don't let stupid politicians get in the way.
I'm fine with either a moon landing or an asteroid landing in the 2020's. Bottom line is that if we're going to keep a public interest in space we need something more than LEO research missions and the ISS. Something like the asteroid mission will inspire another generation of students to pursue careers in science and math. Not to mention the other benefits that kent has listed.

Also I couldn't find any measure of how much it costs to put a kilogram in space in the 60's as compared to today, so I guess we could assume that it's not much cheaper. But programs that cost $1 billion for one launch just aren't going to do it.

Is the orion spacecraft still being developed, at least so we can go to the ISS without the Soyuz? I'm going to be dissapointed if we are stuck with the russians for the next 5 or 6 years. I don't have anything against them but the Soyuz is pretty small and we should have a space vehicle of our own.

Also while unmanned probes are cheaper than manned missions, whether they do it better is pretty debatable. Manned missions can bring back a lot more samples and carry out more research.
 
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marsbug

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We do do a lot more than just ISS and LEO research missions, including a lot of great missions to asteroids and other small bodies- its just that it's all unmanned. I personally have a lot doubt about manned BEO missions actually happening. Its not that I don't want them to, or think they are an inherently bad idea, its that I've heard the phrase 'moon in ten years, mars in twenty' a great many times and it has never happened! The trend in the observations I've made on the subject is for lots of talk, a fair bit of promising planning and paper, a little hardware development and then cancellation. If there's no force pushing change on that pattern it won't change by itself.
 
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scottb50

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bdewoody":mz19x8wi said:
I have made this statement several times in several threads. Planning a manned mission to an asteroid ahead of a return to the moon or even the mission to Mars is an exercise in futility. Currently there is no valid need to send a manned mission to any asteroid. Robots can do it cheaper and better. The only reason for a manned mission to the Moon or Mars is eventual colonization and we ain't gonna put a colony on an asteroid. On the other hand we can establish a viable colony on the moon within a decade and on Mars within 50 years if we don't let stupid politicians get in the way.
Eventual colonization is well down the road for a long long time. Research, Exploration is enough to think about without fretting about step 4.0 when we are at step 1.5. What the robots do best is prove the environment poses no other threats then those we are dealing with, opening the way for people.

Who knows maybe asteroid riding will be popular, jump on and fly around the Sun. We could easily have a growable research and Astronomy center on the moon way before 2020, but I doubt anything like a colony. 90% of what you would need to go to Mars would be the same thing your using at the moon and asteroids.
 
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Yuri_Armstrong

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Yeah, full fledged colonies are a long way off I think. Right now it's important to get government and science-oriented bases set up on places like the moon and asteroids to conduct research about the best and most efficient way to live there.

And the asteroid riding is pretty useful aside from just tourism. If an asteroid has an orbit that takes it by Earth and Mars, then we could set up infrastructure during its passing of Earth and then launch a mission to Mars or other bodies when it gets closer. It will take a lot of money to set up initially, but if we use it as a launch site for unmanned and manned missions then launch costs are cheaper because of the low gravity.
 
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HopDavid

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Yuri_Armstrong":1kfunaor said:
If an asteroid has an orbit that takes it by Earth and Mars, then we could set up infrastructure during its passing of Earth and then launch a mission to Mars or other bodies when it gets closer. It will take a lot of money to set up initially, but if we use it as a launch site for unmanned and manned missions then launch costs are cheaper because of the low gravity.
I note you use the plural missions. Are you imagining an asteroid that passes by both Mars and Earth repeatedly?

It sounds like you thinking of employing an asteroid to build a Mars-earth cycler.

Mars-Earth synodic period is 2.1354 years, a tad short of 2 1/7, which is 2.1429 years.

The Mars-Earth cycler schemes I know of rely on the fact that 8 Mars years are about the same as 15 earth years. 15 years is about 7 earth-Mars synodic periods.

I hate the Aldrin cycler. Don't feel like talking about that right now. But I will if you ask me to.

The Niehoff VISIT 1 and VISIT 2 cyclers are more interesting. Their periods are 1.5 and 1.25 years. They are more more Hohmann like than the Aldrin cycler. Mars Hohmann orbit has a period of 1.417 years.

I used to spend time looking for asteroids that might be tweaked to be a VISIT cycler. There might be some, but I haven't found any. But asteroid searches are discovering new asteroids all the time.

Mars cyclers have a number of problems. The fact that Mars orbit isn't exactly 1/8 of 15 years is a headache. The noticeable eccentricity of Mars' orbit is another headache.

There is a very nice possible Earth-Venus cycler system. But at this time we know very little about asteroids with aphelions of 1 A.U. or less. Such asteroids are hard to see for a number of reasons.
 
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scottb50

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HopDavid":h36rsy6t said:
There is a very nice possible Earth-Venus cycler system. But at this time we know very little about asteroids with aphelions of 1 A.U. or less. Such asteroids are hard to see for a number of reasons.
What good would that be? Venus surface missions would be impossible, at best!

A Mars-Earth cycler would enter a very elliptical orbit, Tugs in orbit to transfer Modules to or from, low Mars or Earth orbit.

Asteroids would be a piece of cake. At least two vehicles have landed on asteroids and survived. No evil creatures or Bruce Willis sets have been found.
 
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