I just saw this on SlashDot. And then I did some searches.
Ok. The asteroid belt is pretty small, compared with, say, the Moon. But do we get how mind bogglingly big these things are?
The reason that I did a search for Titan is that I remember a movie Outland, from way back in 1981, with Sean Connery, that included the premise that humans were mining on Titan. Not sure it was ever clear what they were mining out there.
Questions? And Some Rules.
I have a few questions for the folks that want to “Protect” the Solar System?
So, we don’t believe there is life out there, right? If we find life, I totally support leaving it alone and not contaminating it in any way. And that will not be easy. No dirty probes with finger prints on them or the place is contaminated with life from Earth.
As we worried about spoiling the view? From where? When was the last time you saw an asteroid that we might like to Mine? However, I do support a notion that we should not mine on the side of the moon that faces Earth. That is a view we can see, so let’s not mess it up. But the back side? Have at it. Mine all you like.
Here’s another rule that seems to make sense. No Nukes. It should be illegal to use Nuclear Weapons to mine in space. Two reasons: you can’t control where that fragments go – see next point – and you leave a radioactive mess for mega years that folks have to avoid.
And don’t throw rocks – or ice blocks – that might hit the Earth or other places that humans might be or go. You wanna dump stuff in the Sun or Gas Giant planets? Have at it. But don’t be messing with orbits of stuff larger than a grain of sand that might hit the Earth, Moon, or Moons of other planets, or Mars or the other Rocky planets. And let’s add Neptune and Uranus and poor little Pluto to that list. You wanna toss stuff into Jupiter or Saturn or the Sun go right ahead. Nothing you can steer to those will make the slightest difference, and we are never gonna land there anyway. But leave other places alone. And control your orbits so that our Grand Children to the 10th power don’t have to worry either. So this pretty much rules out mining with explosives of any kind on bodies without a pretty large gravity well.
But with these simple, self protecting rules, I would suggest that we can “Mine as much as we want” out there in the Solar System. I suggest that if we were to start mining the back side of the moon and dig all the holes we like out there, that the human race will lose interest in staying around the solar system before we run out of material.
Human Centric Chauvinism
This paper appears to have a very Human Centric View of Mining, not a Space Centric View of Mining. Yes, we have ruined the mountains of West Virginia and many other places here on Earth. And we can see these and they mess up the Earth for many other uses including our living there and other life living there. It’s a bad idea to act like this on the Earth.
But the moon started out looking like this, and we aren’t going to make it any different by doing all the mining that we want up there. Ok So do it on the Back Side. There’s plenty of the same ole stuff there too. See the stuff on the moon does not come in Veins or Deposits. It’s all mixed up uniformly. So it’s all the same everywhere like the Ocean. The Back Side is exactly the same composition as the Front Side. Veins or deposits were causes by Water, and Life [ Limestone] and Volcanic processes on the Earth and none of those things exist on the Moon to sort minerals or ores out into Veins or Deposits. So leave our “View” alone and have at it on the Back Side.
But protect the whole Solar System from Mining? I call BS. These simple rules I’ve outlined mostly protect Life if we find any, and ourselves. Not the Solar System.
The Real Future
I don’t think that we are going to want to truck all that stuff home anyway. I think if we go to the trouble of going as far as the Asteroid belt to mine, it’s to find materials to build ships to leave the Solar System and colonize the Galaxy. Here’s a youtube channel with lots of talks on the subject by the way.
After following a few of these talks, you can see how small minded and short sighted the thinking is of “Protecting the Solar System from Mining.”