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Mining Asteroids - SpacePod

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With the success of Planetary Resources' Kickstarter campaign, asteroid mining is gaining a lot of momentum and interest. But, what about the dangers? Planetary Resources just successfully funded the world's first public space telescope and in doing so has brought a lot of attention to not only themselves, but their bigger mission as well, mining asteroids. They want to send low-cost mining robots to asteroids to dig out all the good stuff. Mostly water for propulsion at first, but eventually rare metals and possibly other elements that will be useful in space. As Planetary Resources says, asteroid mining may sound like fiction, but it's just science. Although a recent microgravity experiment suggests that even just landing on an asteroid could cause an avalanche, the regolith that covers an asteroid is mostly held together by what's being called force-chains. These chains work similarly to a pile of fruit at your local grocery store. Pull out one or two pieces and the pile may stay intact, but you get just the right one, and you've got a large mess on your hands, which is something that I've never even really considered before. I just think of asteroids as being great big rocks in the sky, but they're not! They're covered in regolith that we, well 'we' being scientists, think just kind of hang out around these great big rocks because of their gravitational pull. But the really weird part is that the experiment shows [that] because of these chains, the effects of the break can be felt much further than previously thought. So there's a possibility that you could land on one side of the rock and cause an an avalanche on the complete other side. I mean how crazy is that? The good thing is that even at this point, the leading asteroid mining companies are far enough out that landing humans on these great big rocks in the sky is still just kind of a fantasy.

Video Details

Duration: 2 minutes and 1 second
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Benjamin Higginbotham
Director: Benjamin Higginbotham
Views: 85
Posted by: spacevidcast on Aug 18, 2013

Mining asteroids isn't easy and now with some new scientific data it may actually be even harder than we originally thought! What are the risks and how do we overcome them? Check out this SpacePod for your answers!

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