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9 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

How uniformly is space junk distributed in this volume?

I don't know.  It was a back-of-the-napkin sort of calculation I did (although I did mention where I got those numbers from, including the one I just made up at random) and to be completely honest part of me was just excited to do such a calculation again, after such a long time.

I haven't gotten the chance to really "chew on" the PDF you linked to as thoroughly as I'd like to.  I was surprised to hear that there have already been a few orbital collisions (which really shouldn't happen if my math was correct).

 

I'm not surprised that NASA thinks this is a big problem that needs immediate action; they've been trying to justify their continued existence in whatever ways they can ever since we landed on the moon.  Still, I haven't gotten a chance to look into it more deeply yet, and although they are struggling to find reasons why we should keep funding them I'd be very loathe to call anyone at NASA a liar.  You don't get into that organization without fully mastering several intellectual virtues simultaneously.

 

So I'll be very interested in seeing how it shakes out from there.

 

Thank you!

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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On 2/26/2021 at 5:24 PM, TommyJo said:

 

Does humanity need space tugs? How difficult is it to design a device that can remove space debris from orbit? What calculations might you need? Are there any prototypes that are already working?

Judging by the fact that there's no effective technology that proved its effectiveness in practice, it's rather difficult to design such a device. All governments and agencies understand the importance of this problem, so I think they'd implement a device to clean up LEO a long ago. I know that the main function of a space tug is to carry payloads to different orbits, and I haven't heard that it can be used for removing space debris. If it really works, why not use it?

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On 3/4/2021 at 8:45 PM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Excellent.

 

I personally think the next best step in the development of space industry would be asteroid mining.  There are quite a few technical hurdles that'd have to be worked out, but whoever successfully does so will stand to make exactly the mind-boggling quantities of profit that would be necessary for any kind of terraforming project.

 I think we can only dream about asteroid mining, and at most, describe it in sci-fi books and movies. Do you imagine how much money this technology needs? Moreover, we don't have the technology to get so close to asteroids and collect materials from them. It may sound good, but we need to investigate closer planets at first.

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Space Debris Has Hit And Damaged The International Space Station

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According to a report from the European Space Agency, an estimated 130 million fragments of anthropogenic material smaller than a millimeter are orbiting Earth right now. That estimate does not include natural space dust.

As the size increases, the quantity probably decreases in general, until getting to tracked size of 23,000 softball sized or larger. 

Roughly 2.22 x 1010 sq. kilometers of area, excluding a "thickness", at just under geosynchronous orbit (radius of 42,000 km.)

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On 4/9/2021 at 8:20 AM, Jacob88 said:

 I think we can only dream about asteroid mining, and at most, describe it in sci-fi books and movies. Do you imagine how much money this technology needs? Moreover, we don't have the technology to get so close to asteroids and collect materials from them. It may sound good, but we need to investigate closer planets at first.

I disagree.

 

Firstly, yes, it would require astronomical amounts of up-front money to start up and incredibly precise calculations to actually land on an asteroid. Neither of those are anything new in space travel, though (an abundance of wealth and mathematical precision is required to send anything at all out of our own gravity well); we may be talking about a difference of scale or degree, sure, but not one of kind. So I'm not sure what you mean about us lacking the technology to land on an asteroid.

If memory serves I believe someone has already landed a vehicle on an asteroid just as a proof of the concept. I don't have time to double check that right this second (I'm on a smoke break and must return to work soon) but off the top of my head I do feel that's a thing which happened.

 

The second point -that of actually extracting something useful from them once we're there- you are right about. It's a pretty tough engineering problem of how to do that without sending all the equipment and infrastructure of a modern mine up there, which would probably put the up-front costs (again speaking purely off the cuff) somewhere in the ballpark of all the money which currently exists.

That's why I rather like the idea of skipping that step entirely and just dropping the whole rock somewhere unimportant (such as the ocean, Antarctica or Detroit).

 

Brute force: if it's not working then you're not using enough of it!

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20 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

That's why I rather like the idea of skipping that step entirely and just dropping the whole rock somewhere unimportant (such as the ocean, Antarctica or Detroit).

 

We would need to be careful about the effect of this on the rest of the world.

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20 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

If memory serves I believe someone has already landed a vehicle on an asteroid just as a proof of the concept. I don't have time to double check that right this second (I'm on a smoke break and must return to work soon) but off the top of my head I do feel that's a thing which happened.

Yep. Looks like NASA's OSIRIS-REx probe has already landed on and taken a sample of some asteroid, which it is bring back here to study.

So it has already been done, in principle. The tough part is how to scale it up by however many orders of magnitude we'll need in order to truly exploit the resources available in the belt.

38 minutes ago, Doug Morris said:

We would need to be careful about the effect of this on the rest of the world.

Of course. All jokes about Detroit aside, an asteroid that was dropped off-course (or one with too much mass to be safely dropped anywhere) could be catastrophic; something that would dwarf Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But everything mankind has ever done has the potential to backfire if done stupidly, right down to fire itself. And whoever figures out how to start doing it correctly would stand to make the stupid quantities of profit that nobody else on Earth has ever made before.

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As long as we are talking about brute force things, how about dropping icy and metallic rocks on the Moon or Mars and go from there ?

 

ps re sci fi , Neal Stephenson's Seven Eves is all about playing with orbital mechanics and fun with big floating rocks .

Edited by tadmjones
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On 6/1/2021 at 3:26 PM, tadmjones said:

As long as we are talking about brute force things, how about dropping icy and metallic rocks on the Moon or Mars and go from there ?

Ooh, now there's an idea. If we had a proper mining setup on Mars then we could start dropping these valuable materials on its poles! That's a good one.

Thanks for the sci-fi recommendation. I've been listening to a lot of the expanded Firefly lore on Audible (and will return to the argument about that soon) and most recently finished reading the Golden Age Trilogy, which I cannot recommend highly enough.

 

The story centers on a guy named Phaethon (yes, after the ancient Greek hero) who's living several thousand years in the future, in this post-scarcity society where violence and death just don't happen anymore and every single molecule of the solar system has been rearranged to serve sentient life (meaning that not only is everyone immortal but also fabulously wealthy). The only problem for Phaethon is that everyone seems to detest him for some reason which he can't remember (having agreed to have his own memories redacted) and which nobody will explain to him. When he decides to violate a contract he can't remember making in order to learn why everyone hates him (on the explicit principle that nothing; not even his godlike standard of living is more important than The Truth) - that's when all Hell breaks loose.

So yeah; The Golden Age Trilogy by John C Wright is something that you should probably check out at some point.

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10 minutes ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

The only problem for Phaethon is that everyone seems to detest him for some reason which he can't remember (having agreed to have his own memories redacted) and which nobody will explain to him.

Actually, this is best illustrated in what I thought was one of the very funniest parts of the first book.

In this utopian society they not only have AI's and general laws surrounding them, but what I would consider to be the perfectly appropriate laws concerning their ownership: an AI is legally obliged to serve its creator to the extent of whatever time, effort and money was required for their creation, after which they are freed (much like indentured servitude with a specific monetary cap).

Spoiler

At some point he cannot remember Phaethon had apparently created an incredibly expensive lawyer AI which he eventually orders to defend him in a court case regarding this contract he can't remember making and is forbidden from trying to learn about.

His AI enters the courtroom and spends several pages giving this beautifully iron-clad defense and demonstrating the irrefutable justice of his side from multiple different angles. Having done this it informs Phaethon that it has just finished redeeming the monetary value of its own creation and is now free, after which it spends several more pages calling him a dangerously reckless sort of rogue. It finishes this all off by declaring "men like you should not be allowed to exist" and asking him never to attempt to contact it again before leaving.

And poor Phaethon is left there asking 'but ... What is it that I even did?!?!!' before being reminded that he's not allowed to ask that question.

I don't think I gave out any actual spoilers there, but I'll stick it in a little compartment just in case. Like I said, though: I can't recommend it highly enough.

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On 6/1/2021 at 10:26 PM, tadmjones said:

 

 

ps re sci fi , Neal Stephenson's Seven Eves is all about playing with orbital mechanics and fun with big floating rocks .

He's a master novelist, though this one I haven't got to.

Look out too for Iain M. Banks who has several sci-fi novels. An incredible imagination and who keeps his futurism realistic.

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