Long ago, a clan of hardy microbes called cyanobacteria helped terraform the lifeless Earth into a vibrant biosphere. Today, the very same critters could be the key to colonizing Mars.
Plants are going to have a tough time on the Red Planet’s hostile surface, but cyanobacteria have coped with extreme environments for eons. A paper led by astrobiologist Lynn Rothschild of NASA’s Ames Research Institute argues that we can harness these tiny photosynthesis machines to produce many of the resources we’ll need to survive, from food and oxygen to metals and medicine. Here are all the ways cyanobacteria can help us build a Martian colony.
The Luxembourg Government announced a series of measures to position Luxembourg as a European hub in the exploration and use of space resources. Amongst the key steps undertaken, as part of the spaceresources.lu initiative, will be the development of a legal and regulatory framework confirming certainty about the future ownership of minerals extracted in space from Near Earth Objects (NEO’s) such as asteroids.
Luxembourg will also invest in relevant R&D projects and consider direct capital investment in companies active in this field.
The country’s deputy prime minister, Étienne Schneider, said: “Our aim is to open access to a wealth of previously unexplored mineral resources, on lifeless rocks hurtling through space, without damaging natural habitats. We will support the long-term economic development of new, innovative activities in the space and satellite industries as a key high-tech sector for Luxembourg. At first, our aim is to carry out research in this area, which at a later stage can lead to more concrete activities in space.“
A new private company called Deep Space Industries announced today that it intends to send a fleet of small spacecraft to near-Earth asteroids with the aim of mining resources and turning them into products using space-based 3-D printers.
“We are about prospecting, exploring, harvesting, extracting, and manufacturing based on the resources of space,” said Rick Tumlinson, founder and chairman of DSI, during a press conference on Jan. 22. Tumlinson has been an ardent space advocate for many years, helping found MirCorp, which brought space tourist Dennis Tito to the International Space Station.
There exists potentially extremely valuable material on asteroids, including nickel, silicon, platinum group metals such as platinum and palladium, and water, which can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen to make rocket fuel. DSI intends to create a fleet of prospecting spacecraft called “FireFlies” (perhaps trying to rouse interest in their plans from Joss Whedon acolytes) that will travel to asteroids in Earth’s vicinity on journeys of two to six months. The spacecraft will be built up from teams of small CubeSats — low-cost miniature satellites — to form 25 kg (55 lbs) machines that can collect data about the best asteroids to mine from. The company hopes to launch the first FireFly in 2015.
image: An artist’s concept of a wheel habitat under construction at an asteroid, a vision of space settlement by the asteroid-mining company Deep Space Industries.
CREDIT: Deep Space Industries
A new asteroid-mining company launched Tuesday with the goal of helping humanity expand across the solar system by tapping the vast riches of space rocks.
The new firm, called Deep Space Industries, Inc., announced today (Jan. 22) that it plans to launch a fleet of prospecting spacecraft in 2015, then begin harvesting metals and water from near-Earth asteroids within a decade or so. Such work could make it possible to build and refuel spacecraft far above our planet’s surface, thus helping our species get a foothold in the final frontier.
“Using resources harvested in space is the only way to afford permanent space development,” Deep Space CEO David Gump said in a statement. Deep Space Industries will hold a press conference today in Santa Monica, Calif., at 10 a.m. PST (1 p.m. EST/1800 GMT) to unveil more details of its bold mission plan; you can watch the webcast live here at SPACE.com.
“More than 900 new asteroids that pass near Earth are discovered every year,” Gump explained. “They can be like the Iron Range of Minnesota was for the Detroit car industry last century — a key resource located near where it was needed. In this case, metals and fuel from asteroids can expand the in-space industries of this century. That is our strategy.” [Deep Space Industries’ Asteroid-Mining Vision in Photos]
Deep Space is the second company to jump into the asteroid-mining business. The first, the billionaire-backed firm Planetary Resources, had its own unveiling last April.
Prospecting spacecraft and asteroid sample-return
Deep Space will inspect potential mining targets with 55-pound (25 kilograms) spacecraft it calls Firefly, the first of which are targeted for launch in 2015.
Fireflies will conduct asteroid reconnaissance on the cheap. They’ll be made from low-cost “cubesat” components and will hitch a ride to space aboard rockets that also carry large communications satellites, Deep Space officials said.
“We can make amazing machines smaller, cheaper and faster than ever before,” Deep Space chairman Rick Tumlinson said in a statement. “Imagine a production line of Fireflies, cocked and loaded and ready to fly out to examine any object that gets near the Earth.”
The Firefly fleet’s work will pave the way for 70-pound (32 kg) spacecraft called Dragonfly, which will blast off beginning in 2016. These Dragonflies will bring asteroid samples back to Earth during missions that last two to four years. Some samples will help the company determine mining targets, while others will probably be sold to researchers and collectors, officials said.
The public will get to fly along with both probes, whose activities will likely be funded in some measure by corporate sponsorship, Deep Space officials said.
“The public will participate in Firefly and Dragonfly missions via live feeds from Mission Control, online courses in asteroid mining sponsored by corporate marketers and other innovative ways to open the doors wide,” Gump said. “The Google Lunar X Prize, Unilever and Red Bull each are spending tens of millions of dollars on space sponsorships, so the opportunity to sponsor a Firefly expedition into deep space will be enticing.”
Building and refueling spacecraft off Earth
These activities are all precursors to Deep Space’s ultimate goal, which is the harvesting and in-space utilization of asteroid resources.
The company intends to begin extracting metals and other building materials from space rocks within 10 years, officials said. These components will first be used to build communications satellites off-Earth, with the construction of space-based solar power stations coming later. Precious metals such as platinum will also be delivered to Earth for terrestrial use.
Deep Space’s construction activities will be aided by a patent-pending 3D printer called the MicroGravity Foundry, officials said.
“The MicroGravity Foundry is the first 3D printer that creates high-density, high-strength metal components even in zero gravity,” company co-founder and MicroGravity Foundry inventor Stephen Covey said in a statement. “Other metal 3D printers sinter powdered metal, which requires a gravity field and leaves a porous structure, or they use low-melting point metals with less strength.”
Deep Space Industries will also focus on extracting asteroid water, which can be split into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen — the chief components of rocket fuel. The company’s mining efforts could thus lead to the establishment of in-space “gas stations” that allow satellites and journeying spacecraft to top up their tanks relatively cheaply and efficiently.
“We will only be visitors in space until we learn how to live off the land there,” Tumlinson said. “This is the Deep Space mission — to find, harvest and process the resources of space to help save our civilization and support the expansion of humanity beyond the Earth — and doing so in a step-by-step manner that leverages off our space legacy to create an amazing and hopeful future for humanity.”
Deep Space Industries’ ambitions are similar to those of Planetary Resources, which also plans to tap asteroid metals and water to help open the solar system up to exploration and exploitation.
Planetary Resources could prove to be a tough competitor. It was founded by private-spaceflight pioneers Peter Diamandis and Eric Anderson, and its deep-pocketed investors include Google execs Larry Page and Eric Schmidt.
With a notable silhouette, the Vanguard is best known for its distinctive twin X-Forge engines, which allow for both an impressive top speed and an extensive backup system for enhanced combat survivability. Coupled with a superstructure composed from a distinct tungsten alloy, more than one Vanguard pilot has returned to base with little more than a single engine and the charred remains of a fuselage.
The opening of the Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s proposed adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, Dune, would have been the most ambitious single shot in cinema.
It was to begin outside a spiral galaxy and then continuously track in, into the blazing light of billions of stars, past planets and wrecked spacecraft. The music was to be written and performed by Pink Floyd. The scene would have continued past convoys of mining trucks designed by the crème of European science fiction and surrealist artists, including Chris Foss, Moebius and H.R. Giger. We would see bands of space pirates attacking these craft and fighting to the death over their cargo, a life-giving drug known as Spice. Still the camera would continue forwards, past inhabited asteroids and the deep-space industrial complexes which refine the drug, until it found a small spacecraft carrying away the end result of this galactic economy: the dead bodies of those involved in the spice trade.
The shot would have been a couple of minutes long and would have established an entire universe. It was a wildly ambitious undertaking, especially in the pre-computer graphics days of cinema. But that wasn’t going to deter Jodorowsky.
This scale of Jodorowsky’s vision was a reflection of his philosophy of filmmaking. “What is the goal of life? It is to create yourself a soul. For me, movies are an art more than an industry. The search for the human soul as painting, as literature, as poetry: movies are that for me,” he said. From that perspective, there was no point in settling for anything small. “My ambition for Dune was for the film to be a Prophet, to change the young minds of all the world. For me Dune would be the coming of a God, an artistic and cinematic God.
“For me the aim was not to make a picture, it was something deeper. I wanted to make something sacred.”
SANTA MONICA, CALIF. (DSI PR) – Deep Space Industries announced today that it will send a fleet of asteroid-prospecting spacecraft out into the solar system to hunt for resources to accelerate space development to benefit Earth. These “FireFly” spacecraft utilize low-cost cubesat components and get discounted delivery to space by ride-sharing on the launch of larger communications satellites.
“This is the first commercial campaign to explore the small asteroids that pass by Earth,” said Deep Space Chairman Rick Tumlinson (who signed up the world’s first space tourist, led the team that took over the Mir space station, was a Founding Trustee of the X Prize, and Founded Orbital Outfitters, the world’s first commercial space suit company.) “Using low cost technologies, and combining the legacy of our space program with the innovation of today’s young high tech geniuses, we will do things that would have been impossible just a few years ago.”
“There are an estimated 1,000,000 asteroids in a wide range of orbits between Mars and Jupiter, most of these are rich, carbonaceous chondrites, full of the stuff of life.
A new asteroid-mining company, Deep Space Industries, Inc., announced at 10 a.m., Jan. 22 its plans to launch a commercial asteroid-prospecting spacecraft in 2015 with the goal of helping humanity expand across the solar system.(…)
"The MicroGravity Foundry is the first 3D printer that creates high-density, high-strength metal components even in zero gravity,” company co-founder and MicroGravity Foundry inventor Stephen Covey said in a statement. “Other metal 3D printers sinter powdered metal, which requires a gravity field and leaves a porous structure, or they use low-melting point metals with less strength.” ~ 3ders.org