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  • Аhhh,

  • casually watching a video on YouTube

  • on a computer more powerful than anything humanity could build a few decades ago.

  • Тhis progress and all the wonderful machines you take for granted

  • are built on a few rare and precious materials

  • with names like Terbium, Nneodymium or Tantalum.

  • Getting these rare materials from the ground into your devices is ugly

  • The mining industry is responsible for air and water pollution

  • and the destruction of entire landscapes.

  • Dangerous chemicals like cyanide, sulphuric acid or chlorine are used to extract the resources,

  • harming biodiversity, workers and locals.

  • And rare resources are also political tools, when countries restrict access to them to get their way.

  • But what if we could replace the mining industry on earth,

  • with a clean process that can't harm anyone?

  • Well, we can; all we need to do is look up.

  • (catchy introductory music by Kurzgesagt)

  • Asteroids are millions of trillions of tons of rocks, metals, and ice.

  • Leftovers from the cloud that became the planet 4.5 billion years ago.

  • They can be as small as a meter or proto-planets the size of entire countries.

  • Most of them are concentrated in the asteroid belt and the Kuiper belt

  • while hundreds of thousands more do their own thing between the planets.

  • As space travel is becoming more feasible

  • scientists and economists have been begun looking at the resources found in these asteroids.

  • Even relatively small metallic asteroids

  • may contain trillions worth of industrial and precious metals like platinum.

  • And bigger asteroids like 16 Psyche could contain enough iron nickel to

  • cover the world's metal needs for millions of years.

  • At current market prices the rare raw materials alone would be worth quadrillions of dollars.

  • Well, not really. But technically.

  • For example, there are more than 20 million tons of gold in the ocean's water

  • worth roughly 750 trillion U.S. dollars.

  • But filtering out the gold would be so expensive that you'd lose money selling it.

  • Right now asteroid mining has exactly this problem.

  • It's too expensive to replace mining on Earth.

  • Billions of dollars worth of valuable resources in space are worthless

  • if it costs trillions to get them.

  • What makes it so hard?

  • The principals behind mining an asteroid are simple.

  • The basic idea is to choose an asteroid

  • move it to a place where it's easy to process,

  • and then take it apart to turn into useful products.

  • Unfortunately all of this collides with fundamental problems humans have yet to solve

  • Going to space is expensive.

  • It costs thousands of dollars in rocket fuel for each kilogram, just to reach a low earth orbit.

  • Going further out into deep space costs thousands more.

  • We need cheaper space travel to make asteroid mining profitable.

  • One solution is to switch from classical rockets to electric spaceships.

  • We already use electrical rocket engines for many of the space probes on science missions.

  • In principal, we only need to build bigger ones.

  • While electrical engines are not powerful enough to fly to space

  • they require only a tiny amount of fuel to go very far once they're in space.

  • This means we don't need to spend a lot of money on fuel

  • only to transport fuel into space.

  • This doesn't solve the whole cost problem-

  • but it makes it easier to start our first mission.

  • Now that we have an electric asteroid-mining spaceship,

  • we need to find the right asteroid and get it there.

  • We've already successfully visited asteroids with space probes

  • and even collected samples.

  • Still, to make it easier and cheaper

  • our first targets will probably be near-Earth asteroids.

  • Asteroids that orbit, well, near Earth.

  • After a few months of travel

  • our spaceship finally arrives at an asteroid.

  • Weirdly formed, littered with small impact craters,

  • it hasn't changed much for billions of years.

  • The first thing that needs to be done is to secure the asteroid and stop it from spinning.

  • There are multiple ways to do this,

  • like vaporizing material with a laser

  • or stopping the rotation with thrusters.

  • Once we have a stable asteroid, we need to wait.

  • Orbital mechanics are complicated,

  • but if you push something in the right direction at exactly the right moment,

  • you can move very big things with very little force.

  • So, we wait for exactly the right moment.

  • Our ship fires its thrusters and nudges the asteroid into a trajectory that takes it near our Moon.

  • The Moon is useful because we can borrow

  • its gravitational pull to put the asteroid in a stable orbit around Earth,

  • which saves even more fuel.

  • Again, the trip takes months.

  • But all the time since our ship was launched has not been wasted.

  • The first space mining and processing equipment has been installed in orbit,

  • and is now carefully moving towards the asteroid.

  • The processor works very differently than on Earth.

  • Giant mirrors focus sunlight and heat up asteroid rock

  • to boil out the gases.

  • Grinders break up the dried rocks into gravel and dust,

  • and centrifuges separate dense from light elements.

  • Even if we only extract 0.01% of the asteroid's mass in precious metals,

  • this is still several times more than you'd get from the same amount of ore

  • on the ground.

  • But what now? How do we get our precious metals safely back to ground?

  • There are a few ways, like loading it into reusable rockets

  • that return to Earth from space.

  • Or if our processor contains 3-D printers,

  • we can print a faster and cheaper delivery system.

  • Heat shielded capsules filled with gas bubbles.

  • These can just be dropped into the oceans where ships tow them away.

  • This could be the starting point of humanity's first real steps

  • towards colonizing the solar system.

  • As our infrastructure and experience grows,

  • our missions get more and more sophisticated.

  • Parts and fuel produced on asteroids

  • don't have to be launched from Earth at all.

  • The first mining operation makes the second one easier, and so on.

  • While the space industry grows

  • and precious materials become cheaper,

  • eventually we could stop mining on Earth.

  • Even the idea of toxic mining down here

  • might become something weird and anachronistic,

  • like having an open fire in your living room.

  • Landscapes ravaged by pollution will heal,

  • while the technological wonders we're used to

  • get cheaper and less toxic to make.

  • None of this is science fiction.

  • We don't need fancy materials or new physics

  • to make asteroid mining happen.

  • We could start building this future today.

  • All we need is an initial ... push!

  • Maybe you could also use a little nudge,

  • not to pursue anything as ambitious as asteroid mining,

  • just to try something new and fun.

  • Let us give you some tailwind there.

  • We partnered with Skillshare,

  • an online learning community

  • with thousands of classes in all kinds of creative skills

  • like graphic design, music, photography, illustration and animation.

  • They have something for every skill level,

  • so no matter from where you're starting,

  • there'll be tons of things for you to explore!

  • If you'd like to take a glimpse behind the scenes of our animations,

  • for example, we've made a couple of Skillshare

  • classes that teach you how we animated

  • scenes from our videos,

  • with video lessons classes and hands-on projects.

  • Or if you'd rather come up with your own characters to breathe life into,

  • we recommend 'Character Illustration: from Concept to Final Artwork' by Matt Kaufenberg.

  • But it doesn't really matter what you pick,

  • as long as you get started, improve your skills and have some fun.

  • Unlimited access to all classes is only $10/month with an annual premium membership.

  • But we have a treat for the first 1000 Kurzgesagt viewers to click

  • the link in the description:

  • you'll get a two-month trial for free!

  • If you want to leave your comfort zone by exploring new skills

  • and support Kurzgesagt, give it a try!

  • *bird quacks*

  • [Music]

Аhhh,

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B2 US asteroid mining space earth fuel precious

Unlimited Resources From Space Asteroid Mining

  • 25 3
    OolongCha posted on 2020/10/12
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