The Space Program – A Modest Proposal

The Cape York meteorite, currently at the American Museum of Natural History, New York.  Get back to where you once belonged.

The Cape York meteorite, currently on display at the American Museum of Natural History, New York. Get back to where you once belonged. (Photo by AMNH)

A recent article on the status of the proposed Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM, or as I call it, the “Haul Asteroids!” mission) envisions a forthcoming partisan fight. The Verge article claims that the ARM, “strongly supported” by NASA, is opposed by Republicans on the Hill, with Congressional Democrats giving it only middling to tepid support. One could question the basic assertions of this piece at length, but what struck me was an unmentioned, key aspect of the ARM controversy – that NASA’s Small Bodies Working Group (SBAG, pronounced “s-bag” by those in the know), the committee of scientists who advise the agency on scientific questions and missions to small bodies such as asteroids, basically look upon this mission as irrelevant and silly. Because this community is the beneficiary of the scientific bonanza supposedly set to pour forth from this mission, this is important information.

The basic concept of the ARM is to first find a small near-Earth asteroid, collect it into an expandable bag and then attach a solar electric propulsion module to it. It will then be slowly returned to cislunar space and placed in high orbit around the Object-That-Cannot-Be-Named. Once there, this purloined space rock will be accessible for rendezvous by human crews using the forthcoming Orion spacecraft. When the crew encounters this captured and displaced object, they will hook on, chip off some pieces and return them to Earth for analysis.

What are these samples likely to tell us? We actually have an inkling of the knowledge they might provide from previous vast study of meteorites – those rocks from space that have fallen on the surface of the Earth for millennia. In fact, we may already have – now existing in the pages of the tens of thousands of scientific papers previously published on meteorites – the scientific information that the ARM allegedly will return. Talk about a knowledge revolution!

I’m at a loss to explain why one aspect of the ARM mission hasn’t been discussed in the media: seeing that advocates of the ARM think nothing about re-arranging the architecture of the Solar System for their convenience, environmental activists might object to the very idea behind the mission. We can’t get to a near-Earth asteroid with the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS), so let’s just drag the asteroid to us! Imagine a defenseless rock, innocently tumbling its way through space, only to be snagged, bagged, and defiled – appropriated and exploited by arrogant, human interlopers. There ought to be a law!

Then too, the SLS program has a problem. The out-years budget for NASA allows for the development of the launch vehicle and the supporting infrastructure that it requires, but no money is budgeted for payloads. This has led some agency officials to solicit possible unmanned, scientific payloads – missions that entail using large, massive spacecraft that need quick trajectories to deep space destinations. Although a few potential robotic science missions have been identified, there are not nearly enough of them to keep the SLS manifest fully populated.

These two ideas – appropriating an asteroid and a need for destinations for our new spacecraft got me thinking about finding some common ground. As I mentioned previously, meteorites have fallen to Earth for thousands – millions of years. The total amount probably exceeds several hundred thousand tons of material, of which we have only accounted for a few hundreds of tons. These former near Earth objects (NEO) came from space – their rightful domain before being captured by Earth’s strong gravitational pull. And as we’re sentient beings of conscience, we should both desire and strive to restore the natural balance of things in the universe, as we understand them to be.

So, I propose that we send the Earth’s collections of meteorites back whence they came. We should round up every meteorite in public ownership (the Curatorial Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center in Houston has hundreds of kilograms of meteorites collected in Antarctica) and load them onto SLS rockets. The abundance of meteorites currently residing unnaturally in museums could be confiscated, along with the NASA collection. Although many meteorites are privately held, an international law could be passed to outlaw their ownership and these too could be added to the launch manifest. The law could further decree that any future meteorite landing on Earth is the property of the universe and will be returned hence with dispatch. Earth will be deemed a no-meteorite-go-zone, kept clean of these foreign bodies, with all endangered space rocks released back into their natural habitat. Kumbaya all around.

By returning these rocks and boulders to interplanetary space, we’d have a multitude of “exciting” destinations for the Orion spacecraft and SLS launch vehicle while biding our time until our “ultimate” mission to Mars. It is the right thing to do for these rocks. After all, it’s not their fault that they ended up here on the Earth – thoughtlessly swept up by the gravitational monster that it pleases us to call our home planet. We could send some of the meteorites into low Earth orbit. There, they will provide endless hours of training and amusement for the crew on the International Space Station, keeping them on their toes to maneuver the station in order to avoid collisions (Look lively, m’lads!). Other meteorites would be sent out into deep cislunar space, including locations near the Object-That-Cannot-Be-Named. Once in space, these free ranging beauties will provide a wide variety of targets for human missions.

This simple but innovative and sustainable mission plan accomplishes several objectives simultaneously. We create new payloads for the SLS launch vehicle, thus avoiding the embarrassment of developing a new heavy lift vehicle with nothing to put on top of it. We create a variety of new target destinations for future missions, thus providing years of top-notch human spaceflight spectacles, as each previously studied meteorite is approached, encountered, studied and sampled again, this time within the confines of its own natural habitat. We correct a great planetary wrong by putting the Solar System back into its original, natural order. And we’ll rest easier, knowing that we have ensured a vibrant, continuing space program while at the same time “giving back,” as the currently popular phrase would have it. There will always be meteorites needing rescue to return whence they came. Here is a true mission into the future – appropriate for our time and one that will elevate our civil space program for decades to come.

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33 Responses to The Space Program – A Modest Proposal

  1. billgamesh says:

    I am sorry you are becoming so cynical Dr. Spudis. Of course, it is unavoidable after the decades of bad decisions that have been made playing political football with NASA. That small segment of the public that has some basic knowledge of spaceflight have either given up or joined the NewSpace mob. Our fellow space advocates either cheer lead or chant depending on their status as just playing along with the scam to support their agenda or as true Ayn-Rand-in-Space cult members.

    My suggestion for the SLS would be to first make a decision to fly it often enough to bring the costs down. It would be much cheaper to fly than the Shuttle without the orbiter to turn around so 6 or 8 launches a year could be done for less than what was spent during the shuttle years. As for payloads that is easy; as many semi-expendable robot landers as the pipeline will bear. Mass producing these landers would also bring their costs way down. Their mission would be to land on ice deposits and take on water, then take-off back into orbit and transfer the water to a depot. Then do it again till worn out. Eventually a lunar space station could recycle these old vehicles.

    The wet workshop concept will allow thousands and eventually tens of thousands of tons of water to be stored in lunar orbit. This resource means astronauts will have a place to go completely immune to the worst solar event and also have oxygen to breath- and of course water to drink. This mass of water can also be used to scrub CO2 without using consumable chemicals. Goodbye ISS and those taxis currently in development. Talk about disruptive technology! This is the program that can start a real space program. And the NewSpace mob will scream bloody murder at any mention of such a plan. It dumps the private space tourism business plan in the trashcan.

    • Vladislaw says:

      No the NewSpace mob would not scream bloody murder because Congress would never fund 8 SLS launches per year and fund mass production probes. Your plan has 0 chance of funding and anyone in “NewSpace” would be smart enough to see that.

      • Joe says:

        You can argue the payload cost separately.

        But the fact is that that incremental launch cost (once you pay the cost of being able to launch at all) are in the rounding error. At the budget levels Congress argues the difference between 0 launches per year (while maintaining the capability to launch) and 8 launches per year is trivial.

        That is how SLS opponents come up with the supposed high launch costs for the SLS, the administrations ordered (and artificially low) projected launch rates.

        • libs0n says:

          No, Joe. SLS’s marginal cost isn’t free. It’s at least 500 million per launch without counting any more Orions. 8 launches a year would be about the same as ISS funding or SLS/Orion total funding right now, not counting the necessary funding for payloads on top of that because you’re not launching SLS with nothing on top. Such a massive funding increase isn’t an arbitrary whim, no matter how entitled you feel to it.

          SLS has to exist in reality. Reality is the funding levels NASA normally gets and exploration program funding maxed out by SLS/Orion dev and ops, not a fantasy blank check that can afford many SLS launches and many new payload programs. SLS/Orion is an irresponsible plan for reality.

          • Joe says:

            I never said anything was free, I said the additional cost of each SLS flight was within the noise for the levels of funding that Congress debates when compared to the fixed cost to maintain the ability to fly.

            That assessment was based on analysis done for the Side Mount configuration SDHLV of which the Block I SLS is an in-line version. At the time of the analysis (2007) fixed cost was set at $2B with the additional cost per flight in the $10’s of Millions range. At the nearest “Billion dollars” used for congressional debates that means total cost would be assessed as still being $2B. That would make the average cost (for 8 flights per year) $250M

            Those numbers were generated by the people who worked the shuttle hardware for decades and nothing has happened to invalidate them. About the most you can do to try and make it look worse is to adjust the figures for inflation.

            But again the main point is that once you are paying the fixed cost to be able to fly at all the added cost per flight is vanishingly small.

            The same basic point is true for any other booster, aircraft or (for that matter) trains, trucks.

      • billgamesh says:

        Everyone in “NewSpace” seems just smart enough to scream cheap- the same tired argument for the last decade. Several launches per year can be had by getting rid of the ISS and dropping hobby rocket funding- and charging SpaceX for all the free support and access they are using- and now launching commercial satellites with by the way. Or just hand the ISS over to the Musk cult and let them try and pay for it with Sarah Brightman concerts and billionaut playboy parties in orbit.

        Funding can be had for a lunar program the same way the shuttle funding was finally schemed into being; by way of the military. The Moon-water-as-cosmic-ray-shielding means manned platforms can replace and clean up the present GEO satellite junkyard. Ask the military about that high ground presently at risk and consider the over 100 billion dollars in revenue a year generated by the satellite industry; the DOD treasure chest will open. And the entire NewSpace flim flam will disappear overnight.

        • billgamesh says:

          I would add that the Asteroid Mission has very little chance of happening. Just the solar electric tug to bring into range of a human mission will of course cost far more and take much longer than projected. Even if the tug ever succeeds (decades?) then the danger of a solar event means the shielding necessary to protect the mission astronauts will be prohibitive (if acquired from Earth). The elephant in the room, space radiation, is the dirty little secret that means most of what NASA is proposing concerning Human Space Flight Beyond Earth Orbit (HSF-BEO) is downright deception. Since the NewSpace manifesto of building everything in LEO with small payloads (been there already with the shuttle) is a dead end that leaves one path and it is not “flexible.” Massive water shielding acquired from a six times shallower gravity well than Earth is square one; no one will admit it or even talk about it.

        • Dear Mr. Bill:

          I assume you include Boeing’s commercial crew project in your “NewSpace flim flam” attack.

          Also, I believe that DOD will tell you they can barely afford to replenish their own satellite constellations, let alone throw money at NASA’s outyear budget to fund
          your interesting but unnecessary manned GEO approach to satellite servicing. (No doubt Mr. Wingo would have something to offer about that.)

          Finally, why do we have to wait for SLS to return to the Moon, given that Atlases and Deltas and Falcons can get us there now?

          – Jim

          • Being able to launch nearly 100 tonnes to orbit at $500 million per launch (NASA), probably $600 million, IMO, the SLS will still be far cheaper than the Delta IV heavy, the Atlas V, and even the Falcon 9. Plus you get the added bonus of being able to derive large super light habitats from the fuel tank technology– just like back in the old days of Skylab!


        • Vladislaw says:

          Why do you keep insisting on portraying American aerospace engineers and American aerospace workers as knuckle dragging, sun worshiping cave dwellers to stupid to even build a match?

          Space transportation is just ANOTHER form of transportation. Something the American private sector has handled pretty well over the last century and a half.

          Are American aerospace workers and engineers REALLY so ignorant, so stupid that is impossible for them to create a lower cost transportation system? Is everyone involved in the aerospace industry, outside of NASA really that stupid?

          Just cave dwelling knuckledraggers that can not turn a wrench?

          What is it with you that you have such little faith in the American worker? The American Engineer? The American Entreprenuer?

          Why is every solution you propose a Stalinist, big government, command economy answer? Never one of the true strengths of the Nation, the American entrepreneur.

          Why is there never room for both in space transportation? Only Stalinist big government?

          • billgamesh says:

            The New Space mob loves to wrap themselves in the flag while saying the only thing that matters is making a profit. Damning NASA while at the same time being completely dependent on the space agency for billions in funding, free support, and a destination. Shouting free market from the mountaintops while sucking up every tax dollar they can.

            “Are American aerospace workers and engineers REALLY so ignorant, so stupid that is impossible for them to create a lower cost transportation system?”

            There is no cheap. You get what you pay for and a mediocre kerosene burning hobby rocket will not support a real space program.

            LEO is not space.

          • Vladislaw says:

            Space is a place not a program.

            Is that the ONLY way you can define Space? By adding a big government “program” behind it?

            You can PRETEND that LEO is not space, but you would be totally alone in characterizing it that way. Why don’t round up some PHD’s that say the ISS is not located in space.

            Gosh how can we get an astronaut that is sitting in califonia to florida? I know an “AIR program” we have NASA build a plane in florida, fly the astronaut to the cape and have them parachute out of the plane and crash the plane in the ocean.

            Commercial handles every form of transportation an astronaut uses, from bicycles, to motorcycles. Automobiles, Trains, airplanes, boats, hell NASA couldn not even survive without commercial transportation services. You can keep your fantasy about space transportation as a government only endevor but every President since Nixon disagrees with you and has tried to bring space transportation into the real world.

            Lets see who’s prediction comes to pass. Space transportation as a government only from of transportation or that it moves into the mainstream as just another transportation system.

          • William Mellberg says:

            The real “fantasy” about commercial space is that it is “commercial.”

            I think Astronaut James Lovell defined “commercial” space best a few years ago when he said:

            “Commercial space is only ‘commercial’ when an entrepreneur designs, builds, human rates and successfully demonstrates a launch system … and finds a market for his or her product.”

            For an in depth analysis of what constitutes “commercial” transportation systems, I suggest you take the time to listen to my appearance on The Space Show three years ago:


            In particular, listen to the second hour.

            As I mentioned in that hour, space is still in the “Lewis and Clark phase.” Exploring space beyond Low Earth Orbit is still the province of government-sponsored projects because there is little or nothing beyond LEO that will pay a respectable return on the investment for commercial ventures in a reasonable period of time. Listen to caller Craig Horton’s comments about this around the 1:28:00 mark.

            You might also want to listen to my earlier comparison between the supersonic transport (SST) projects of the 1960s (including Concorde) and today’s so-called “commercial” space projects. Billions of taxpayer dollars were spent on developing airplanes that would only serve the wealthy. Sort of like the space tourism enterprises that some people advocate today. Concorde was a technical success. But it was a commercial failure. The SST projects, including Concorde, did little or nothing to advance the growth of commercial aviation. Which is why there are no SSTs flying today. The real revolution in commercial aviation came with the development of the “jumbo jets” that made air travel more affordable to the masses.

            There simply is no “commercial” market to support “commercial” space. There is some limited potential for space tourism, although even that could be a difficult challenge as Virgin Galactic learned a few months ago. Assuming everything works perfectly for SpaceShipTwo, the market is still a tiny niche … limited to people who can afford a quarter million dollar joy ride.

            But beyond LEO, there is no genuine “commercial” market in space tdoay.

            That is not to say that there will never be a genuine commercial market in deep space. However, it will require government exploration of various deep space destinations to determine whether or not there is any value to undertaking commercial ventures to those places. I would suggest that the Moon offers the greatest short-term potential.

            Too often, NewSpace enthusiasts compare “commercial” space to commercial aviation. They totally ignore the fact that commercial aviation had an existing market for the transport of people and goods. The airplane simply supplemented or replaced existing forms of transportation (rail, ship, bus, etc.). Moreover, the NewSpace enthusiasts do not understand what the early Air Mail contracts were all about. They were nothing like the contracts that SpaceX has been getting, for example. Listen to my comments on The Space Show around the 37-minute mark for a description of the early commercial aviation industry and the mass market that existed for the transportation of people and goods from Point A to Point B. There is NO such mass market for space, other than commercial satellites.

            And there is nothing “Stalinist” about saying that space exploration is still the province of government. On the contrary, efforts such as the late, great Constellation Program could be described more accurately as “Jeffersonian.” Because Thomas Jefferson realized that in order to open the American West (the frontier) to commerce and settlement, he needed to send explorers into that region to assess its resources and their commercial potential. That process continued for many decades. And that is why President Kennedy so accurately referred to space as the “New Frontier.”

            Vladislaw, you don’t seem to understand basic commerce and free enterprise. Of course, most people don’t seem to understand basic commerce and free enterprise these days, including our current President.

            BTW, I was a market analyst and public relations representative for Fokker Aircraft USA, studying the commercial potential of our airplanes on various airline route systems. I was also a marketing representative for Ozark Airlines and a marketing consultant to Midway Airlines. My byline has appeared on hundreds of aviation and space articles in respected aerospace journals around the globe, as well as on two books, FAMOUS AIRLINERS and MOON MISSIONS (both now out of print). Look for my article about my father’s role in the Surveyor lunar project in the next issue of the Smithsonian AIR & SPACE magazine. I mention these things simply to establish some credentials for my comments about commercial transportation.

            It is easy to parrot NewSpace propaganda. It is not so easy to develop genuine “commercial” space. Unfortunately, too many NewSpace advocates prefer to live in Fantasyland rather than dealing with Reality.

    • numbers_guy101 says:

      billgamesh – You need to get out the spreadsheet. You’ll see that the your statement about SLS costs is incorrect – the one about “the SLS would be to first make a decision to fly it often enough to bring the costs down. It would be much cheaper to fly than the Shuttle without the orbiter to turn around so 6 or 8 launches a year could be done for less than what was spent during the shuttle years.” That said, the SLS program is mis-leading the discussion on this measure by focusing on costs per pound. Back in the Shuttle day, when the people like myself talked about affordability, it was very simple. We wanted the Shuttle improved, or Shuttle 2.0, or whatever replaced the Shuttle, to either be able to place as much mass per year as the Shuttle into low Earth orbit for MUCH less yearly NASA budget, or we would also take using the same amount of yearly budget but placing many times MORE mass into the same orbit PER YEAR (over any accumulation of flights).

      Somewhere along the way this simple view of improved productivity AND absolute yearly cost to NASA was lost. Orion project by way of example is more PER YEAR than orbiter project adjusted for inflation. And the ET/MAF, SRB’s/SRM’s/Utah and SSME-like engines? Those were all mostly fixed costs back in the Shuttle’s day and have all been transferred to the new expendable SLS/Orion approach. And we are still missing that larger upper stage. Savings from labor on orbiter? See prior Orion observation. The only YEARLY budget reduction has come about by diverting what was Shuttle upgrades money over to other things. The matter being, once SLS/Orion is flying, they will have little non-operational leeway. Adding SLS/Orion flights much beyond a zero-base of 1 a year (or every two or three years, there is uncertainty in the numbers) quickly gets a response back from the contractor for ADDED budget amounts in the hundreds of millions per flight (meaning per budget YEAR). The killer then being the mods (unfunded) as we learn from flight to flight.

      At the end of the day a basic launcher system was needed (if having a new beyond Earth orbit exploration focus) that could run on much LESS than the Shuttle operational budget (only) at a good flight rate (delivering a range of 200 to 400 tons cumulative to orbit a year) (sans the Shuttle upgrades budget, which had to go to other things like supporting the logistics flights to ISS). The difference would be for payloads, space vehicles, landers and such.

      There is nothing un-doable about this, except entrenched interests that might not have fared well in such a change.

      No matter how much we tried to convey this since even before Columbia-managers especially never seemed to get the math.

  2. LocalFluff says:

    The SBAG criticism has been strong from the beginning. The world’s leading asteroid researchers make fun ARM. And here’s (not outspoken critic) asteroid expert Dr. William Bottke at KISSCaltech itself (where ARM was suggested) having an alternative idea: Skip the towing and send Orion to Earth-Sun L1 or L2 (at 4x the distance to the Moon) and pick up one of the temporarily captured small asteroids which always hang around there. It would require Chang’E 3 like maneuvering skills and be useful training to some day service a great telescope which will orbit there (38:30 minutes):

    Btw, here’s Brian Muirhead of JPL, an ARM enthusiast (or just doing his job), at a public lecture last November, saying that “This IS a demonstration mission!” and “ARM is not primarily a scientific mission”. At 56:30 and 59:00 minutes into this:

    A couple of weaknesses of ARM which I haven’t heard much of, is that once captured in Lunar orbit, the asteroid could be investigated telerobotically from Earth in realtime, instead of sending astronauts there. And OsirisREX will collect samples from the 500m Bennu asteroid for under $1 billion before ARM can happen. And JAXA’s Hayabusa2 has already launched to do another sample return within 6 years. Have you seen these animations of how spectacularly complex this mission is:
    And its European lander/hopper:

  3. The Obama administration has really had no objections to NASA’s unmanned space program. So their support of ARM makes sense since its really a unmanned space program– and really not a human space program. Using the SLS to reach a meteoroid placed in lunar orbit is a way for the Obama administration to appease Congressional legislation that mandates a near term cis-lunar mission for the SLS.

    The core problem for NASA’s human space program over the past 40 years is the fact that they have been prevented from making the next logical step in the solar system, returning permanently to the lunar surface.

    The recent ESA (European Space Agency) video got this almost exactly right, IMO.

    Destination: Moon

    • LocalFluff says:

      Sounds like mumbo jumbo to me. ESA has never launched a human to space. Nor have they ever launched anything to the Moon. I count 3 interplanetary missions and one hitchhiking Titan lander, and except for Rosetta they were all smaller than similar NASA missions. The rest has been in LEO except for 2 or so telescopes. ESA can only provide minor nisch support to a NASA or Russian Lunar program and…
      NEWSFLASH! ESA budgets for the ambition to have their astronauts sent to the future Chinese space station!

      There is no European space culture.

    • Very nice, Marcel. This is one of the most beautifully put together, forward-looking, and yet also understated videos which I’ve yet seen from a major space agency — and it just goes to show that there’s a lot of good material out there if you know where to find it.

      G. W. (Glenn) Smith

      [N. B. This is a duplicate of a comment which somehow got lost over at, where Marcel also has this video posted — so I am glad for this second chance to add my voice to what I hope will become a chorus of praise for the ESA folks responsible.]

  4. Dear Paul,

    I am an entrenched liberal, for whom attacks on a “Kumbaya” mentality are generally offensive — but I have to admit that your essay is hilarious! (Hey, we’re re-introducing wolves and grizzly bears to our national parks — why not put some dangerous rocks back out in orbit?!?)

    But as with any good satire, there is also an important point to it: why are we bypassing the obvious necessity of lunar resource utilization in favor of a wild goose chase?

    G. W. (Glenn) Smith

  5. Nelson Bridwell says:

    When meteorites are outlawed, only outlaws will have meteorites?

  6. Joe says:

    An interesting proposal.

    There is, however, a potential drawback.

    If one of the meteorite return missions accidently dropped any of the meteorites to the lunar surface, that would force a lunar return to rescue them.

  7. Clive R. Neal says:

    Hi Paul:

    Your modest proposal is just as good as the current ARM, Paul. Yes, it is a bit cynical, but so is the ARM! What we need is a long-term, far-sighted, space exploration roadmap……….

  8. Pingback: A Mission For SLS | Transterrestrial Musings

  9. denniswingo says:

    Paul has done it again! Snicker…

  10. Mark R. Whittington says:

    Very droll, Paul.

  11. William Mellberg says:

    Dr. Spudis, your wisdom is usually on display here. But this time, I enjoyed your wit!

    Your satire also reminds me of an experience I had while being interviewed on WGN Radio in Chicago several years ago. We were discussing my book, MOON MISSIONS, and the host asked me about mining Helium-3 and other lunar resources. I talked about the need to plow vast areas of the regolith to obtain the Helium-3. A few minutes later, we took our first phone call from a listener who asked, “If you churned all of that soil on the lunar surface, wouldn’t that change the appearance of the Moon as we see it? And what right do we have to deface the Moon, much less exploit its resources? We need to leave the Moon alone.”

    Good grief!

    I did my best to offer a gracious reply, but I was stunned by the caller’s comments.

    Yet, that caller has helped me to recognize the REAL purpose of your “modest proposal” …

    After convincing the meteorite huggers that we need to return those rocks to whence they came, you will be able to convince the Moon huggers that we need to return the Apollo samples to the lunar surface. Thus, this “modest proposal” is really a secret plan to restore our lunar exploration program. Pure genius, Dr. Spudis!

    All kidding aside, your commentary also reminded me of Neil Armstrong’s wonderful presentation about “Bock” the Rock …

    I’m sure Mr. Armstrong would have approved your plan … as would “Bock.”

    Well done!

  12. Johnny Lately says:

    Why exactly would environmentalists object to moving an asteroid? As long as it doesn’t threaten life on Earth, they really wouldn’t care.

    You ruin perfectly reasonable arguments by drivel filled ranting like that.

    • Paul Spudis says:

      Why exactly would environmentalists object to moving an asteroid? As long as it doesn’t threaten life on Earth, they really wouldn’t care.

      You haven’t been following the arguments over space mining, have you? I’ve had complaints from green types on this board about scarring the face of the Moon. No life being disturbed there. The complaint is that we (meaning humanity) are doing it (i.e., scarring the Solar System), not that it endangers life.

      • I still don’t consider objects below 10 meters in diameter as asteroids. I still consider them meteoroids. So I wouldn’t have any objection to exploiting them. Probably more than a billion NEOs out there that are near 10 meters in diameter.

        But I do consider some objects in the solar system as– natural wonders– that either should be not exploited or should only endure very limited exploitation. So I admit to being a conservationist!

        For instance, I’d hate for future industrialist to completely destroy the moons of Mars in order to use the material to build several O’Neill type space colonies in orbit around Mars. However, I think limiting the exploitation of resources on the surface of the moons of Mars to a maximum of 1% of the surface area up to 500 meters deep wouldn’t be unreasonable in order to preserve their aesthetic beauty.

        And if the industrialist want more material for orbiting colonies then they can start importing asteroids from the asteroid belt: but only asteroids less than 1 kilometer in diameter (more rules!). I would consider asteroids over one kilometer in diameter as– natural wonders– that shouldn’t be moved!

        A similar rule on the Moon would preserve 99% of the natural beauty of lunar surface for scientist and tourist while still allowing nearly 400,000 square kilometers of the lunar surface to be exploited (I doubt if even 40,000 square kilometers of the Moon will ever be settled and exploited over the next 1000 years).

        I’d like to see a similar law applied on Earth to Antarctica which currently, by treaty, cannot be mined. A maximum 1% territorial surface exploitation limit would allow 140,000 square kilometers of Antarctica to be colonized or mined while still preserving at least 99% of the last continent’s natural beauty.

        I live on an island in the beautiful San Francisco Bay. Can you believe that there were industrialist in the Bay area in the 20th century who actually wanted to drain the bay, pave it over, for more urbanization. Guess we wouldn’t need a– Golden Gate Bridge– out here anymore if that had happened:-)


  13. LocalFluff says:

    When the hauling spaceship arrives, let’s hope it is not discovered to be a used upper stage 😀

  14. rappolee58 says:

    I have another idea that both SBAG and human spaceflight might both agree,

    Deimos boulders make for a more happy decadal survey mission

  15. Grand Lunar says:

    No doubt if the Obama administration hears of this idea, they may just take it seriously and actually do it!

    Not much crazier than the current “plans”,

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