New Mars Forums

Official discussion forum of The Mars Society and MarsNews.com

You are not logged in.

Announcement

Announcement: We've recently made changes to our user database and have removed inactive and spam users. If you can not login, please re-register.

#1 2007-05-27 15:32:03

wjfox2007
Member
From: London, UK
Registered: 2007-05-12
Posts: 4
Website

Re: Mining Phobos

Hi all

What are your thoughts on the commercial mining and colonization of Phobos?

Is it feasible, and when/how do you think it might happen? What sort of equipment, hardware etc. would have to be used? Could Phobos be used for any other purposes, besides mining? And how much do we already know about the moon, its surface composition and other characteristics?

I'm writing a science fiction novel right now (the first novel I've ever worked on), and I'm hoping to get it published. But I'm desperate for information on Phobos and the utilization of its resources. Google and Wikipedia have provided a few snippets of information, but not really enough.

Any information or suggestions you can provide would be much appreciated! smile

Offline

#2 2007-05-28 01:05:32

noosfractal
Member
From: Biosphere 1
Registered: 2005-10-04
Posts: 824
Website

Re: Mining Phobos

Hi wjfox2007, welcome to newmars.

Here is one idea for you ...

Space Colonization Using Space-Elevators from Phobos
http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi. … 074809.pdf

Any terminus of a space elevator will likely become a major hub of activity in the economy of the solar system.

You might be interested in this discussion ...

Can a small body be given an atmosphere?
http://newmars.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=5339

Phobos also has that huge crater that is just crying out for a dome.

You might also like to read the book _Mining the Sky_ by John S. Lewis.  It has lots of near-future speculation you'll likely find useful.

Good luck with your writing project!


Fan of Red Oasis

Offline

#3 2007-05-28 04:48:11

cIclops
Member
Registered: 2005-06-16
Posts: 3,230

Re: Mining Phobos

Yes let me also say welcome to NewMars!

Another classic SF story involving Phobus is Kim Robinson's Mars Trilogy, if you haven't read these books then do so RIGHT NOW smile

One of the key characters, an engineer called Arkady Bogdanov, sets up a base on Phobus while the others establish a settlement on Mars. He does all sorts of interesting things to the moon including building a railway around its equator. Lot's of technical details and great characters make the story work well.


Let's go to Mars and far beyond -  triple NASA's budget !   #space channel !!    - videos !!!

Offline

#4 2007-05-28 10:07:39

wjfox2007
Member
From: London, UK
Registered: 2007-05-12
Posts: 4
Website

Re: Mining Phobos

Hi wjfox2007, welcome to newmars.

Thanks. 8)




Here is one idea for you ...

Space Colonization Using Space-Elevators from Phobos
http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi. … 074809.pdf

Any terminus of a space elevator will likely become a major hub of activity in the economy of the solar system.

I had a look through that PDF and there's some interesting stuff there.

However, I'm still curious about the exact geological properties of Phobos and the specific types of materials it holds. I'm a little confused, as some articles seem to imply there's little incentive to go there - other than perhaps to establish a refueling station - whilst others (such as the one you've posted) imply there are huge amounts of valuable metal that could be extracted.

From what I understand, Phobos is similar to a C-type asteroid (?). There's a layer of loose regolith and dust around 10-100m thick covering the surface. Below this are volatiles and possibly water/ice, contained within veins and pockets throughout the interior, making Phobos a somewhat porous body with relatively low density.

But what, then, about the actual metals and minerals? I thought C-type asteroids didn't have much valuable metal and therefore wouldn't be very profitable? I've heard silicon mentioned but what else? And how could these be extracted? Sorry if I'm sounding a bit confused here...




Phobos also has that huge crater that is just crying out for a dome.

It would have to be a massive dome! About 25 times bigger than the Millenium Dome here in London. I can't see that happening for at least a couple of centuries. My novel takes place between 2050 and 2200, so maybe I could incorporate this idea into the later chapters.

As I explained above though, my problem right now is figuring out the earliest stages of the novel and the moon's value in terms of initial gathering of resources, the establishment of operations there, etc. Once I've got this figured out, the large-scale infrastructure and hi-tech projects should be quite easy to describe.




You might be interested in this discussion ...

Can a small body be given an atmosphere?
http://newmars.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=5339

Again, I could incorporate something like this into the later stages of my novel. Thanks for the link.




You might also like to read the book _Mining the Sky_ by John S. Lewis.  It has lots of near-future speculation you'll likely find useful.

Good luck with your writing project!

I actually started reading that recently. It's pretty complicated though and a bit hard-going in places. Although well-written and informative, it's not something that's easy to "dip into". smile



Yes let me also say welcome to NewMars!

Thanks. 8)




Another classic SF story involving Phobus is Kim Robinson's Mars Trilogy, if you haven't read these books then do so RIGHT NOW smile

One of the key characters, an engineer called Arkady Bogdanov, sets up a base on Phobus while the others establish a settlement on Mars. He does all sorts of interesting things to the moon including building a railway around its equator. Lot's of technical details and great characters make the story work well.

It just so happens that I've read the entire trilogy - and they were my favourite books of all time! It's been nearly 10 years since I read them though, and I can't remember many of the specific details about Phobos. I remember the Space Elevator and what eventually happens to it, but that's about it. smile

Offline

#5 2007-05-28 11:00:14

noosfractal
Member
From: Biosphere 1
Registered: 2005-10-04
Posts: 824
Website

Re: Mining Phobos

However, I'm still curious about the exact geological properties of Phobos and the specific types of materials it holds. I'm a little confused, as some articles seem to imply there's little incentive to go there - other than perhaps to establish a refueling station - whilst others (such as the one you've posted) imply there are huge amounts of valuable metal that could be extracted.

From what I understand, Phobos is similar to a C-type asteroid (?). There's a layer of loose regolith and dust around 10-100m thick covering the surface. Below this are volatiles and possibly water/ice, contained within veins and pockets throughout the interior, making Phobos a somewhat porous body with relatively low density.

But what, then, about the actual metals and minerals? I thought C-type asteroids didn't have much valuable metal and therefore wouldn't be very profitable? I've heard silicon mentioned but what else? And how could these be extracted? Sorry if I'm sounding a bit confused here...

You're right up to date with our knowledge of Phobos' composition - i.e., we don't know much.  There was a Russian probe that was about to find out more but just as we were about to get good data ... it died.

So best guess – there isn’t much metal, but there is carbon, silcates, organics and water.  So you’ve got the basics for carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and associated CNT-fiber composites.  This stuff is way better than metals and well within your time horizon, see …

Superthread, 100 times stronger than steel
http://www.lanl.gov/news/index.php/fuse … 2006-08-31

Phobos’ main value is that it is out of the gravity well.  It’s what 10e15 kg?  So at a generous $1000/kg (the space shuttle costs 10 times that) it’s value is $10e18 – millions of trillions or something. 

Water is needed by asteroid miners and other moon bases.  Water can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel.  And, at very first, water can just be heated and used as reaction mass to deorbit craft from low Earth orbit (LEO).  That saves LEO companies a lot of money because they don’t have to ship up the deorbiting fuel from the surface at $1000/kg.

How to get the volatiles out?  Just heat the ore a couple of hundred degrees – may be just with largish solar parabolic reflectors – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_furnace – remember you’ve got low gravity though, so you’ll have some sort of capturing harvester – may be as simple as a big bag.


Fan of Red Oasis

Offline

#6 2007-05-28 11:26:42

cIclops
Member
Registered: 2005-06-16
Posts: 3,230

Re: Mining Phobos

You're right up to date with our knowledge of Phobos' composition - i.e., we don't know much.  There was a Russian probe that was about to find out more but just as we were about to get good data ... it died.

The Russian Phobos-Grunt sample return mission is alive and well and set for launch in late 2009.  Recently the Chinese have joined the project


Let's go to Mars and far beyond -  triple NASA's budget !   #space channel !!    - videos !!!

Offline

#7 2007-05-29 16:27:22

neviden
Member
Registered: 2004-05-06
Posts: 99

Re: Mining Phobos

However, I'm still curious about the exact geological properties of Phobos and the specific types of materials it holds. I'm a little confused, as some articles seem to imply there's little incentive to go there - other than perhaps to establish a refueling station - whilst others (such as the one you've posted) imply there are huge amounts of valuable metal that could be extracted.

It depends on how you look at the word "valuable". If the cost of extraction is less then the value of the product then it is valuable. If the cost is more, then it is “worthless”. Value is defined by supply and demand. More supply, lower the price and value. More demand, higher the price and the value.

But you can’t look at the Phobos dirt from the Earth perspective. You have to look at it from: “how much would it cost to bring this material from Earth”. And since the cost of everything delivered to LEO is more than its weight in gold, that means everything is very “valuable”. Even the dirt that has few percent of metal in it is valuable if you can get it without too much trouble. At least you have enough energy in space (sun).

If you can get your iron from some metallic asteroid, then your dirt is worthless. If you can’t it is very valuable, because you would need that much energy to extract the same amount of metal from the “dirt”. So, what your fictional Phobos mine would extract depends on what else is going on in space. If nothing else is going on, then it will extract everything. If a lot, then only water and maybe carbon to make propellant.

Offline

Board footer

Powered by FluxBB