Mining Asteroids & Shuttle Discovery | SciByte 44

Mining Asteroids & Shuttle Discovery | SciByte 44

We take a look at mining asteroids, recovery from strokes, lefties, talking to yourself, solar cells, a review of some recent major media stories, viewer feedback, spacecraft updates, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Show Notes:

New Mining Resources


  • Asteroid Mining
    • The idea of exploiting the natural resources of asteroids dates back over 100 years.
    • California Institute of Technology in Pasadena completed an in-depth study of the feasibility of asteroid mining
    • The study showed that, for the first time in history, this was now feasible using technology available in this decade
    • It is reasonable to assume we could identify, and bring an entire asteroid that is roughly 23 feet [7 meters] wide [~500 tons] into a high lunar orbit
  • Asteroid composition classifications
    • D class asteroids: They are also known as Trojan asteroids of Jupiter and are dark and carbonaceous in composition.
    • C class asteroids: They are found in the Earth’s outer belt and are darker and more carbonaceous than the ones found in the S class.
    • S class asteroids: They are found in the Earth’s inner belt, closer to Mars and are composed of mostly stone and iron.
    • V class asteroids: They are a far-out group of asteroids that follow a path between the orbits of Jupiter and Uranus, and are made of igneous, eruptive materials.
  • Why is mining asteroids feasible now?
    • The ability to discover and characterize enough sufficiently small near-Earth asteroids for mining.
    • An evolving ability to equip powerful enough solar electric propulsion systems to enable transportation of the captured asteroid.
    • A proposed human presence around the moon in the 2020s both enables exploration and exploitation of the returned near-Earth asteroid.
  • * Enter Planetary Resources, Inc.*
    • A new company Planetary Resources, Inc. is now making plans to be able to mine asteroids
    • The company, has been in existence for about three years, announced itself to the general public now because they are starting to aggressively search for the world’s best engineers, to help design and build a fleet of asteroid-mining robots [not Bruce Willis]
    • This company’s investors include Google execs Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, who are worth $16.7 billion and $6.2 billion
    • Their advisors include, filmmaker and adventurer James Cameron, former NASA astronaut Tom Jones and MIT planetary scientist Sara Seager
    • While it may be possible for this to happen, Planetary Resources is still years away from actually seizing an asteroid and staking a cosmic claim
    • Materials from such asteroids could be used for both the Earth and for planetary exploration, providing shielding galactic cosmic rays and propellant to transport a shielded
    • The initial focus will be developing Earth orbiting telescopes to scan for the best asteroids, and later, create extremely low-cost robotic spacecraft for surveying missions.
    • What we learn from such missions and a possible industry could someday help us deflect a much larger near-Earth object
  • The Legal angle
  • The legality of asteroid mining is in itself interesting
  • The 1967 Outer Space Treaty says that “Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”
  • Whether or not that applies to individuals or companies is one question
  • Anything launched into space remains the private property of its owner
  • However NASA and other entities ‘own’ and sell rocks and dirt from the moon
  • Even the sea-floor could be mined
    • Canada-based mining firm Nautilus Minerals said Tuesday it had signed China’s Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group as the first customer of its pioneering Papua New Guinean seafloor mine.
    • Currently it is slated to begin production in the fourth quarter of 2013 Nautilus claims the project to be the world’s first commercial seafloor mine
    • This area has deposits of rocks containing high grades of copper, gold, zinc and silver, what is known as “seafloor massive sulphides” from hydrothermal vents
    • Robots would be controlled remotely to drill for those sulphide deposits 5,250ft [1,600 m] below sea level
    • Then another machine would pump the material to a support vessel at the surface, which would then be dewatered for transport
    • These robots are currently under construction and are based on those used in deepwater oil and gas, terrestrial mining and marine dredging industries
  • Multimedia
  • Further Reading / In the News


Recovery from Strokes

  • The low down
    • Currently the drugs administered for a stroke are to break up clots that caused the stroke, and need to be given within 4.5 hours after a stroke
    • Neuroscientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine were looking for alternatives
  • Significance
    • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, BNNF, are powerful and long-studied nerve growth factor
    • BDNF is critical during the development of the nervous system and known to be involved in important brain functions including memory and learning.
    • A compound called LM22A–4, mimics this factor, is a small molecule that weighs less than one-seventieth that of BDNF
    • In a study the speed of recovery was improved rapidly, in fact those mice who had received the drug showed half as many stroked affected nerve cells as their counterparts without the drug
    • In fact the drug wasn’t even administered until a full three days after the strokes, showing that it does not limit a strokes damage but enhances recovery
    • These molecules stimulate the brain’s own stem cells to form new neurons
    • Stem-cell therapy is a somewhat invasive and expensive treatment for lost or damaged tissues, making a drug that could achieve the same results on the brain very promising and a welcome development
  • Further Reading / In the News

The competitive nature of lefties


Talking to yourself isn’t crazy

Liquid Solar cells


Nine Planet System

Planet in habitable zone


Credit: [Arizona State University]

Spirals on Mars

  • For making sure that we saw this, thanks to
  • Jacob Roecker & other JupiterBroadcasting staff members
  • The low down
  • What started as research into nighttime infrared temperatures of the plates, came in interest in the terrain between the plates, leading to a Arizona State University graduate student noticing spiral patterns in the lava
  • Here on Earth lava coils can be found on the Hawaiian islands(*seen in article below) and near the Galapagos Rift on the Pacific Ocean floor
  • When lava flows move past each other at different speeds, or directions, rubbery lava crust can peel away or coil up to create wrinkles in the crust that can then be twisted around
  • In order to really make them out the images need to be zoomed and have their contrast tweaked a bit
  • The largest Martian coil is however bigger than any seen on Earth; at 98 ft [30 m] when the ones on Earth are about a third of that
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Researchers find new form of Mars lava flow |
  • Ancient Mars Lava Spirals Reveal Volcanic Secrets of Red Planet |


The Shuttle Shuffle Continues

YouTube channel : daujla2

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket

  • SpaceX is preparing for a scheduled launch of May 7th headed to the International Space Station!
  • Further Reading
  • SpaceX

You may have seen

California Meteorite

CREDIT: Lisa Warren | Credit : P. Jenniskens (SETI Institute) and Eric James (NASA Ames)

  • Last time on SciByte
  • The low down
    • Sunday April 22 over California a large fireball was seen along with a sonic boom characteristic of large meteors entering the Earth atmosphere
    • Scientists have confirmed that this meteor was between 4 to 5 billion years old and probably about the size of a minivan, about 154,300 pounds [69,989 kg]
    • Meteorites don’t actually ‘burn-up’ the friction against the air during re-entry actually causes it to vaporize
    • The sonic boom heard from this meteor was because it entered the atmosphere faster than the speed of sound, between 22,000 mph and 44,000 mph [35,000kph – 70,000kph]
  • Significance
    • The meteors reentry was seen from Sacramento, Calif., to Las Vegas and parts of northern Nevada.
    • The first pieces, discovered by Robert Ward, were neat where gold was first discovered in California in 1848
    • Ward has been hunting and collecting meteorites for more than 20 years and has found meteorites in every continent but Antarctica
    • Those two pieces were probably part of the same meteorite that broke apart on impact, each weighs about 10 grams, about the same as two nickels
    • Most nighttime meteors that you see are around the size of grain of sand or a tiny stone, and only last a few seconds
    • An meteor event of this size typically happens around the world once a year, and then most occur over ocean or uninhabited places
    • Although this event occurred just after the peak of the annual mid-April Lyrid meteor shower it is unlikely that it was a Lyrid meteor, although without more information about its trajectory it won’t be known for sure
  • Of Note
    • “NASA and the SETI Institute are asking the public to submit any amateur photos or video footage of the meteor that illuminated the sky over the Sierra Nevada mountains and created sonic booms that were heard over a wide area at 7:51 a.m. PDT Sunday, April 22, 2012.”
    • Also any security footage should be checked to see if the fireball was visible, which could also be used in pinpointing the area for fragments
  • Further Reading / In the News


Looking back

  • May 08 1790 : 222 years ago : Metric System : Acting on a motion by a bishop, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand (1754–1838), the French National Assembly decided to create a simple, stable, decimal system of measurement units. The earliest metre unit chosen was the length of a pendulum with a half-period of a second. On 30 Mar 1791, after a proposal by the Académie des sciences (Borda, Lagrange, Laplace, Monge and Condorcet), the Assembly revised the definition of the metre to be 1/10 000 000 of the distance between the north pole and the equator. On 7 Apr 1795, the Convention decreed that the new “Republican Measures” were to be henceforth legal measures in France. The metric system adopted prefixes: greek for multiples and latin for decimal fractions.
  • May 06 1937 : 75 years ago : Hindenburg : At 7:25 pm, the dirigible The Hindenburg burned while landing at the naval air station at Lakehurst, N.J. On board were 6l crew and 36 passengers. The landing approach seemed normal, when suddenly a tongue of flame appeared near the stern. Fire spread rapidly through the 7 million cubic feet of hydrogen that filled the balloon. Within a few seconds the Zeppelin exploded in a huge ball of fire. The ship fell tail first with flames shooting out the nose. It crashed into the ground 32 seconds after the flame was first spotted; 36 people died. Captain Ernst Lehmann survived the crash but died the next day. He muttered “I can’t understand it,” The cause remains the subject of debate even today.

Looking up this week

  • Solar Activity

  • Another CME will pass by the Curiosity rover around May 4th, Curiosity is actually equipped with instruments to sense and study solar storms

  • Keep an eye out for …

  • Thursday, May 3rd : Saturn and Spica are to the lower of the moon, Saturn being the farther from the Moon and to the left

  • Friday, May 4th : The Moon will now sit below both Saturn and Spica

  • Saturday, May 5th : The moon will be near the horizon below and to the left

  • Saturday, May 5th is Full Moon, called a ‘super moon’ because it is the one full moon of the year when the Moon is in its closest part of its orbit, appearing 14% larger and 30% brigher

  • Later this month there will be an Annular (ring) eclipse for the Western Americas, and a Partial eclipse for the rest.

  • The southern hemisphere should, Keep an eye out for …

  • Just remember to vertically flip all the things for the Northern hemisphere

  • Saturn and Spica will sitting above the Moon

  • Further Reading and Resources

  • More on what’s in the sky this week

  • Sky&Telescope



  • For the Southern hemisphere:

  • Constellations of the Southern Hemisphere :

  • Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand :

  • AstronomyNow

  • HeavensAbove

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