I wrote this beginning to a non-fiction book as a prelude to Shut Up- my thriller. Check the facts and how they prescribe the novel. Successive chapters are outlined.
A Layman’s Book of Asteroids
By James J Marry
On February 13th, 2001, the NEAR Shoemaker project prepares to land on a timeless stone that has hurtled through the depths of space for eons. NASA’s curiosity about the physical make up of the obelisk is understandable. Like so many science fiction movies of the past hundred years, they may be called upon to destroy an asteroid just like it.
My own personal curiosity began when I was a child of the universe as well. As a youth, I remember the Gemini missions and the Apollo that took us to the moon very clearly. I was surprised to learn as an adult that the high risk of launching these missions was a minor one compared to their dangers in the stars. Apollo 13 proved this while the earth awaited the return of three heroes whose craft never arrived at its true destination.
There are millions upon millions of pieces of debris in the heavens. They are caused by the beginning of the universe as well as by normal standard operations. The illustration of this fact rushed with great intensity toward our attention on a summer evening when Jupiter exploded with multiple asteroid strikes in the recent past.
So, today our scientist take a frail and tiny amalgamation of tinker, toys left over from a previous interplanetary mission, and race the insect at a Goliath with a NEAR quality order. Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous is the reason that I decided upon the novel “Shut Up”. The depth of our safety is why I have decided to investigate the heavens for the “Planet Killers”.
I think that the reader may be interested in my concept of relativity at this point. I do believe that there is a strong value in astrophysics and the study of the beginning of creation. I also believe that God is real. I believe that with my heart and soul our Lord has provided us feeble humans with all of the bounty before us. Outer space is just another part of God's mystery.
Don’t quote me though.
I was born a child of space. My interest began with men like Cernan and Schirra, with accidents that took great people from our planet’s table. Why couldn’t an accident take millions of people from our table? I want to know. This endeavor grew from a simple question into a travel of my imagination that I never expected. Please, come and join me.
The Question at Hand
The space probe NEAR Shoemaker space probe was launched in February of 1996 with an estimated cost of 225 million dollars. The objective of the craft’s mission was and is to explore the nature and origin of asteroids and comets that are close to the earth’s orbit. In February of 2000 the Shoemaker successfully orbited and mapped the surface of 433 Eros from 200 kilometers. By April, scientists moved the probe within fifty kilometers and in February of 2001 they landed the craft on the asteroid at 3.5 miles per hour- walking speed for the average adult.
This amazing feat was enabled by the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. They essentially built the probe with the assistance of the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) for NASA. The Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous touched down on Eros 196 million miles from earth, or more than twice the distance from the sun to our home planet from us. The brain farms were ecstatic with their successes, leaving mission director Robert Farquhar to say, “Ultimately we’re going to make science fiction reality…movies of a few years ago, of people virtually landing on comets and asteroids. We came one day closer to that happening.”
This sounds as though the plan to see what is going on with comets and asteroids is a very real project concern for our human space development. The possibilities of such a realization can truly boggle the mind. For one, with all of our near earth space development of the past century, why is mankind so interested in this major jump to an asteroid that is so far away?
NASA, John Hopkins and MIT stated that their mission with NEAR Shoemaker was to “explore the nature and origin of asteroids and comets that are close to earth’s orbit”. I think that for a rational person to believe that this is the “purpose” of the Shoemaker mission, that we should investigate the 433 Eros trajectory a bit further.
On the side of the government, they could never tell us that the reason for this mission could be the “possibility” of a strike by Eros. The near tubular asteroid will never strike the earth without some outside intentional force. The closest that we now know the rock to have come or ever will come is 48 million kilometers. This took place in 1975. Eros never crosses our orbit and it never has. So clearly the asteroid holds virtually no risk for any impact on our civilization.
So why are we considering the asteroid landing a great step for exploration if not for our defense? Surely, any understanding of the matter involved would assist us if there were another asteroid to be dealt with. This, we must concede. Will landing on Eros allow for a similar tactic in the future with another asteroid for purposes of it’s destruction? Certainly, Hollywood saw this possibility with their motion picture “Armageddon”, amongst others.
In answer to the question, these answers that we have determined come fairly weakly to the forefront, I’m afraid. Another possibility to consider for this purpose would be the mineral wealth of an asteroid. John Lewis, leading astrophysics author of “Mining In the Sky”, claims that a 2 cubic kilometer asteroid would contain some 20 trillion dollars in iron, nickel, cobalt and platinum if mined in space. Eros is the second largest asteroid at nearly 150 times this size. The cash in mining by the Lewis estimation could be as much as 3000 trillion dollars. Maybe. You would definitely need to land on the asteroid to commit this action though.
This argument readies a fairly good example as to how much could be achieved by a station placed for the mining of 433, I think. There is also another compelling facet for the possibility of such an activity. Some researchers have suggested that we could move an asteroid’s trajectory over time with rockets to make this exercise even more tasteful to mining expenses and surely such theory could be tested with Eros.
The 433 rock has a very defined schedule that it keeps to. If the NEAR Shoemaker were capable of staying alive indefinitely, the near 2 billion miles away that she is right now would be comparably nothing. At the apex of the outward curve of Eros’ orbit we see Jupiter and its moons are only about 120 million miles apart. We have proven that we CAN get to the Eros and land on it. Imagine what this could mean.
I admit that I am suggesting that there are several different scenarios for the use of an asteroid by mankind. I must also point out the obvious fact that the large orbital rocks pose serious threats to our planetary well being. I believe that with the usage of matter on earth growing logarithmically, we must look at off world options for our future. I think that our space program landing NEAR Shoemaker on 433 Eros is a part of this planning. I hope so at least.
If we are to logically consider that an asteroid can be mined, and I think that the NEAR mission illustrates this possibility well, then there is yet another consideration. Mining will require some human interface on sight with large support by robotics. I don’t think that many will be able to argue that thought. Crew and equipment would probably be launched from the International Space Station. Such a trip could be reasonably estimated to take five years since we as humans are even more fragile than the Shoemaker vehicle is (NEAR took four years).
Once these five years are expended, the craft digs in on a point deemed safe by the geniuses, and mining begins. Would we expect the crew to stay upon the desolate space rock for an entire loop? Maybe, we would.
Another possibility is that in half of the trip, 433 Eros will be within jumping distance of Jupiter. From an exploratory perspective, this possibility offers some tremendous potential rewards, especially if we support the 21 mile asteroid with materials to support a Jupiter space station. We would essentially be in a position to build a commuter line- say, an Independent Railway Transit to harvest riches from the moons of another giant. We could even plunder the Jovian natural resources- as they became available to us- all while we were sucking the teat off of a potential three quadrillion-dollar ore deposit on the bus we’d be riding.
To clarify, the earth would send a mining colony of possibly as few as 50 persons to board Eros. The ship that takes the fifty on this five- year trip would be the actual station. When Eros gets to the apex of its curve from our perspective, almost exactly two years later, Jupiter One leaves 433 as a temporary station while leaving the payload of mined ores for the return trip to be met by Jupiter Two. Of course there are infinite combinations of this possibility, but the essentials are the same. The space program gets an orbiter going around Jupiter with a rotational crew. Plus the 433 Eros gets mined at a minimum of half of the time that it orbits. Good planning would make this program through dual operational objectives a 100% mining and exploration mission with each space crew living in transit for little more than eight years.
Naturally, the 3000 trillion- dollar payload of the fabled rock will eventually dissipate also. I think that with some credibility we can say that 40 years of mining may not remove all of the potential of the stone. But if it did waste away in twenty years, that would offer mankind fourteen years minimum of Jovian exploration for goods. Also, there are other potential targets for a similar mission- countless other ore laden asteroids exist and ARE logistically possible for this program.
Though 433 Eros is the second largest asteroid in our system, she rests not alone. There are more than 100,000 orbital rocks to be chosen from. If only 2% qualify, that is at least 2,000 that may have shorter expectancies of life, but can be mined from both directions once the Jupiter One would grow into full maturation. In fact, it might behoove us to make sure that 433 Eros remain intact to continue to operate as our subway line and reduce expense for travel to and from Jupiter.
So, there are several potential reasons to explore the asteroid 433 Eros and in effect direct us to “the question at hand”:
The Structure Simplified
We Know This Much About Asteroids
The Dogs on a Leash That We Know About
We’ve Been Hit Before
Options to Belay Destruction
The possibilities of such a realization can truly boggle the mind. For one, with all of our near earth space development of the past century, why is mankind so interested in this major jump to an asteroid that is so far away?