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Is Elon Musk the greatest visionary or the greatest snake oil salesman of our age?

Discussion in 'world politics, current affairs and news' started by tim, Apr 29, 2017.

  1. cupid_stunt

    cupid_stunt & dyslexic cnut.

    And, according to the BBC, a copy of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in the glove compartment. :thumbs:
  2. tim

    tim Well-Known Member

    OK, so mining iron ore on an asteroid, sending it to a steelwork in near earth orbit, smelting it, making it into spoons and then shipping tbem to retailers on earth. Somehow I'm not convinced that it would be the most efficient way of doing things.
  3. NoXion

    NoXion Eat leaden death, demon...

    Why not? Most minerals are chemically stable under typical vacuum conditions, so it's not like it would have the kind of limited shelf-life that would demand rapid (i.e. high-energy) transportation to its destination. You could take advantage of all that plentiful solar energy and use lightsails. If you're in a hurry, you could use solar-powered laser arrays to push your lightsail craft faster. Cargo containers full of rocks aren't known for being especially delicate things to transport, so a bit of rough handling wouldn't matter, unlike with passengers.

    Remember that once you're in Earth orbit, you're basically half-way to the rest of the Solar system in terms of energy expenditure. It takes 8km/s of dV to get all the way from Earth orbit to the surface of Mars, but it takes the same amount of energy just to get from Earth's surface into orbit!

    For factories in Earth orbit, making deliveries to the surface wouldn't cost much energy, as it's basically all downhill.
    dylanredefined likes this.
  4. urbanspaceman

    urbanspaceman Well-Known Member

    Yes, it's a terrible idea. But nobody is suggesting that as the purpose of asteroid mining. There appear to be three viable reasons for asteroid mining, in order of current practicability:
    a) extraction of volatiles, particularly water, which can be electrolysed to hydrogen and oxygen for fuel, thus avoiding cost of hauling it up from the Earth's surface
    b) extraction and forming of aluminium, steel and silicon, to form structures in orbit, again avoiding cost of hauling up from the Earth's surface
    c) as a bonus co-product of 2), delivery to Earth of platinum group metals

    All forecasts of asteroid mining visualise massive automation, so there won't be any exploited proletarians up there. Most likely a small crew of technicians, on a ship a mile or two from the asteroid (not really practical to run the operation from Earth due to light speed communications lag) supervising robotic operations and troubleshooting/repairing machines. Similar to North Sea oil and gas operations today.

    As SF writer Robert Heinlen said: "Once you get to earth orbit, you're halfway to anywhere in the solar system". You could make a case that he understated it. But the huge cost of launching payload to orbit has throttled space exploration. Until SpaceX came along the cost was somewhere around $10k per kilogram to Low Earth Orbit. Now, if the Falcon Heavy can sustain a reasonably frequent schedule and is multiply reusable, costs might fall to $500 per kg. Consider that the actual cost of just the fuel to reach orbit is only about $25 per kilogram, so there's plenty of scope to cut costs still further. As an analogy, fuel constitutes about 20% of total costs in commercial aviation. So if the launcher business could achieve similar numbers, then the cost of launching one kilogram to orbit would fall to $125 per kilogram. In reality, the operational environment faced by launchers is more hostile than that faced by aircraft, and the utilisation level will be lower, so let's say $200 per kg.

    At this cost - at least 100 times cheaper (per kg) than the Space Shuttle - all sorts of activities become economically feasible: orbital hotels; robust, over-engineered, fast, unmanned probes to the outer planets; easy access to the Moon, and later Mars, again with rugged vehicles, that haven't been sliced and shaved down to the last ounce.
    alfajobrob and NoXion like this.
  5. dylanredefined

    dylanredefined Not a house elf a tiger

  6. urbanspaceman

    urbanspaceman Well-Known Member

    Well the Outer Space Treaty (1966), of which all the major spacefaring states are Signatories, does contain this language:

    Article IV
    States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner.

    Since Rods from God have tactical nuclear weapon scale effects, it could be argued that they are WMDs. And other well-paid space lawyers could argue that they are not.
  7. dylanredefined

    dylanredefined Not a house elf a tiger

    Well if you get some orbitial weapons before anyone knows whats up you win.
  8. NoXion

    NoXion Eat leaden death, demon...

    Not necessarily. The enemy might decide that an appropriate response to being rodded from orbit is to launch their ICBMs at your cities.
    Bahnhof Strasse likes this.
  9. TheHoodedClaw

    TheHoodedClaw "Ride me sideways" was another one

    And according to Musk himself, there's also a towel onboard...
  10. gosub

    gosub ~#

    Wow A Douglas Adams fan who is nearly in a position to implement Adams' power adapter resolution.
  11. Sprocket.

    Sprocket. Chose to Play the Fool...

    Douglas Adams the inspirer of dreams.
    gosub likes this.
  12. gosub

    gosub ~#

    And he was right on fucking adapters... Used to argue it down the pub with a mate..who infuriating never understood the the logic.. And he's ended up designing fucking iPhone batteries
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2018
    Sprocket. likes this.
  13. Don’t fancy clearing up the towels in his hotel room, bet he wanked himself dry on Tuesday night.
    purves grundy and cupid_stunt like this.
  14. Teaboy

    Teaboy It definitely looks brighter over there..

  15. moon

    moon Happy Happy Jo Wonderland

    Elon Musk is highly influenced by the video game series Mass Effect (Not Andromeda though), which explains a lot..

    It's just a shame that the design for his SpaceX reusable launch system is so wrong. I feel it needs stabilisers emerging from higher up the body of the craft, around the pivot point area, otherwise it will be extremely susceptible to toppling from strong cross winds etc.
    However stabilisers covering a larger area are also a potential risk factor in terms of obstructions etc...
  16. Rosemary Jest

    Rosemary Jest Wrong and Unstable

    I want to know how musky he smells.

    I bet he smells like a musky stoat.

    Or maybe a foxy musty stoat.

    Or perhaps a foxy minky musty stoat.

    Either way, I need to know. :thumbs:
  17. gosub

    gosub ~#

    made me think of this bit on his wikipedia page : Musk was severely bullied throughout his childhood, and was once hospitalized when a group of boys threw him down a flight of stairs and then beat him until he lost consciousness.
    Rosemary Jest likes this.
  18. Rosemary Jest

    Rosemary Jest Wrong and Unstable

    He must have smelled of Old Spice :(
  19. dylanredefined

    dylanredefined Not a house elf a tiger

    Wonder how many of them are still alive;)
    Rosemary Jest and mojo pixy like this.
  20. mojo pixy

    mojo pixy unquantifiable hazards

    Who was in that car btw? :hmm:
    spitfire likes this.
  21. DotCommunist

    DotCommunist my world is fire and blood

    the stig hopefully.
    Rosemary Jest likes this.
  22. DotCommunist

    DotCommunist my world is fire and blood

    *clarkson voice* some say explosive decompression is an agonizing way to go'
    dylanredefined, NoXion and mojo pixy like this.
  23. Crispy

    Crispy The following psytrance is baṉned: All

    They're very bottom heavy though. All the weight is in the engines, thrust frame and plumbing. The fuel tanks are thin walled. The legs look ungainly, but actually very stable. There's footage from the landing barge as it's being towed back to land in rough seas and the stage is slipping around all over the deck with no worries.
    moon and NoXion like this.

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