Hi Reddit! We are engineers at Planetary Resources, an asteroid prospecting and mining company. We are currently developing the Arkyd 100 spacecraft, a low-Earth orbit space telescope and the basis for future prospecting spacecraft. We're running a Kickstarter to make one of these spacecraft available to the world as the first publicly accessible space telescope.

The following team members will be here to answer questions beginning at 10AM Pacific:

CL - Chris Lewicki - President and Chief Asteroid Miner / People Person

CV - Chris Voorhees - Vice President of Spacecraft Development / Spaceship Wrangler

PI - Peter Illsley - Principal Mechanical Engineer / Grill Operator

RR - Ray Ramadorai - Principal Avionics Engineer / Bit Lord

HG - Hannah Goldberg - Senior Systems Engineer / Principal Connector of Dotted Lines

MB - Matt Beasley - Senior Optical System Engineer and Staff Astronomer / Master of Photons

TT - Tom Taranowski - Software Mechanic and Chief Coffee Elitist

MA - Marc Allen - Senior Embedded Systems Engineer / Bit Serf

Feel free to ask us about asteroid mining, space exploration, engineering, space telescopes, our previous jobs and experiences (working at NASA JPL, Blue Origin, SpaceX, Intel, launching sounding rockets, building Spirit, Opportunity, Phoenix, Curiosity and landing them on Mars), getting tetanus from a couch, winemaking, and our favorite beer recipes! We’re all space nerds who want to excite the world about humanity’s future in space!

Edit 1: Verification

Edit 2: We're having a great time, keep 'em coming!

Edit 3: Thanks for all the questions, we're taking a break but we'll be back in a bit!

Edit 4: Back for round 2! Visit our Kickstarter page for more information about that project, ending on Sunday.

Edit 5: It looks like our responses and your new posts are having trouble going through...Standing by...

Edit 6: While this works itself out, we've got spaceships to build. If we get a chance we'll be back later in the day to answer a few more questions. So long and thanks for all the fish!

Edit 7: Reddit worked itself out. As of of 4:03 Pacific, we're back for 20 minutes or so to answer a few more questions

Edit 8: Okay. Now we're out. For real this time. At least until next time. We should probably get back to work... If you're looking for a way to help out, get involved, or share space exploration with others, our Space Telescope Kickstarter is continuing through Sunday, June 30th and we have tons of exciting stretch goals we'd love to reach!

Comments: 2217 • Responses: 64  • Date: 

needmoretape866 karma

What are the primary resources you hope to mine from asteroids, or are you kind of just playing it by ear to see whats out there to get?

PRI_Engineers1763 karma

Right now, we think we have a okay idea of what there is in various types of asteroids from the 50,000 meteorite samples that have landed on Earth. We expect to mine water out of C-type asteroids for the first product. Water gets used for everything in space - drinking, breathing, rocket fuel, radiation shielding... and is very expensive in space given launch costs.

Structural materials would likely be second - bulk material is expensive in space. After that we would look into mining materials that are scarce on Earth (platinum group metals). Those have industrial uses that are likely to grow as world's economy grows.

TL;DR, water is the first step. platinum later.

Edit: http://i.imgur.com/Km5ou.gif

-MB

Real_MikeCleary339 karma

How would you refine metals in space? Or are they already in a pure enough form to be usable?

PRI_Engineers357 karma

I discussed this here -- MB

EDIT: -For additional information, there has been work on using carbonyl processes to refine asteroidal material which has a number of advantages (reuse of the carbon monoxide) and is appropriate based on the metal content.

RFLS192 karma

Reading through your response is pretty close to what I was expecting; basically, you're out for heavy stuff that's hard to throw into space but is still necessary. I do have another question I did not see answered elsewhere, though, and I thought it might be worth asking: Do you have any plans to mine specifically for iridium, despite the relatively small amounts it's currently required in? I'm under the impression that, despite its rarity on earth, it's relatively common in asteroids.

TL;DR: Do you have plans to mine iridium as well?

PRI_Engineers365 karma

Iridium, osmium, palladium, ruthenium, rhodium, and platinum are all rare on the Earth and extracted by similar processes. They pretty much come along through for the ride.

--MB

Career_with_PR797 karma

What are your thoughts on Kerbal Space Program?

PRI_Engineers1242 karma

I am fairly certain that is where one of our interns learned everything he knows about orbital mechanics. I personally love to play this game with my daughter and watching her reaction to failed launches.

-- RR

I2obiN687 karma

How many SCVs do you think you will need?

PRI_Engineers960 karma

It depends on how much Vespene Gas we require.

InfiniteCuriousity317 karma

Hey PR Team, I'm an Engineering Physics Major with a focus in Aerospace-Spacecraft Systems. I have a few questions that I'd be delighted if you answered:

1) Are you aiming on developing your own launch systems or using an existing platform?

2) What is going to be your primary attitude / secondary maneuverability systems on-board the Arkyd 100 spacecraft?

3) You have mentioned a Geocentric-LEO orbit, but what about eccentricity, synchronicity, and/or pseudo-orbit classifications?

4) Being a space nerd myself as well, I'm going down the path of space propulsion technologies, I am doing this because it sounds [email protected]$$ and phenomenally challenging at the same time. What makes you guys tick?

Best regards,

InfiniteCuriousity

PRI_Engineers257 karma

Since our spacecraft are really small we are planning on piggy-backing rides on launch vehicles using their excess capability. This puts our orbit details at the mercy of the primary spacecraft. Luckily, we're pretty flexible about where we go, and there are lots of options.

As far as spacecraft pointing goes, we're starting with standard spacecraft technologies. I'm looking forward to growing our propulsion as we move out to the asteroids. --HG

Career_with_PR298 karma

There are other near earth object mining ventures in the works. How do you foresee "claims" being handled? For example, do you expect to be able to say "this asteroid is ours" and have that respected, or will you need to have actually begun mining it before your claim is respected?

PRI_Engineers324 karma

There are many precedents from the long history of mining and resource development on Earth. We expect to leverage the current mining industry's practices as industry norms and regulations are developed alongside our emerging industry in space. -- CL

SubtletyShortfall282 karma

It's probably way too early to speculate/talk about this, but I have to ask. At the ISDC 2013 talk on asteroid mining, O'Neill colonies were very briefly namedropped, and I'm wondering if there has been any interest demonstrated (by anyone) in updating the work done in the original study and developing a workable business plan to build larger structures like Stanford torus stations? IMO this represents the pinnacle of the commercial space food pyramid, so to speak.

PRI_Engineers466 karma

I have been fascinated by O'Neill colonies since I was a little kid and stared for hours at the amazing artistic visions of the future. Space resources are obviously the key to making this artistic vision a reality. Water comes first, then access to iron, nickel, and cobalt. It's inside those big steel structures where I plan on retiring. -- CV

AstroAllie5130 karma

Please describe how you will make the steel to build those structures from the raw iron and other elements/minerals you find out there.

e.g. -- I found this 'backyard' video of making steel from iron! If they can do it in a backyard, then it should be a doddle in space for you! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDy1jx6mLgs

PRI_Engineers456 karma

Warning: long answer. The natural metal in asteroids is more or less a stainless steel. The metal has high nickel content, potentially high cobalt as well as a mess of other metals (PGM, scandium, etc in various amounts). Back in the 1970s, NASA designed a process to extract individual materials from the asteroid material. This system used carbon monoxide to extract pure nickel, iron, and cobalt from native metal.

Once you have those materials, there are a number of processes that would be able to create tailored steels. I caution though, zero-gee smelting is still in early stages and we will be working on solving the issues over the next few years. 3D printing looks extremely promising as a technique to combine the materials.

TL;DR - chemistry and 3D printing

--MB

Vithar78 karma

I have made a career of making big rocks into little rocks, primarily in connection to mining and aggregate production. Perhaps it's too early in the process, but what kind of plans do you guys have for blasting, and crushing in zero G? The question assumes you will be doing those activities, if you aren't how will you make the big rocks into little rocks, for processing?

tl:dr Zero G blasting, crushing, and grinding how do you plan to do that?

Edit: And also drilling? Zero G drilling, how to do that?

PRI_Engineers80 karma

Take a look at asteroid 25143 Itokawa. It's what is known as a "rubble pile" and has been bashed to bits by collisions over the eons. If you need crushed asteroid on Itokawa, you can go to the areas of the asteroid that have already been crushed. By starting with "water" in space, it may be that no rock blasting, crushing and grinding are required - as basic solar distillation may be the way to go. Still much to learn here, which is why we need to prospect candidate asteroids with Arkyd spacecraft! -- CL

AstroAllie519 karma

Any chance you can provide link to the '70s NASA process details?

PRI_Engineers29 karma

A good reference is Lewis and Nozette, 1983, Extraction and purification of iron-group and precious metals from asteroidial feedstocks. In Space Manufacturing 1983, eds., Burke and Whitt (San Diego: Univelt), pp. 351-355

--MB

tortugaconqueso223 karma

How do you envision a sudden overabundance of platinum group metals to industries on earth would transform human endeavors in space, in our daily lives and in furthering our understanding of the universe?

PRI_Engineers353 karma

A world of abundance is our ultimate goal. For engineers to have the right material for the job, without restriction, would be awesome. 160 years ago Aluminum was the rarest metal on the planet, now you fly through the air in a tube of the stuff, wrap your burrito in it and throw it away, or make cell phones and computers out of it. There's no telling how things might change with an overabundance of PGMs! -- CL

soal1221 karma

[deleted]

PRI_Engineers230 karma

We brought Jack along with us from JPL, where he performed a critical function during assembly, test, and launch operations. -- CV

KeveyB204 karma

What kind of time scale are you expecting for this project?

PRI_Engineers284 karma

There are several short term milestones and some longer term goals. In late spring 2014, we are launching a small satellite called A3 to demonstrate our core technologies. In 2015 we will launch the A100 space telescopes, one of which is the subject of our Kickstarter. Kickstarter participants and educators will be able to use the A100 to take images of the Earth and space phenomena, in addition to taking "space selfies".

The A100 will also allow us to identify interesting near-earth asteroids that we may want to prospect in-situ using our A200 and A300 spacecraft. The timeline for these later missions is dependent on our progress with prospecting and solving the hard problems of building deep-space satellites, such as radiation and communication.

We are aggressively pursuing these goals, but we recognize that they will not come to fruition overnight - we're in this for the long haul. -- MA

legradstudent95 karma

"hard problems of building deep-space satellites, such as radiation and communication" CERN physicist here: What kind of radiation challenges do you have to overcome?

PRI_Engineers106 karma

The radiation environment of space is very unfriendly to electronics and certain materials. We have to worry about single event upsets, which can cause glitches in electronics and software, and total dose, which can eventually kill electronics. The challenge is in building a spacecraft that is robust to random transient and permanent failures, and able to survive long enough and be reliable enough to do something useful.

This is traditionally accomplished by using "radiation-hard" components and heritage technology, which are very expensive and lag behind the state of the art. We are approaching the problem from a more modern perspective that will hopefully allow us to do more with less. -- MA

Career_with_PR174 karma

For those of us who've dreamt of such a venture since reading old sci-fi books as a child, went to school to learn what we could to help humanity make its way among the stars, have followed Planetary Resources related news from its public announcement, and are sincerely interested in devoting our lives to a career with Planetary Resources, is there anything we can do in addition to submitting an application to better our chances of being a part of your team? Besides learning to write shorter and less desperate sounding questions?

PRI_Engineers156 karma

The best way is to get involved in what you are passionate about. We have made decisions on who to hire based on their home/independent projects. Experience and range of skills is helpful too, we are a small company and everyone here wears multiple hats.

There is a longer blog post on this here:

How to be an Asteroid Miner

-- RR

SuperNixon173 karma

Have you talked to Bruce Willis as an official mascot? Also, if you accidentally change an orbit and send one at earth he is the guy to call.

PRI_Engineers218 karma

Haven’t talked to him yet. If that does happen, we’ll have to change our emergency contact from The Ghostbusters to Bruce Willis’ cell. We’re not so keen on having to call Ben Affleck, though. -- PI

pscowen122 karma

how are you going to tell what the composition of each target asteroid will be, remotely? how accurate do you expect external spectroscopic analysis to be? or is the point to land "samplers" on the asteroid to find out - and how reliable will the surface composition be with regards to the rest of the asteroid (space weathering etc.)?

PRI_Engineers124 karma

Thanks to the large number of samples that have landed on Earth, we're getting a better idea of how to estimate the material content of a given asteroid. We are also working on options for in-situ sampling to directly sample the content of the asteroid. There are advantages to stand-off sampling for the first few missions - see the CHEMCAM on Curiosity.

--MB

Username-Zulu113 karma

Do any of you guys play Eve Online? Are you miners in Eve if you do play?

PRI_Engineers144 karma

I played Eve online for a bit - that game is hard! I also gave a keynote at the EVE Online Fanfest in Iceland earlier this year. We're spending most of our time focused on trying to mine the real asteroids! -- CL

Austin4050x106 karma

Will you be going into space? Why would you quit spaceX? What asteroid do you plan on mining first? What got you started into asteroid mining? How did all of you meet with the same goal?

PRI_Engineers203 karma

Will you be going into space?

No way! I'm way too chicken. All of our missions are fulfilled by increasingly autonomous robots run by us humans on earth.

Why would you quit spaceX?

SpaceX is super bad ass. I wanted to move back up to the Seattle area to buy some land and raise chickens, sheep, and kids.

What asteroid do you plan on mining first?

It's likely that our first asteroid is yet to be discovered. Over 1000 near earth asteroids are discovered every year, so we're building the Arkyd 100 in order to help us gather the data required to make this decision.

What got you started into asteroid mining?

The sheer audacity of the goal and the massive upside potential for mankind. I wanted to be part of making that vision happen.

How did all of you meet with the same goal?

All of us took a slightly different road, but for me, the vision presented at the Planetary Resources announcement drew me in.

-- TT

heckifiknow102 karma

As someone who works for one of the companies you left to form PRI - and as someone who has dreamed of working for a couple of the other organizations you mention - I can't imagine leaving an actual paying job with a "future" (AKA "paycheck/benefits/retirement plan/pension"). None of the companies in question are Jack in the Box...which I really do love but can't get where I'm currently assigned. What gave you the confidence to know you could make a go of this endeavor?

PRI_Engineers134 karma

Leaving the amazing people I worked with for so long was incredibly difficult. I had made friends for life throughout my career at JPL. The things that made it okay for me to leave and join PRI was the amazing set of people that were already working to make this a success and their philosophy of bringing along the good things and filtering out the bad things from our collective career paths as well as forging new practices of our own. Besides, Jack in the Box said they would hire me back any time. -- PI

gonna_overreact96 karma

What's your 20 year vision for the industry as a whole? Should I start preparing to be an outer space prospector?

PRI_Engineers100 karma

Over the next 20 years, a lot can happen. I believe the asteroid mining industry will have built out a knowledge base of the makeup and potential values of tens of Near Earth asteroids through robotic prospecting, and that follow-on missions to obtain and return samples will have been executed on several of those asteroid targets. We will have also performed the first engineering extraction of water and other materials. I would still polish up those space boots, though. -- PI

IllBeGoingNow84 karma

What was up with the ridiculous questions on your application? I had a great time filling it out, but a hell of a time actually taking it seriously.

PRI_Engineers157 karma

In addition to an applicant's professional credentials, we found that we needed a better idea of the personality of the applicant and how they would fit in as part of our rag tag band of misfits. We are an irreverent and self-deprecating group, and our questionnaire reflects that. -- CV

pscowen78 karma

do you think it unfortunate that the URL for this AMA has the string identifier "we_are_engineers_from_planetary_resources_we_quit" ??

PRI_Engineers131 karma

Thought crosses my mind everyday. Then I realize I'm working on mining frickin asteroids. I slap myself twice in the face and get back to work. -- CV

ark074 karma

How are you guys planning on dealing with the effects of radiation on the electronics? (Assuming you aren't going to be using rad-hard parts to save cost)

How much environmental testing have you guy done on the Arkyd?

How much of the spacecraft is COTS?

Thanks! From Nullspace Labs, hi Tom!

PRI_Engineers70 karma

How are you guys planning on dealing with the effects of radiation on the electronics? (Assuming you aren't going to be using rad-hard parts to save cost)

For the transient effects, we're designing our software to expect and gracefully handle frequent resets at any time.

How much environmental testing have you guys done on the Arkyd?

Not too much as of yet, we're still pretty early in the development cycle.

How much of the spacecraft is COTS?

As much as possible, where it makes sense.

Thanks! From Nullspace Labs, hi Tom!

<high five>

-- TT

AstroAllie564 karma

Please discuss potential for manufacturing in space, using raw materials from asteroids you mined. What sort of products do you expect, beyond water as fuel? Will you build the space factories too?

PRI_Engineers100 karma

As Mason Peck, the Chief Technologist of NASA was explaining in his AMA yesterday there are so many advantages to using the material that's already in space, to help the continued exploration and development of space. That will take machines, technologies, robots, factories, etc to be developed ... some by us, some by others. It's a whole new frontier! Stay tuned in the next few days for a big announcement from us in this area! -- CL

edit: I accidentally a letter.

PRI_Engineers86 karma

The news is now officially out: 3D Systems and Planetary Resources Announce Investment and Collaboration

We're very excited to be working with the premier 3D Printing company in the world on developing new methods for manufacturing spacecraft here on Earth and also in space! -- CL

joshuams57 karma

Your company seems to be mostly engineers, how many people (or what %) are dedicated to the business side of things (finance, day to day operations etc..)?

PRI_Engineers239 karma

Come on now, let's keep this focused on rampart. --HG

wca757 karma

What are your favorite stories from building rovers at JPL? Any good behind-the-scenes stuff?

PRI_Engineers130 karma

Well, there was the time that Lewicki almost broke Spirit.

Then there was Test #45.

And then there was the time I got to drive Spirit for the first time on another world. Just. Plain. Awesome. -- CV

PRI_Engineers127 karma

There was also the time when I almost broke Spirit with an ESD spark when hooking up to the main flight electronics.

There was having to lift the Billion dollar Curiosity Rover over the Billion dollar Descent Stage with the hibay crane.

And then there was touching Curiosity for the last time before launch. Truly humbling to be a part of history. -- PI

PRI_Engineers76 karma

I seem to remember that time that Voorhees almost turned the rover into a "static rover" by tying it to the lander base petal... --CL

absenceofevidence55 karma

I've heard you guys are big fans of carbon nanotubes. What are your thoughts on how carbon nanotubes could be manufactured for space applications given the raw materials and zero-g environment of potential asteroid mining facilities?

PRI_Engineers80 karma

Tom, you owe us 20 bucks. --SA

shoganaiyo52 karma

How many Armageddon jokes do you listen to at fund raisers?

PRI_Engineers32 karma

Many. Many I tell you. -- CL

buffalodan33 karma

What would you take a picture of? I bought time, but really don't know what I want.

PRI_Engineers37 karma

The Pleiades have always been a favorite of mine. It just barely fits in our field of view. I'm excited to see what students will choose for their donated time. Would love to hear what others are interested in too. --HG

go_to_space33 karma

What's your favorite asteroid, and why?

PRI_Engineers51 karma

While water is the first thing we'll mine, I really look forward to the iron/nickel/cobalt/PGM/etc asteroid that will build the O'Neill habitats. Presently, an option is (6178) 1986 DA, which is a chunk of metal over 2 km across.

-- MB

PRI_Engineers54 karma

Some would think that I would pick 13609 Lewicki but I really like 1999 KW4. It's a binary asteroid with a tidally-locked moon, and very cool gravitational things going on at its equatorial belt. Would love to visit there one day! -- CL

PRI_Engineers33 karma

My heart is always with 2009 CV -- CV

PRI_Engineers44 karma

We haven't found it yet, but The Oatmeal has some great suggestions for a name. --HG

Career_with_PR31 karma

What's the deal with the apparent tip jar in front of the ARKYD mockup in your verification photo?

PRI_Engineers46 karma

What's the deal with the apparent tip jar in front of the ARKYD mockup in your verification photo?

There are two words we can't say or write. If you violate that requirement, you have to put money into the jar. We can't tell you what those words are.

TL;DR; If you give me $20 I'll tell you.

-- TT

sublimemarsupial29 karma

Just learned you guys are planning to launch your avionics test bed 3U cubesat from the Kibo module on the ISS. Can you give an idea of the schedule for this, and information on what it'll be riding up to the station (F9v1.1/Dragon, Antares/Cygnus, Progress, or ATV)?

PRI_Engineers44 karma

Target flight is SpaceX CRS #4, currently scheduled for April 2014. -- CV

SubtletyShortfall29 karma

Do you guys have any idea if it will be feasible to crowdfund a Series 200 or Series 300 telescope later down the line? Photography is great, but it would be another thing entirely if the community could come together to do some actual prospecting, also!

PRI_Engineers31 karma

Crowdfunding a publicly accessible Arkyd 100 space telescope was an experiment for us, and appears to be working towards a success. We don't know what we might do in the future, but we're certain that we'll take the public along on our adventures as we explore and develop the asteroids! -CL

Coits28 karma

My favorite probe is the NEAR Shoemaker, partly because it was the first manmade object to land on an asteroid, partly because my university built it, and partly because of despite how many things went wrong due to some brilliant people, it still managed to accomplish its scientific goals and more.

What is your favorite probe/satellite/rover/lander and why? Was there one moment in your life when you knew, just knew deep down, that you were going to be involved in space, or did it happen more serendipitously

PRI_Engineers42 karma

My favorite is Voyager. All of my K-12 science textbooks were filled with its beautiful first images of the planets in our solar system. It was launched in 1977 and it’s still talking to us! After starting at JPL, I got to work for mentors who were a part of the spacecraft design and integration team, a dream come true! I have a blueprint drawing of Voyager’s propulsion module structure, one of the most mass efficient and most complexly loaded structures ever built hanging over my desk to remind me of the amazing things that are possible in spacecraft engineering. -- PI

PRI_Engineers38 karma

I personally really like DAWN - which just finished at Vesta and is on the way to Ceres. It's like a space probe SHOULD be - it has an awesome ion drive and moves from target to target. -- MB

PRI_Engineers28 karma

I really like the STEREO mission - 3D visualizations of solar activity and coronal mass ejections! The sheer scale of the phenomena that STEREO captures is very humbling. I was lucky to be able to contribute to their image processing tools during an internship. -- MA

bbfreak26 karma

What are some of your favorite science fiction shows for the lot of you?

PRI_Engineers71 karma

Firefly, TNG -- CV

PRI_Engineers62 karma

Firefly -- MB

PRI_Engineers46 karma

The Original BSG. Inspired me to make lego spacecraft, and then real spacecraft. -- MA

PRI_Engineers13 karma

Star Wars, specifically Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Did you know that there's a probe droid built by Arakyd Industries in the opening scene? -- CL

sheseeksthestars25 karma

What are your educational backgrounds, and how do they factor in to the work being done at Planetary Resources?

In what ways do you anticipate ARKYD will contribute to the goal of asteroid mining?

PRI_Engineers42 karma

As you might expect, we have an interdisciplinary team of engineers and scientists. We have a fairly even mix of mechanical, electrical, and software engineers, in addition to experts in optics, astronomy, and business development. Building a spacecraft requires expertise in nearly every genre.

One thing we all have in common is that we like to get involved in disciplines outside of our own; we have side projects and like to build things. A lot of us are "makers" and/or contribute to open source projects.

For me personally, I am working with the avionics team to develop software and hardware that will drive the asteroid mining spacecraft and the ground system. I worked at JPL for six years prior to joining PR and I have a background in computer science and space system engineering from the University of Michigan. Go Blue!

The ARKYD 100 will allow the public to get involved in space exploration via our Kickstarter campaign, and will help us identify interesting near-earth asteroids that we may prospect with follow-on missions and prove out core technologies. -- MA

sebkurnia21 karma

What is the hardest problem to overcome concerning the development of the Arkyd 100 Spacecraft?

PRI_Engineers32 karma

Two answers:

  1. Much of what is being created for Arkyd 100 is being developed internally for the first time at PRI, which makes the process both exciting and terrifying.

  2. We also challenge ourselves to make Arkyd 100 as relevant to our future prospecting missions as possible. This sometimes makes the Arkyd 100 spacecraft development a little more difficult, but it's connection to our future is worth it. -- CV

FeatureRush21 karma

Why not the Moon? It's seem to be better first target than asteroids in any way I can think about it...

  • You do not need to look for it with telescope,
  • it's close - so probably will cost less and will be easier to control,
  • we have experience in sending things up there,
  • it has more resources in both volume and diversity,
  • it's great place to start building infrastructure for next missions
  • ...

Someone just needs to send one robot able to 3d print base out of dirt and that's it:) So why not Moon?

PRI_Engineers31 karma

While the Moon is physically close, from a rocket scientist's point of view (delta-velocity), about 17% of the currently-known near Earth asteroid population is closer -- that's for a one way trip. When you want to bring something back (and who doesn't?) more than half of the near Earth asteroids have more accessible resources. That's why it took a huge rocket like the Saturn V to make the round-trip. -- CL

Prufrock45121 karma

How do you interpret the Outer Space Treaty's restrictions on the commercialization of space? Its terms seem to place a heavy burden on you to demonstrate that your activities have a scientific value, promote peaceful development, and are closely monitored by a state sponsor.

PRI_Engineers24 karma

The Outer Space Treaty was written when we were worried about nations claiming additional sovereign territory (on the Moon). It is silent on what companies may do though, and there are many precedents in fishing, timber and mining with regards to the extraction and use of resources. We're working with the US government and international parties to ensure the development of appropriate regulations as our society expands into space. -- CL

twaddington17 karma

My friend is a mechanical engineering student in Portland. He's been working for a machine shop on campus helping the physics labs with their experiments. I've been trying to convince him he should apply for a job with Planetary Resources. I think he'd be a great fit! He's hesitant though because he wants to finish school first. Can you give him some words of encouragement or advice?

PRI_Engineers21 karma

We're always looking for qualified candidates to join our team. Many of us had the benefit of internships and co-ops when we were younger, so we make sure to return the favor. --HG

MacMordain16 karma

What material from an asteroid or other space body could you use that would enhance your favorite beer receipe?

PRI_Engineers42 karma

We have a recipe for a pretty good Dunkelweizen called: Single Event Upset that we would enhance with space water that has never passed through kidneys of a human... (Gross)

--RR

tillaria5 karma

How long are you expecting to keep the Arkyd telescope operating? Is there a dedicated service team waiting in the wings when the heavy hitters move on to the next big wonder in the Planetary Resources pipeline? Thanks for doing this, and for continuing to innovate!

PRI_Engineers5 karma

We are developing the Arkyd telescope for an operational lifetime of 3 years. We believe in a "cradle-to-grave" philosophy, so many of our technical team will also be involved in vehicle operations. -- CV

Karrama4 karma

What will society get out of Planetary Resources Arkyd Kickstarter?

PRI_Engineers7 karma

The Kickstarter provides an opportunity for the public to become scientific investigators. We have dozens of science centers already signed up for time on the telescope and working with us to develop the accompanying exhibit and educational curriculum. Plus, who doesn't want their own portrait in space? --HG

Biochemicallynodiff4 karma

Where can we put in a resume?

PRI_Engineers4 karma

See our Careers page. -- MA

dtaht3 karma

A great deal of open source software is used by the alt.space industry. Under the terms of the GPL, since there is no "customer", there is no need to release it, however the benefits of sharing code are well understood at this point, notably, "with enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow". It would be my hope that tons of duplicated effort could be reduced and problems with interoperability spotted, - and catastrophic bugs like the one that felled the falcon 1's third launch avoided - if more code related to the space program showed up in the public sphere.

To what extent is planetary resources going to be releasing bits of code?

Are various partners (notably spacex) making code available to insure interoperability?

PRI_Engineers7 karma

We love open source and will release/share what we can while taking into account proprietary/legal concerns. We have to be very careful about releasing code due to ITAR restrictions. That having been said, for existing open source projects we have a policy of submitting patches back to the community anytime we find/fix/extend something. We have a strong open source philosophy here and will participate as much as we can without going to federal pound me in the ass prison...

-- RR

P__A3 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA!

Your company will eventually rely on other spacefaring companies purchasing raw materials off of you to complete a space build or resupply a spacecraft. How many years till both you have the capability to effectively mine these asteroids for resources, but also more importantly, till the technology and market has developed to use your resources.

PRI_Engineers5 karma

Asteroid mining is only a piece of a fully armed and operational battle station, er, space industry. Our developing of space resources enables other companies to further their efforts, moving us all along a step at a time. Turning science fiction into reality takes steady progress, dedication and persistence, and will take many years. We're in this for the long haul! You're welcome btw. -- CL

apphelion3 karma

Once you have mined materials from an asteroid, what will you do with it? Bring it back to Earth or use it to build more things in space? If you are bringing it back to Earth, how is that at all efficient? If you are building more things in space, what will you build and why?

PRI_Engineers4 karma

Bringing materials back to Earth cost-effectively first requires the development of serious in-space infrastructure. We will use the first asteroid resources to create this infrastructure. It starts with water and other volatiles, which enable access to abundant construction materials. The transportation network is the key - once that is in place, the resources can go wherever they are needed. -- CV

cheese8843 karma

What is your first memory of looking at the stars?

PRI_Engineers7 karma

When I was 5, my family was working overseas in the Dominican Republic. One weekend we went to the beach overnight and I remember seeing the Milky-way. It was the first time I remember not moving in the slightest trying to take it all in.

-- RR

East_Threadly3 karma

Do we really need to send men into space to do this? Why can't remote controlled robots do this?

PRI_Engineers3 karma

Yup. That's the plan and our expertise. --HG

Edit:For clarity, we're doing robots.

kissingpenguins2 karma

Why do you choose asteroid mining and not helium3 mining on the moon? Wouldn't that be easier?

PRI_Engineers3 karma

The moon is a great place to mine things that will be used on the moon. We think the resources on the asteroid are the easiest next step in the development of the solar system. The delta-v to return from the moon is much higher than to get back from an NEO.

While He3 has outstanding potential, no net-energy positive fusion device (outside of weapons) has been created as of yet. The uses for water in space and other metals is well established.

--MB