Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Last Chance - Get 15% off sitewide on Slashdot Deals with coupon code "BLACKFRIDAY" (some exclusions apply)". ×

Comment Re: The treaty says no such thing. (Score 1) 152

National ownership and private ownership are two entirely different things. The US has no right to grant or deny access to an asteroid, under the Outer Space Treaty. But once there's property in question within the United States (having been returned to the surface), ownership of that property is a key issue that needs to be decided by law. The US has made clear that it considers that the private property of the company in question. This is in no way "national appropriation by claim of sovereignty" to the asteroid. It's just saying, "Yup, you mined it, you own it, we're not going to confiscate it or anything of the sort"

Comment Re:The treaty says no such thing. (Score 1) 152

First, the UK was trying to encroach on waters already owned; no such ownership claim exists to objects in space.

It's not that simple. In each case Iceland was pushing the boundaries of law on ownership of seas. Remember, there was a time where there was no such thing as coastal waters, and then later when there was no concept of an EEZ. In fact, Iceland was the first country to lay claim to an EEZ for fishing (Britain cried foul, but they helped pioneer the concept by laying claim to ocean-bottom mineral resources a couple years earlier in a different kind of EEZ). Now every coastal state has an EEZ, but back then it was a new concept.

For your other two points I think I may have lost the thread here. Or maybe you did. Either way, my point was that larger states can't always successfully bully smaller states by military might in today's international world. I don't see why that wouldn't apply to space as well.

Comment Re:The treaty says no such thing. (Score 2) 152

. So far as we know the bulk of that material is stuff that's easy to get here on Earth: silicates, sulfides, iron, nickel etc. Judging from meteors found here on Earth there are exotic materials like iridium, but in trace quantities.

Not at all. In a similar thread I linked to a USGS study on the prospects of space mining that showed that for an entire class of asteroids the average precious metals concentration is 28 ppm, with findings as high as 200ppm. In bulk, not concentrates, no overburden. I mean, that's insanely rich deposits. The richest gold mine on Earth is something like 40ppm - with lots of overburden. Most are 1-2 orders of magnitude less rich than that.

The problem with Earth is that most of the precious metals in the planet have sunk into the depths, with the crust mostly containing only that which has been deposited by later bombardments. But asteroids (with the possible exception of large ones like Ceres) are undifferentiated. Look at 16 Psyche, for example - it makes up 1% of the total mass of the asteroid belt and it's an estimated 90% metal. Ever seen anything like that occurring naturally on Earth? ;) Now Psyche itself wouldn't be an ideal target, it's a main belt asteroid, but still, it drives home how much these objects are not like Earth.

The platinum deposits in Canada's Sudbury Basin were delivered by a meteor

I think you're mixing things up. Sudbury is mainly mined for nickel - the platinum is recovered as a secondary product and is not the prime mining target (while not precious, nickel is a rather valuable mineral (nearly twice as valuable as copper), and Sudbury is one of the world's best deposits). And its minerals, while the result of a meteor strike, didn't come from the meteor itself. The meteor (now believed more likely to have been a comet than an asteroid) overwhelmingly converted to vapor and plasma and was blasted into the upper atmosphere and circulated around the Earth. The giant "wound" however, penetrated all the way down to the mantle, which bulged up and diffused with a giant pool of liquified rock and let to melt differentiation mineralization processes, creating areas of very rich deposits. The key issue is that overwhelmingly the minerals at Sudbury are believed to be terrestrial-sourced igneous deposit, even though the concentrations were caused by an impact.

Comment Re: The treaty says no such thing. (Score 1) 152

You know, you post as AC but it's really obvious who you are, you have the same writing style everywhere you post ;)

Anyway, here's what the treaty actually says:

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.

Any questions?

Comment Re:The treaty says no such thing. (Score 2) 152

The missing part is making explicit that an entity owns what it mines and has the right to work the mines it develops. I think given the context it's pretty clear that this was expected, but it is an oversight. You know, if one corporation spent billions clearing the overburden off an asteroid, then another company comes in and just starts mining the ore in question... that's a big problem. It needs to be controlled. Really, it should be allocated out in blocks, with exclusive rights given to use the blocks but only if they're actively working those blocks within a certain timeperiod from their last renewal.

On Earth this is done by nations auctioning off resource extraction rights, but since there's no national ownership of territory in space, no nation could rightfully profit from selling off resource blocks. Blocks would either have to be free or for profits go to an international fund. In the early days, since nobody knows whether space mining actually will play out to be profitable at this point in time, one would expect them to start out free.

But of course all of this would require a new treaty.

Comment Re:The treaty says no such thing. (Score 1) 152

Things don't always come down to that. Look at the Cod Wars between Iceland and the UK. Three times Iceland pushed the UK - a nuclear power with hundreds of times its population - back further and further out its shores. The UK had the military ability to crush Iceland like an ant. But Iceland succeeded by combination of making it economically unfeasible for the British to fish Icelandic waters (net cutters, for example) and well-played international geopolitical maneuvering (for example, threatening to give the NATO base at Keflavík to the Soviets if the US didn't exert pressure on the UK, while also successfully positioning itself as a small weak state being bullied by a large powerful one)

Anyway, the Outer Space Treaty was well meaning. Think of the context of the Cold War and how that was all playing out. It seemed logical to think that both nations would begin laying claim to various bodies (or parts thereof), say by landing as many landers as they could to them... which would inherently lead to disputes, just like happens with worthless pieces of land on Earth - with the each side supporting their claim by military means, just like happens on Earth. It was seen as a ripe grounds for an unchecked military escalation, and while it would start out on other celestial bodies, it would progress to LEO and GEO, and then to Earth.

They were probably way overly optimistic about the space of advancement in space technology (remember, this was 1967) and overly pessimistic about everything else. They certainly weren't trying to "block commercial mining"; the goal was simply to prevent a space arms race between rival powers. Quite to the contrary, the treaty talks frequently about encouraging the peaceful use of space for the benefit of humanity. There's just one detail missing, which is to make explicit that corporations or individuals own what they mine. Without that, there won't be much of any "use of space" beyond exploration.

Comment Re:The treaty says no such thing. (Score 2) 152

Getting things *to* locations in space is inherently expensive. The cost of getting them *back* is not inherently so, if you don't insist on each return having a custom reentry vehicle and instead just shape it as its own reentry vehicle, with full expectation that it'll suffer some ablation during atmospheric entry. Some NEOs have only dozens of meters per second delta-V to reach earth intercept with an optimal trajectory and timing - a good baseball pitcher could do that unaided ;)

Comment Re:Salomonic solution (Score 1) 746

I use Firefox despite critical components being designed and written by Brandon Eich, who's a contemptible homophobic jackass (and would have continued to use it even if he hadn't resigned.) I use OpenSSL despite the jackwagon who wrote it being some anti-GNU zealot. Those are two examples, and I'm sure I can find a thousand more utilities written by people I'd never go to a party with.

You're unwilling to work with systemd simply because you don't like the author, and are willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater because you are afraid to deal with your animosity against the author. OK, we get it.

But perhaps you need to reconsider your priorities if your approach to life is to decide what technologies to use on the basis of personality quibbles with people you'll never ever meet.

systemd's great. I can't comment on Poettering because, quite honestly, I've never really followed the guy. He could be as bad as Eric Raymond. He could be as nice as Bruce Perens. I'll bitch about him if I find out something that makes me think he's giving the F/OSS communit(ies) a bad name or is behaving in an exclusionary manner, but I'm not going to reject a long needed technological upgrade that's exactly what we need right now on that basis.

Comment Re:The law is ridiculous anyway (Score 2) 152

It takes more than just flag-planting to make a territorial claim. A nation has to be able to demonstrate some sort of permanent control of the territory, usually in the form of colonization or economic exploitation. That's like trying to say that we need to ask the Danish, Norwegians and Swedes if Canadians can live in Newfoundland.

Before any nation can make claim to any extraterrestrial territory, it's going to have to be able to actually hold that territory, and we're still decades away from that.

The gent who wakes up and finds himself a success hasn't been asleep.