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Space more promising than air flight

A View From the Edge

As you might imagine, the flying aviation world is hurting. Planes are stored — not only those 737 Max planes but a whole host of half-built and grounded airliners — and engines are being stored. Currently, almost 38,000 jet engines are idle and being stored… engines that need weekly servicing even if they are not flying. Lubrication and wear and tear on internal parts because of jet fuel and corrosion are serious issues. These engines are made to run, not sit idle. The cost are mounting.

So, where’s the good news in aviation? It’s all up in space.

First, the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is, once again, safely docked to the International Space Station. SpaceX has proved the Dragon many, many times now and, within this year, NASA will launch humans into space for the first time in years — nine years to be exact. Who is likely to be the first to go? NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are all suited up and raring to go — set for May 27! Tune in and wish them Godspeed.

Secondly, the race for real money — a space gold rush for the 21st Century — is about to get seriously underway with another landing on an asteroid on Aug. 26. The asteroid is the Bennu and the unmanned spacecraft is the Osiris-Rex. That craft will tell scientists exactly how much valuable metal ore is there. Osiris-Rex been flying near and over the asteroid for some time, mapping (photography) and using sensor probes, but the actual landing will be the real test.

Of course, scientists, thankfully, are collaborative beings. While Osiris-Rex has been maneuvering around Bennu looking for a good place to set down (and finding it surprisingly rocky), the Japanese asteroid probe Hayabusa2 completed its touch and go on the larger asteroid Ryugu, collecting — yes, collecting — samples now on their way back to earth. In December we’ll know what they found. And both teams are exchanging findings.

All this reminds me of the early prospectors way out West in the 1800s. Yes, once they staked a claim, they fought to protect their asset. But they told everyone what they were finding for a very simple — and good — reason: The more people show up, the more likely you’ll have partners, banks willing to loan funds, grocers to provide food, stagecoach operators willing to take your bounty to banks. The asteroid space race is exactly the same. From earth and using the space telescopes, we know there are easily mined iron, titanium and rare earth metal compositions to many of the asteroids. No digging down a mile or more into the earth’s crust. Spot the gigantic nugget (30 miles in diameter), attach a rocket pack, send it spiraling down into a safe earth orbit where it can be cut up and dropped to the planet. Trillions of dollars to be made for a cost of billions. Exactly like the Gold Rush of ’49.

 

Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now lives in New Mexico.

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