Asteroid samples escaping from overstuffed NASA probe Osiris-Rex that grabbed lots of Bennu rubble

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I am reminded of Pete Conrad and Al Bean bashing the crap out of a plutonium canister with a geology hammer, because it just wouldn’t come off the LM landing leg fast enough.

Humans are great at solving problems.


As a silly short-story plot: would they tell us the truth if the sample had a high platinum/gold content, or would that news be too devastating to the markets?


Bit like a biopsy, innit.


I like a good thought experiment. I’ll add some data for others to work with or tear apart.

In short: Yes, they (NASA) would tell the world, and I am pretty sure it would not affect the markets (stock? Precious metals? The corner “we buy gold” market that also has payday loans?) much.


  • Gold price per oz, $1902 as of today
  • Platinum is at $907/oz (Just learned platinum is not always more expensive than gold)
  • D&D coin value tables do not reflect the real world.
  • Price per lb to get something into orbit $10k , NASA .
  • Bennu is approximately 334,395,301 kilometers (207783606 miles) away
  • ISS is 400km (248 miles) away,
  • Moon is 384,400 km (238,855 miles), NASA .
  • The asteroid belt is 329-478 million km away from Earth .
  • Mean distance between asteroids in the belt is 965,606km (600,000 miles), EarthSky .

Asteroids are neither densely packed together or close to the Earth. One would need to accelerate any viable mass towards Earth and then decelerate that mass, land it in a very precise location on the Earth and then process it. Added cost. Lots of added cost to finding and sending back materials.

Even if it was pure, I can’t see it being profitable right now. If we were in space building things in space, then it might be.

Publicly funded scientists are not going to keep much a secret. Their own personal research, maybe, but that is antithetical to science, but not business, academics, or government polices in some instances. Scientists are regular humans. They drink, have lives, they talk. They can’t keep quiet any more or less than you or I. Some might even say they lean toward oversharing. (Anecdotal evidence from a small , rarefied sample size) They are not part of a giant conspiracy keeping the cure for all cancers, the formula for Coca Cola or KFC, or the composition of an asteroid from us (non scientists). They also need funding, for their lives and work.

Given all this, I don’t think the markets will care much. I don’t think the U.S. government would care to hide it. I don’t think it is exploitable yet. I think the information would be released to everyone for all sorts of reasons, but if for no other reason because somebody will talk if it were a secret.

They would keep it a secret if the sample showed large amounts of gravy and hi fructose corn syrup, they would just say it was an anomaly and contamination, when if fact it would be proof that a survey crew had left trash behind as they planned surveyed for a hyperspace bypass.


I don’t think any other species is stupid enough to put high fructose corn syrup into everything they eat


Plus some more characters to feed the Discourse beast

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Maybe space probes should start routinely carrying hammers on manipulator arms that can reach any part of the spacecraft? Seems like that could solve a lot of the problems of remotely operated spaceflight.


Impressive analysis indeed! Here’s my (again, silly short story plot) riposte: On the isle of Yap the currency was huge stone ‘coins’. So huge they were very hard to move about. So the economy often amounted to buying and selling that coin which was known to be ‘over there’. In one famous case a coin ended up at the bottom of a lagoon having sunk a canoe transporting it. So one merely exchanged for “the coin in the lagoon”. All this by way of saying that currency is so nebulous a concept that never having it ‘in your pocket’ doesn’t mean it can’t be traded; “psst i hear that asteroid C137 is up for sale and it’s known to be over 71253 metric tonnes of gold!”


I suspect they would trumpet such a finding very loudly to drum up more support for space exploration. And I would agree with that.


This reminds me of the time I tried to smuggle too many phones into prison at one time


But were the samples waffer-thin?

I see what the problem here is. They collected samples that are, apparently, one dimensional and stored them in a container that is, presumably, three dimensional. Of course they will leak out.

This is why I love coming here. Had never heard about Yap or the Rai stones. Fascinating concept.


When NASA gets greedy…


… knows it.

The one thing I don’t want coming here from space is an overstuffed probe.

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I hadn’t heard this story. Thank you!!

Equipment Troubles

Apollo 12 marked the first lunar deployment of an electric generator powered by the decay of a tiny plutonium source. This thermal generator provided 75 watts of continuous power to the scientific equipment and, therefore, a continuous stream of data to the experimenters back on Earth. During the flight to the Moon, the source had been stored snugly inside a well-shielded cask designed to keep the radioactive fuel element intact in the event of an unplanned entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Once they got to the Moon, Bean had the job of removing the plutonium source from the cask and inserting it into the generator but, much to his dismay, after he pulled it partway out, it stuck and refused to budge any farther. After a few minutes of fiddling with the long-handled removal tool, Bean got frustrated and suggested that they give the cask a couple of good whacks with the hammer. Conrad wasn’t quite ready to be so unsubtle and wanted to try using the hammer as a prying tool. But, when that didn’t work either, he, too, gave in to the inevitable and gave the cask a good, sharp rap. The fuel element slid out a fraction of an inch. He hit it again and harder. And again. And that did it.

The lesson? “Never come to the Moon without a hammer.”


NASA trying to stuff excess baggage into OSIRIS-REx after too-successful asteroid scoop

We’ve all been there: you go on holiday, find lots of fabulous stuff and when the time comes to return home, your suitcase just won’t close.


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