Author Topic: Is Io, moon of Jupiter, the best place to mine resources in space?  (Read 6618 times)

Offline TakeOff

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Io is the only geologically active celestial body in the Solar system. On Earth volcanism and tectonics are forming ore bodies, processes that concentrate metals by hundreds of times so that they become worthwhile to extract in tiny spots here and there.


If I understand this right, on for example the Moon impacting asteroids are completely vaporized and their matter spread out globally in a homogeneous dust sheet hundreds of meters deep. If lava flows once formed ore bodies, it did so for only about a tenth of the time the Earth has done it, plus that we have plate tectonics. So mining on the Moon means using the average asteroidal dust there. No place has any more value than any other (unless one looks for trace quantities of water at the poles, I'm talking about chemical metals here). Also Mars lacks ore body forming processes for about 90% of its existence, and maybe never had plate tectonics. So mining on Mars means using material that has tens of times less concentration of the metals, as an additional burden to the much more difficult circumstances there. Also the lack of water flows in the underground seems to be a problem fro ore body formation.


But Io at Jupiter has constantly spewing volcanoes! So maybe that is the place to go in order to find a new Klondike of concentrated metals of value? What do you exogeologists say about these my claims?

Offline ThereIWas3

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Maybe if you need a lot of Sulphur.   While Io is the densest moon, and has an Iron core, the easily accessible top layers are pretty much all forms of Sulphur.

It is also the innermost of Jupiter's moons, so the radiation would be hellish.

Offline mikelepage

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Maybe if you need a lot of Sulphur.   While Io is the densest moon, and has an Iron core, the easily accessible top layers are pretty much all forms of Sulphur.

It is also the innermost of Jupiter's moons, so the radiation would be hellish.

To put that last statement in context: you’d get a fatal radiation dose in 2-4 hours.
« Last Edit: 12/23/2018 02:57 pm by mikelepage »

Online TrevorMonty

Most of earth ore deposits were formed from undersea hot water vents. Io would need similar vents.

Asteriod belt would be better location.  Psyche at 200km diameter of solid iron and  nickel would keep a few mining companies business for few centuries.


Offline TakeOff

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Okay 100,000 times stronger radiation might not make Io the best place overall. But since this forum is about "advanced concepts" maybe robots could take advantage of that ambient energy? Makes me sound like a positive thinking coach  ::)  Or dig down. But if Io is one of the few places in the Solar system that has formed ores (if that is the case) then we sooner or later somehow will deal with the radiation problem profitably. Not doing it might remain one of the best options.

Why is there so much sulphur on/in Io? One popular theory about the giant planet's moon formation describes them coming about from the Solar nebula gas disk as it thinned out so that they could stay in orbit rather than (like many previously formed moons) crash into the planet because of the orbital friction from passing through remaining gas and dust. That suggests to me that the moons should, at least originally, have pretty much the same elementary composition. I suppose that it is the melting point and density of sulphur in the tidal heat and surface gravity environment of Io that makes it the volcanoes' favorite. If Io has got a thick crust of sulphur having been ejected by volcanoes during billions of years, that sounds bad for mining chemical metals there.

Ore forming by sub ocean vents is tectonic, right? And Earth is alone with that phenomenon (unless InSight makes an unexpected discovery). But there are other processes to concentrate metals. Psyche, if it really is so dense as measured, must be a part of a core of a gravitationally differential minor planet from the Death Star's shooting gallery.

If ores, by which I mean specific elements concentrated above average abundance by a factor of tens to hundreds of times, only have been formed on Earth, then maybe all of them should be mined here and exported to space. Maybe mining in space is a bad idea, cannot compete with the launch costs from Earth. Except for the most immediate and simple things like CO2 from Mars' atmosphere and some kind of concrete made out of local dust. Mining in vacuum and low gravity and without flowing water is very different from how it is done on Earth where gravity is good for crushing rocks and flowing water is good for transporting crushed stuff. Using some of the heaviest machinery ever made, which would be hard to launch. Maybe minimizing launch costs is a much better plan than going into space mining.
« Last Edit: 12/23/2018 08:09 pm by TakeOff »

Offline ThereIWas3

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Robots are sensitive to radiation as well.  It scrambles semiconductor circuitry, which operate at quantum physics levels.  (About the only useful thing I learned in semiconductors class...)

Offline high road

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Maybe if you need a lot of Sulphur.   While Io is the densest moon, and has an Iron core, the easily accessible top layers are pretty much all forms of Sulphur.

It is also the innermost of Jupiter's moons, so the radiation would be hellish.

Aren't most metalic ores on earth compounds of sulphur and the desired metal? So the sulphur on the surface is likely rich in useful metals, and separating the sulphur from the metal is basic ore  refining.

That said, there are probably lots of ore layers on far less harsh locations to last for quite a while.

Offline ccdengr

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Offline KelvinZero

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I don't know if Io would be useful to the rest of the solar system in general, but it wouldn't be at all surprising to me if it was very useful to settlements on the other jovian moons. I don't see much point in interplanetary trade but these worlds would only be a few days from each other, and very likely some are very lacking in certain elements so trade internal to the jovian system makes a lot of sense to me.

Io is pretty deep in Jupiter's gravity well though. This table suggests there is 10km/s from Callisto to Io when landing is included. That is a lot of energy per kg, energy which could be used extracting elements from more difficult ores closer to hand.
http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/appmissiontable.php

Offline Phil Stooke

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Look next door to Europa.  Quite likely there are undersea volcanic vents on that quasi-Io, under an ocean, protected from radiation.  Robots designed to work in a deep ocean can mine for you, maybe tele-operated from a surface habitat dug hundreds of meters under the icy surface for protection.

However, I personally will not be volunteering to work there.  But my scenario sounds a lot better to me than Io.

Offline scienceguy

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Wouldn't it be better to have humans at a base on Callisto teleoperating robots on Europa?
e^(pi*i) = -1

Offline Space Core

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Wouldn't it be better to have humans at a base on Callisto teleoperating robots on Europa?

Callisto seems like a no-brainer to me.  Ridiculously low radiation, shallower in Jupiter’s sphere of influence, plus both volitales and metals available at the surface due to Callisto being only partially differentiated.  To me, all of these criteria scream “BUILD A BASE HERE!!!”.

Teleportation seems plausible.  Time delay between Callisto and Europa is ~4 to 8 seconds, so worst case round trip delay would be roughly ~16 seconds.  That’s several times more than Earth and Luna (~3sec) but no where near as bad as Earth and Mars (~8-40min).

Offline Bob Shaw

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Here's a link to a BBC article on recent developments in deep-sea robotic mining systems:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/deep_sea_mining

Operating miles down, these are distinctly comparable to such efforts on other planets (hopefully without the CIA involvement, which as we know led to the Benthic Treaty between humankind and The Deep Ones!)   *


* See Charles Stross
« Last Edit: 12/25/2018 11:28 pm by Bob Shaw »

Offline Bynaus

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To answer the initial question: while plate tectonics is needed to form ore bodies, you want those ore bodies to stick around for a while too (to grow in size and also to make sure they are still around when you want to use them), so if mantle/crust overturn is to vigorous, its probably not an ideal situation either. So in other words, while ore bodies might form on Io, they are probably cycled back into the mantle.

Overall, Io isn't enriched in sulfur compared to other solar system objects. Its probably just that most of the sulfur has accumulated near the surface through chemical differentiation (it is easy to deposit on the surface, but not as easy to pull it back down again).
More of my thoughts: www.final-frontier.ch (in German)

Offline Bob Shaw

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While Io seems like hard work for solid-state and mechanical systems for all sorts of obvious reasons, what about seeding it with lifeforms which concentrate things that we want? Anywhere that there is an energy gradient is interesting in terms of life, and the Terrestrial biosphere already includes organisms which use sulphur. Radiation, wild temperature variations and volcanic eruptions may even make Life (c) V2.0 quite happy!

The beauty of life-mining (or grey goo assemblers) is that this isn't subject to single point of failure situations, but instead works on the basis of huge numbers of throwaway, self-replicating, components.

Offline Pete

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Io as a mining resource:
Pro: lots of sulphur

Con:
1) About as radioactive as the generator room at Chernobyl. *DURING* the meltdown.
2) lots of Sulphur. Very very few materials like being covered in suphur-containing dust.
3) From LEO, IO is 5 times further away than the moon. It is also 55% further than Pluto.
     (in the only measure that matters, Required Delta-v)
4) The radiation!
5) IO is embedded in a  plasma torus that shares its orbit around Jupiter. Flying through it, or hanging around there for significant time, will lead to interesting contamination of all exposed surfaces.
6) Did I mention the radiation?
7) IO is *also* connected to Jupiter's magnetic field via a flux tube, that extends more-or-less north-south from IO to Jupiter. Other than playing havoc with radio, and concentrating radiation, this is harmless.
8) Also, IO's environment is quite dangerously radioactive.

Offline Bynaus

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Io as a mining resource:
Pro: lots of sulphur

Con:
1) About as radioactive as the generator room at Chernobyl. *DURING* the meltdown.
2) lots of Sulphur. Very very few materials like being covered in suphur-containing dust.
3) From LEO, IO is 5 times further away than the moon. It is also 55% further than Pluto.
     (in the only measure that matters, Required Delta-v)
4) The radiation!
5) IO is embedded in a  plasma torus that shares its orbit around Jupiter. Flying through it, or hanging around there for significant time, will lead to interesting contamination of all exposed surfaces.
6) Did I mention the radiation?
7) IO is *also* connected to Jupiter's magnetic field via a flux tube, that extends more-or-less north-south from IO to Jupiter. Other than playing havoc with radio, and concentrating radiation, this is harmless.
8) Also, IO's environment is quite dangerously radioactive.

I don't know how you can come up with such a comprehensive list and completly ignore the radiation. 8)
More of my thoughts: www.final-frontier.ch (in German)

Offline hop

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The beauty of life-mining (or grey goo assemblers) is that this isn't subject to single point of failure situations, but instead works on the basis of huge numbers of throwaway, self-replicating, components.
Why does  does a civilization that can make grey goo benefit from sending it to Io, specifically? If you can do it on Io, you can surely do it on asteroids or the Moon, without having to haul anything out of Jupiter's gravity well or deal with the radiation.

More generally, I think the OPs question is ill-formed: It's impossible to say what the "best place to mine resources" is without some definition of which resources, where they are needed and some basic assumptions about capabilities. Since any large scale off Earth resource extraction is pretty much speculative at this point, you can make up whatever assumptions suit your fancy.

That said, one can identify a lot of reasons that Io is likely to be hard relative to other parts of the solar system (see Pete's list, and radiation 8)) so without additional assumptions it seems fair to say Io would most likely only be a winner in very specific conditions.

Offline Bob Shaw

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Just export finished products. See Larry Niven's 'Stage Tree', and hope you meet no Thrint...

Offline Vahe231991

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Small pockets of water ice or hydrated minerals have been tentatively identified on Io, most notably on the northwest flank of the mountain Gish Bar Mons, raising a slight possibility that Io could be mined for minerals in space.

Tags: mining Io Jupiter 
 

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