back to article BepiColombo launches, Russia ponders next lift-off, and 50 years since Apollo 7 got its feet wet

A mission to Mercury, a mission to save Apollo and a mission to save face? Lift off for BepiColombo and into safe mode An Ariane 5 sent ESA and JAXA's BepiColombo probe off on its seven-year jaunt to Mercury, launching on time at 0145 UTC on 20 October. The combination spacecraft, which is comprised of orbiters from ESA and …

  1. Gene Cash Silver badge
    Mushroom

    MS-10 failure mode

    So it's known one of the conical boosters didn't separate properly, and bashed back into the core.

    Apparently the techs assembling the upper mounting just "hammered that sumbeech in there" and bent the hell out of it, then sprayed some lube on it "to fix things" and called it a day.

    If so, I hope Putin finds the guys responsible and treats them to a long vacation somewhere nice, like say, Northern Siberia.

    So some idiot with a hammer could (remotely) result in the international space station going to crap. Boils my blood, it does...

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: MS-10 failure mode

      To be fair, using a big hammer to fix things has always been a design requirement for russki hardware. Can be very therapeutic.

      The one with the big furry hat & gloves.

      1. rg287 Silver badge

        Re: MS-10 failure mode

        To be fair, using a big hammer to fix things has always been a design requirement for russki hardware. Can be very therapeutic.

        Or a big spanner

        American components, Russian components. ALL MADE IN TAIWAN!

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: MS-10 failure mode

      Apparently the techs assembling the upper mounting just "hammered that sumbeech in there" and bent the hell out of it, then sprayed some lube on it "to fix things" and called it a day.

      This mode of operation is apparently encountered more and more in increasingly incomprehensible high-tech work as the general IQ of the maintenance teams declines.

      Americans should think about the fact that rescinding the intermediate range nuclear forces treaty won't do them much good and will probably result in accidents on their production lines trying to upgrade weapon production to levels that Speer could only dream of.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: MS-10 failure mode

      Percussive installation where none is called for then? If those are explosive bolts, I don't think hammering would be a good idea. <see icon for result>

  2. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Happy

    exploring Mercury

    Mercury, it is theorized, has high potential for heavy elements, like gold, platinum, rare earths, etc..

    Mercury could theoretically be mined at night since it rotates very slowly, 80-something days. Additionally, the radiation levels wouldn't be so bad on the side NOT facing the sun. But yeah you'd have to constantly move your mining equipment to keep from being scorched/burned/melted/irradiated.

    I believe that the heavier elements will have higher concentrations closer to the sun. Planets that are farther away tend to have a lot of lighter elements (like the gas giants), but it's also possible that stuff REALLY close to the sun isn't any higher in 'heavy element' rocky components than, say, the earth is.

    it might be useful to find out for sure... and hopefully that mercury probe is looking for them!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: exploring Mercury

      Also Mercury is deep in the Sun's gravity well so everything you mine has to be hauled out of it at vast expense.

      1. the Jim bloke Silver badge

        Re: exploring Mercury

        While the costs of mining Mercury will be huge, the gravity thing may actually be in its favour.

        Mercury itself has a low escape velocity (CBA looking it up), and your parcels will be pretty inert, so push them DOWNHILL (hi Bob, imitation -the sincerest form of flattery..) and slingshot them around the Sun.

        So long as you have the infrastructure to catch them at apogee, you are laughing.

    2. the Jim bloke Silver badge

      Re: exploring Mercury

      the value of any mining operation is the difference between the cost of production and what your buyer will pay for it.

      Sadly, the costs will be... astronomical (roll the downvotes)

    3. Ogi
      Mushroom

      Re: exploring Mercury

      Not unless we find a very cheap way of propelling mass out of planet orbits. Your mining operation would need to propel all the mining equipment and humans/robots to Mercury, land it there, set up the mine, and start mining ore.

      Next step, is whether you want to propel the ore into orbit back to earth for refining, or refine it there. It would be better to refine it there, otherwise you are wasting energy propelling unwanted dregs into space. However then you need refining infrastructure on planet, which is an even more complex undertaking.

      Basically, by the time you send your basics to Mercury, set up your mining/refining operation, then ship the mined good back to earth, the cost of the elements would be astronomical.

      You would have to find some really rare element (by earth standards), like a room temperature semiconductor, that would make the whole thing worthwhile.

      If it is not some crazy unobtanium you have found, but some precious metal like gold/platinum, the moment you discover the massive haul, and start your operation to ship it to earth, you will find the price drops on the markets due to the new supply, so you may not end up making a lot of money on your venture.

      It is more likely we will start mining asteroids before we start mining operations on other planets. Asteroids have a far lower gravity well, making them relatively easy to ship the mined ore to a central point for processing.

      And as a final point, I just realised that anyone who controls the technology to put random lumps of metal in earths orbit and have it land somewhere on the surface has all the basics of a powerful weapon, something akin to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinetic_bombardment .

      Then there is the worry of non deliberate bombardment (i.e. a lump goes astray accidentally and hits the earth in an uncontrolled fashion), can you imagine the legal liability for the mining company that would result from such an accident? If the shipping costs don't bankrupt you, the liability and insurance costs probably will.

      So IMO there are a lot of hurdles to pass (and not just technological, but social) before we can reliably have off planet mining operations (icon cos of what happens when a random lump of metal impacts the earth surface)

      1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker
        Mushroom

        Re: exploring Mercury

        @Ogi: "I just realised that anyone who controls the technology to put random lumps of metal in earths orbit and have it land somewhere on the surface has all the basics of a powerful weapon..."

        Howard Taylor: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a (really) big gun."

        He foreshadowed that very point (first link) with the quote appearing the next day, to be actualized weeks later (second link): https://www.schlockmercenary.com/2014-06-15 --> https://www.schlockmercenary.com/2014-12-08

  3. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Soyuz best-before date?

    I understand that the Soyuz at the ISS now needs to come home before its components rot, but couldn't they send another one up empty to replace it? There are several docking ports if I remember rightly, so send an empty Soyuz up as 'launch one' pending re-certification for manned launches, and bin the one that's starting to look a bit furry.

    Or are they short of Soyuz capsules?

    1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

      Re: Soyuz best-before date?

      Don't send it up empty: fill it with beer and pretzels to keep the guys up there happy while they wait for the next crew.

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