Home' Greymouth Star : November 27th 2013 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Wednesday, November 27, 2013
By Susan Thomas
Mining in space is
moving from science
ction to commercial
reality but metals
magnates on this
planet need not fear a
mountain of extraterrestrial supply --- the
aim is to fuel human voyages deeper into
Within three years, two rms plan
prospecting missions to passing asteroids.
When even a modest space rock might
meet demand for metals like platinum
or gold for centuries, it is little wonder
storytellers have long fantasised that to
harness cosmic riches could make, and
break, fortunes on Earth.
But with no way to bring much ore or
metal down from the heavens, new ventures
that have backing from some serious
-- and seriously rich --- business gures,
as well as interest from Nasa, will focus
on using space minerals in interplanetary
"gas stations" or to build, support and fuel
colonies on Mars.
ere may be gold up there, but the draw
for now is water for investors willing to get
the new industry o the ground.
Governments believe it has a future; Nasa
has a project that may put astronauts on
an asteroid in under a decade and on Mars
in the 2030s. And if the costs seem high,
grumblers are told that one day the new
skills might just save mankind from sharing
the fate of the dinosaurs --- if we can learn
how to stop a massive asteroid smashing
"We are dreamers," declares the website
of Deep Space Industries (DSI), next to an
image of a wheel-like metal station hooked
up to a giant oating rock. But what the
United States-based start-up rm calls the
rst small steps in a "long play" to develop
the resources of space are about to happen.
A priority is using hydrogen and oxygen,
the components of water locked in
compounds on asteroids, to refuel rockets.
Early in 2016, the rst of DSI's
exploration satellites, smaller than toasters,
will hitch-hike into space on rockets
carrying other payloads and start scouting
for suitable rocks. e same year, another
US-based venture, Planetary Resources,
expects to launch prospecting craft hunting
" ey are the low-hanging fruit of the
solar system," said Eric Anderson, an
American aerospace engineer and co-
founder of Planetary Resources, which lists
Google's Larry Page and Virgin billionaire
Richard Branson among its backers.
" ey are just there and they are not
di cult to get to and they are not di cult
to get away from," he told Reuters.
Meteorites --- chunks that survive and fall
to earth after asteroids disintegrate in the
atmosphere --- yield signi cant amounts
of precious metals like platinum, rhodium,
iridium, rhenium, osmium, ruthenium,
palladium, germanium and gold.
Planetary Resources estimates some
platinum-rich asteroids just 500 metres
across could contain more than the
entire known reserves of platinum group
metals. Studies based on observation and
meteorites suggest space is even richer in
Wall Street research rm Bernstein notes
that a big asteroid called 16 Psyche, in the
asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter
and measuring some 200km across, may
contain 17 million billion tonnes of nickel-
iron --- enough to satisfy mankind's current
demand for millions of years.
But costs and technical hurdles rule out
hauling resources down to Earth in the
foreseeable future, experts say. e real
value in asteroid mining is for further
space travel --- and so hydrogen and
oxygen reserves are as attractive as any
"It's ridiculous to believe that asteroid
resources will ever compete with terrestrial
alternatives and Earth markets," Brad Blair,
a mining engineer and economist, said.
Referring to talk of city-sized
settlements on Mars, he said: " e
reason asteroid mining makes sense is
because people might be some day where
those resources are. You can't put an
80,000-person colony on Mars without
using the local 'timber'.
"And if you're going to use chemical
propulsion, it's going to take a lot of water
to get them there."
e energy released when hydrogen and
oxygen combine to make water can power
rockets. e presence of both elements
in compounds found on asteroids o ers
scope to set up space factories to make fuel
for missions to Mars and beyond as well
as o ering "pit stops" to extend the lives of
"We're going to be looking at propellants
for satellites, which is a multi-billion
dollar industry to keep them alive," said
Rick Tumlinson, Deep Space Industries'
board chairman and a veteran promoter of
commercial space development.
"We'll eventually be an oasis, a place
where you can get air, and we can provide
propellants. So we're a gas station,"
Tumlinson told a recent seminar in
"You can take the process leftover
material, the slag, and use it for shielding,
or concrete, and build large structures, and
of course there is a percentage of precious
DSI hopes to launch ying cameras it
calls Fire Flies early in 2016. eir images
will let scientists judge the composition of
asteroids they pass. ey will use o -the-
shelf parts in tried and tested modules, just
at rst phase should cost some $20
million, DSI chief executive David Gump
told Reuters, adding he expects about half
to come from government and research
institute contracts and half from corporate
advertising and corporate sponsorship.
A year later, larger craft would begin
two-to three-year missions to land and
take samples for analysis. Most dramatic
of all, the company sees a "har vester" craft
heading out in 2019 to capture and divert
the most promising asteroids so that they
settle into orbit around Earth by 2021.
On these, Gump said, DSI would try to
make propellant and mine nickel and iron
to make the building components for new
structures in space.
"If we are successful producing resources
in space then it makes what Nasa wants to
do, which is going to Mars, that much less
expensive," he said. "It costs a lot of money
to launch everything from the ground."
Planetary Resources plans to send
telescopes into space to study asteroids
between Earth and the moon. In a later
phase, it will send out craft carrying deep-
space lasers to gather data on some of the
thousands of more distant asteroids.
"By 2020 we will have begun processing
asteroidal material in space, and we will
have our rst interplanetary fuel stop,"
Planetary Resources' Anderson said. "A
mission can leave the Earth and stop by
the trading post and gas themselves up."
And while commercial gain from
asteroid exploration is drawing investors,
the rest of humanity also has an interest.
A shift in climate caused by a big
asteroid strike may have killed o the
dinosaurs and Nasa is taking the risk of
another such impact seriously enough to
go looking for similar threats.
As mining expert Blair put it: "For
survival of the human species, we have to
address the asteroids, or they will address
us. Because statistically a big enough one
will come along that will scrub the planet
clean and set it back to zero."
Gold rush in space?
With great dexterity, Australian Alan
Kempster extracts a cigarette and lighter
from a packet and lights up using his left
hand, the only one he has since he was
struck by a truck while riding a motorcycle
23 years ago and had his right arm and leg
ripped o .
Yes, he knows smoking kills but he is not
"A drunk driver already tried to do that
and it didn't work,'' he declares.
Even Kempster is amazed he survived the
crash, which happened at dusk on a country
road near Melbourne.
Others are amazed at what Kempster, 51,
has achieved since. He was a competitive
waterskier for 10 years, claiming seven
Australian and three world disabled titles
before returning to his rst love, motorcycle
He races about a dozen times a year ---
calling himself Boneapart Racing and using
the racing number ½. He is in Invercargill
as guest of the Southland Motorcycle Club
to compete in four of the ve events at next
week's Burt Munro Challenge.
Kempster modi ed a 750cc Honda racing
bike when no-one else was prepared to
tackle it, moving all the hand and foot
controls to the left side.
" ere are only ve things I have to do
with my left hand --- operate the throttle
and the clutch and the brake, steer it, and
hang on,'' he says, demonstrating on his
bike, which has been own over from
He usually wears a $50,000 computerised
arti cial leg but prefers to race without it
saying it would be a danger to other riders
if he was in an accident and it detached
But he admits it is scary being a 55kg
double amputee controlling a 150kg
motorcycle, particularly on right-hand
"Because I have no right knee I can't
judge how close the bike is to the ground. It
is very easy to slip o if you're not careful.''
at is why he is happy the 50-mile Burt
Munro beach race on Invercargill's Oreti
Beach is raced anti-clockwise.
" ere will be 100 left turns, and those are
much better for me.''
Kempster will use his own bike for
the hard surface racing and a 250cc bike
modi ed for him by Honda Southland for
the beach race.
A spray painter before 1990, Kempster
worked as a tourist boat skipper for 10 years
afterwards but is now a bene ciary living
near the town of Aubrey in Victoria.
He says he still gets choked up when he
remembers the incident which cost him his
arm and leg.
"All of a sudden a one tonne truck came
over the brow of the hill on the wrong side
of the road. If it had been a car it might
have been all right, but the truck had a tray
on the back and it caught me.
"My hand came o and went one way,
my arm came o and went another, and my
leg went somewhere else. e bike went
another 100m with me still on it before it
When the police arrived they were
perplexed about what had happened to
him, Kempster says.
" ey couldn't work out what was going
on. It took them a while to nd my limbs.''
An unfortunate couple found his hand, he
says. ey had heard the commotion and
gone out on to their driveway with a torch
" e wife thought
she saw a possum
on the driveway and
shone the torch on to
it. She fainted and he
his survival to
a motorist who
stopped to help.
Few people had
cellphones in 1990
but the man was
a television sports
had a "brick'' phone
rang for an
" ey told him
what to do. Basically
bear hug to hold
and did that for 20
minutes until the
He kept slapping me
around the head and
keeping me alert. He
saved my life.''
e driver who
struck him was
discovered nearby intoxicated and washing
blood o his vehicle at a service station,
Kempster says. He was charged with failing
to stop after an accident, but for various
reasons was never charged with drink
"He never, ever admitted he had hit me.
Yeah, I'm still a little bit pissed o about
that. But you can't dwell on it.''
Kempster was in hospital for only
three weeks but spent many months in a
About six months after the incident
he decided he wanted to try riding a
motorbike but the attempt was a failure
because he stalled the bike and could not
He put motorcycling out of his mind until
2009 when he decided to enter a social race.
"Within six laps I had my left knee on the
ground and I thought 'I'm back'.''
Kempster says he does not set out to win
races but to compete against himself.
He races for the same reason he gives
talks about his life and visits sick and
disabled children in hospital.
"I want to show disabled people that
they can do anything they set their minds
to ... I try and inspire them to get back
into anything they enjoyed before, or try
anything they might enjoy.''
--- Otago Daily Times
Amputee continues love of motorcycle racing
Alan Kempster in action on the race track.
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uLetters to the editor
1582 - William Shakespeare marries Anne
1703 - Coastal storm in England takes
estimated 8000 lives.
1941 - Australia's HMAS Parramatta
is sunk by a German submarine in the
Mediterranean near Tobruk.
1942 - e French navy at Toulon
scuttles its ships and submarines to
keep them out of the hands of the
1950 - United Nations troops
retreat in Korea.
1973 - e US Senate votes 92-3
to con rm Gerald R Ford as vice-president,
succeeding Spiro T Agnew, who resigned.
1975 - Ross McWhirter, co-editor and
compiler of the Guinness Book of World
Records, is shot dead by Irish Republican
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1979 - Iranian students occupying the US
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1999 - New Zealand's Labour Party under
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uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Anders Celsius, Swedish astronomer and
inventor of the Celsius scale (1701-1744);
Chaim Weizmann, Zionist
statesman and chemist, rst
president of Israel (1874-1952);
Alexander Dubcek, First Secretary
of Czechoslovakia's Communist
Party, (1921-1992); Bruce Lee,
Chinese-American actor (1940-
1973); Jimi Hendrix, US rock
guitarist (1942-1970); Robin Givens, US
"Who does not thank for little will not thank
for much." --- Estonian proverb.
"But God proves His love for us in that while
we still were sinners Christ died for us. ---
reports have shown
water supply has
been of a constantly high standard. e Mayor
of Greymouth Mr FW Baillie said this in a
special statement yesterday afternoon. Earlier
in the week had had declined to comment on
recently publicity which suggested the standard
of water was unsatisfactory.
" e council is always conscious of the need
for a high standard of water in the borough and
it is only under quickly changing conditions,
as at times of a ood, that adjustments to
equipment may not be made quickly enough to
meet the needs," Mr Baillie said.
Paroa's hall, which was destroyed by re
earlier this year, is to be rebuilt in the grounds
of the Paroa School. is was decided at a
well-attended public meeting held last night.
A majority of the 40 people at the meeting
favoured the re-erection of the hall in the
Two other sites were proposed for the hall,
one on the Paroa Domain and another on a
site near Rutherglen Road.
e police are still searching for the body of
14-year-old Dobson youth John Pickering,
who vanished into the waters of the Grey
River on November 17, ten days ago. Dobson
policeman, constable Allan Waters, said today
that he was still carrying out daily checks on
beach areas and along the river banks. He
added that he will continue searching at least
until the end of this week.
Last Saturday three boats were out on the
operation --- all piloted by brothers, Vern,
Frank and Phil Martin. e latter operates a
uToday s birthdays
uFood for thought
Printed and published by the
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Sports Editor Tui Bromley
Chief Reporter Laura Mills
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03 755 8422
ough still new to his leadership of the
Labour Party, David Cunli e is emerging
as one of Parliament's most promising
orators in years.
How well he develops is still uncertain,
but his speech and delivery is of a
traditional style bearing resemblance to
signi cant politicians of the past and could
prove eventually to be a great strength.
Oratory --- or skill in the art of public
speaking --- has not been a forte of our
politicians in recent times.
Some MPs have di culty in just
stringing words together; John Key being
one who is best when he has a script,
sometimes even lacking coherence in his
delivery of extempore remarks.
Other politicians seem intent also in
merely getting words "on the record".
rather than being motivated by the
e ectiveness with which this is done.
Oratory, however, requires a command of
language that is often lacking, coupled with
the ability to express words intelligently,
persuasively and with conviction.
In some it is natural, in others acquired,
and it is noteworthy that some of the
nation's nest orators have been politicians
who, while lacking university degrees,
were extremely well read and nurtured on
classical works and the Bible.
Parliament's best orators of the past
half-century would unquestionably include
Sir Brian Talboys --- a former National
deputy Prime Minister --- and Sir Arnold
Nordmeyer --- a former Labour party
Nordmeyer had the ability to speak
cogently, forcibly and at length with a mere
handful of notes; Talboys had a compelling
and oft-times blistering delivery which
seemed magni ed by his lofty physical
Other stand-out leaders who could
encapsulate complex issues in simple and
often colourful terms were Norman Kirk
and Sir Robert Muldoon, frequently with
withering e ect on their adversaries.
Of an earlier generation, John A Lee
was considered --- by those who knew and
witnessed him --- to be the nest orator
from the Labour Party's rst years in
MPs such as Norman Douglas --- the
father of Sir Roger --- unashamedly
modelled themselves on Lee, and others
would have been in uenced in varying
Such was the seriousness with which Lee
took his public speaking, that he schooled
himself in diaphragm exercises, breathing
and phrasing as well as the content and
delivery of his orations.
Whether Lee was largely self-taught
or re ned the techniques of others is not
known, but he would have been aware
--- for instance ---of the eminent Lloyd
George, Britain's prime minister during
World War One and widely considered a
brilliant natural political orator.
Lloyd George eventually became mentor
to later prime minister, Harold Macmillan,
who taught him "how to use his arms
--- not wrists, not hands, not ine ective
posturing --- but the whole of the arms
and shoulders, even the back in a total
integration of body into the words".
By fast-forwarding a couple of
generations, people may have gained some
sense of recent outstanding oratory from
Barack Obama's campaign speeches in
forsaking a podium to utilise the full extent
of a stage, and from his use of gestures.
Intriguingly, David Cunli e opted for
a similar style of delivery at Labour's
recent annual conference and has become
noticeably more animated and forceful in
his parliamentary speeches.
Its e ectiveness cannot yet be fully
If poorly done, there is the inevitable
risk of being perceived as posturing and
But if well done, the synchronicity of
bodily gestures and speech can transform a
merely adequate speaker into a compelling
orator and a formidable political force.
South Paci c News Service
Cunliffe emerging as a promising orator
David Cunli e
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