(this is an article from the old blog)
Alright my fellow synapses it’s that time again. Today I have a question for you about space, yep, it’s time to talk about space again. Our dreams for space aren’t always as noble and moral as going out to explore the unknown and to further science and medicine. However, it is just as vital to us as a species to achieve these less than noble dreams. One dream is harvesting resources from other planets, moons, and asteroids. With the eventual dream being to also harvest from stars, and yes it is vital to our survival.
But, I am not here to discuss the morals or necessities of harvesting resources. Instead I am here to talk and eventually ask a question about the unforeseen hazards of harvesting resources from other celestial bodies.
We already know about the direct hazards to us. Such as the lack of oxygen, increased exposure to radiation, almost unnoticeable gravity, isolation, and the list goes on. But what we seem to be unaware of or just unwilling to talk about. Is the affect we will have on the solar system’s balance as a whole.
As I am sure you are aware. The solar system is held together by the gravity of the sun. And that the planets and other celestial bodies, all maintain their position through their gravity’s relationship with one another and their orbit. Right now the scales are balanced. But before I can go further into this. I first have to explain why everything is balanced.
Gravity is a force that is directly affected by mass. The reason the solar system forms around the sun is simply because the sun has the most mass. Thus produces the most gravity. But the distance between two objects is also affected by gravity. Right now the sun has pulled each planet as close to it as it can. Based on each planet’s mass and the speed or position they had when they came in contact with the sun. However, the sun with its current mass and gravity. Cannot pull the planets any closer, nor can the planets drift any further away.
Gravity is also not the only factor here. If the earth were to suddenly stop moving. Then the sun’s gravity would pull us in. The force that equalizes everything and keeps the sun from devouring us as it were, is speed. All of the celestial bodies in the solar system are orbiting around the sun. The sun is still pulling us in. But we are moving so fast that we kind of just fall right past it. Kind of like one of wile e coyote’s traps constantly missing the road runner. If we were to slow down, or speed up, our orbit around the sun would change, either going closer or further away.
Now for the interesting part. We now know that what is keeping the solar system balanced is gravity and speed. But what would happen if suddenly the gravity were to change in some way? Say one of the planets started gaining mass, thus producing more gravity?
As I have said throughout this article, everything is balanced. There currently is no known way for a celestial body to gain any noticeable amount of mass. Even with asteroids and meteorites smashing into them. However, if we were to start going out and harvesting resources and bringing them back to earth, we would effectively be doing just that.
Now I can already see the counter argument being that it would take thousands of years to harvest and transport enough resources to affect the mass of the earth to such a degree as to throw its orbit out of wack.
Normally that argument would be absolutely correct, but we aren’t just talking about the earth’s mass. Say for instance you have a balance scale, and you place twenty 1lb weights on each side of the scale. The argument provided assumes that the weight from one side of the scale would be taken off the scale and set down on the table, never to be used again. But in actuality, by harvesting resources from one planet and bringing them back to earth, you are effectively taking a weight from one side of the scale and moving it to the other side, doubling the effect.
Eventually, you will have moved so much mass from the other celestial bodies and placed all of it here on earth, that the orbits of not only earth but the other celestial bodies, will begin to change. So instead of billions of years, we cut it down to hundreds of years.
So that leads me to the question I have for you today. Am I right in my theory? Or am I completely losing it? And if I am right, then, is the mass we move from one celestial body to another going to be a problem?