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It's 2100. For some reason technology has not progressed beyond 2017 tech. We have colonized the Moon, Mars and some of Jupiter's moons. Then a survey probe detects Exotic Useful Resource™ in high concentrations on Venus, in a pattern similar to iron concentrations on Earth.

 

How would mankind go about mining Venus?

Edited by Souper

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Very quickly and in a hurry, since every piece of equipment we've ever sent down there went kaput in matter of hours.

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I love this thread!

 

Pure speculation:

We throw money at the project to land devices on the order of ten tons of mass on Venus.  Ore extraction is assumed to be a relatively straight forward process.  We can take advantage of the thick, windy Venusian atmosphere

Tethered balloons loft turbines for power into the windy atmosphere.  They drag buckets which indiscriminately lodge in the Venusian soil/regolith.  (A smarter, rover/excavator could be used too, but I like dumb buckets slamming around Venus) A small system of converters lift material to a tiny, suspended refinement system that rains waste material indiscriminately back down to the Venusian surface while preserving ingots of unobtamium in suspended packages.  Once so many ingots are saved, the bucket and tether/conveyor system are are jetissomed.  

The balloons drift in the Venusian atmosphere until they hit a system of angled, suspended collection nets that funnel the balloons into a central collection point.  

Getting the collected unobtanium back to earth would require an expensive launch of a rocket back to some orbiter to ship the material back to Earth.

We could perhaps do this with current technology and fairy-tale unlimited budgets.

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Yay. Another "Let's mine single most hostile to us place in Solar System that isn't a gas giant. Because reasons." thread. And with current level technology to boot. Nope. Can't be done. Like Shpaget pointed out, life-span of everything we threw at Venus's surface was measured in hours. Even on Earth prospecting for valuable resources takes months or more. Establishing a mining operation that can pay for itself takes years. There won't be any income from the place that destroys your equipment faster than you can deliver it there. Whatever your unobtanium might be, at this point it would be simpler, cheaper and faster to develop methods of synthethising it artificially in any place that isn't a corrosive, pressure cooking hellhole.

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7 hours ago, Souper said:

For some reason technology has not progressed beyond 2017 tech. We have colonized the Moon, Mars and some of Jupiter's moons.

Jup and Moon are already colonized in 2017? How long did I sleep?!

Building thorium breeders (on the Earth), dropping onto the Venus surface thermonukes and gathering dust from the tops of mushroom clouds with zeppelin harvesters.

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58 minutes ago, Scotius said:

Whatever your unobtanium might be, at this point it would be simpler, cheaper and faster to develop methods of synthethising it artificially in any place that isn't a corrosive, pressure cooking hellhole.

One of the [tragically few] things I remember from Chemistry was my professor making an offhand remark about "pressure driving the costs" of chemical manufacture (that require high pressure).  I'd assume that anything worth shipping up Venus's gravity well is directly thanks to that "corrosive, pressure cooking" atmosphere.

Presumably whatever long-term Venusian outposts (manned or not) would involve airships, with the actual chemical factories dipping much lower than the supply depots (and possibly crewed ships).  There are some reasonable claims that at sufficient heights, the "only" real difficulty with Venus is the H2SO4 based atmosphere.

But even then I wonder what could possibly be worth not building a pressure cooker *any* other way.  Just look at the fun we have trying to claw our way out of the Eve atmosphere/gravity well, and that doesn't model corrosiveness.  You would pretty much need to have solved escaping gravity without solving the ability to supply pressure and temperature.

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OK, just for the sake of flexing my imagination. If this super-duper stuff is spread across the surface, we're caked. There is no way to blindly dredge up enough raw material to make refining economical. It would be like sifting entirety of Sahara desert to separate rust and pieces of steel leftover from destroyed WWII tanks and other vehicles. Only much harder, because y'know - Venus.

If 'unobtanium' takes the form of ore veins underground, situation might look a bit better. One way to get it out in reasonable quantities would be to send a robotic, nuclear powered "mole". A drone being a lander, drill, refinery and power plant at once - all packed into a fridge. It could land, burrow immediately into the ground - sealing the tunnel behind it and going deep enough to reach a layer with survivable temperature (if something like that exists at Venus at all, of course - if it doesn't, we're caked again). After mining and refining and filling entire cargo compartment with this ridiculously priceless pixie dust thingy, our "mole" would burrow its way back up, and after reaching the surface jettison all heavy-but-replaceable bits, leaving only cargo part, power plant and engine section. This slimmed down return vehicle would then launch without wasting any time and do its best to reach the orbit without burning up in that overheated acidic soup passing as Venus atmosphere. Once the cargo is in orbit, well - i'm sure you know what to do with it next. Rinse and repeat until you deliver enough stuff to market for price to drop below the investment<profit level.

Still, i think i'd rather go hunt pink elephants at South Pole. Less effort and higher chances of success.

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What about all the advancements we've made since the Venera probes?

Also, the unobtanium must absolutely be mined no matter what or else humanity dies.

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This is the only idea about Venusian rovers I have seen in many years... it would be an incredible step in the exploration of one of the planets of the Solar system that fascinate me the most but... mining... :confused:

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Let's see... no. Not without ludicrous difficulty. Whatever this stuff is, it would have to be ridiculously, unimaginable valuable. Like, 1 gram gives free energy for the entire planet for a whole century, factoring in growth. You need to surmount all the problems of mining on the surface of Venus, hauling raw materials/refined product to orbit... but even that isn't the end of it. Because you now need to haul your precious material all the way back to Earth. That's something like 3.5 km/s of burn, if not more. Oh, and remember-you've got to bring the return vessel from Earth in the first place. There's just no feasible way to build it in-situ, given the conditions on Venus's surface. Oh, and to make things worse, Venus's lead-melting pressure cooker of an atmosphere has category 5 hurricane force winds in its upper regions. We can't launch a rocket in those conditions on Earth, not even close. On Venus, given everything else? Definitely not. This isn't even a question of economics or motivation, the technology just is not there.

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8 hours ago, Scotius said:

One way to get it out in reasonable quantities would be to send a robotic, nuclear powered "mole". A drone being a lander, drill, refinery and power plant at once - all packed into a fridge. It could land, burrow immediately into the ground - sealing the tunnel behind it and going deep enough to reach a layer with survivable temperature (if something like that exists at Venus at all, of course - if it doesn't, we're caked again).

Alas, this is not thermodynamically possible.

First of all:  it's basically not possible for anything beneath Venus' surface to be colder than the surface.  Heat flows from hot to cold.  If there were a colder-than-the-surface spot underground, then heat would diffuse from the surface downwards... and would then have nowhere to go, so it would just keep flowing until it warmed up the cold spot to be as warm as the surface.  (Not to mention that it would likely get hotter as you dig down, for the same reason that it does on Earth.)

Secondly, even if there were magically some cooler place underground... you couldn't build a mole to go there, because it would cook itself.  Any power generation system is going to generate waste heat.  A nuclear power plant operating at Venusian temperatures is going to generate a lot of waste heat.  Getting a nuclear plant to work even on the surface would be a challenge (see below), but if you seal it up in a small subterranean chamber... it'll quickly fry itself.

 

Engineering complex machinery in general:  Bear in mind that you can't most metals in your construction because the atmospheric sulfuric acid would eat it:  this includes copper, steel, aluminum, nickel, magnesium.

Nuclear power:  bear in mind that any type of heat engine is based on moving heat from "hot" to "cold", and the efficiency of the process is based on the ratio between the absolute temperature of hot to cold-- and in this case your "cold" is the Venusian atmosphere at 735 K.  So whatever the "hot" temperature of the reactor is, it would have to be many times that temperature... so now you'll need to figure out a set of materials to make that work, none of which can be something that sulfuric acid will attack.

Any form of power that involves moving parts (which includes both nuclear power and wind power):  engineering challenge to make useful bearings that won't quickly wear out in that combination of heat and corrosion.

Getting, well, pretty much anything back to orbit after being down on Venus... now there's a pretty conundrum.  Escape velocity's on a par with Earth's, and you can't launch from anywhere near the surface, and trying to suspend a multi-hundred-ton rocket from balloons, which can survive entering the atmosphere in the first place... not fun.  And what will you use to fuel the darn thing?

7 hours ago, Souper said:

What about all the advancements we've made since the Venera probes?

Such as what?  For example, we have much better electronics now... but they generally don't remain operational at 735 K.

 

Here's my contribution to wild ideas that might have some use:

  • For getting to orbit:  a beanstalk.  It's not possible to have a "classic" one that's anchored in the ground, due to Venus' freakishly slow rotation rate.  But you could build one whose bottom end isn't anchored in the ground, but is flying along just above the atmosphere, at far slower-than-orbital velocity (just a few hundred kph, or so).  This would give you a much easier way to get to orbit (you just need something balloon-launched that can hit a low suborbital trajectory, which is much easier than orbital).  Drawbacks:  you specified 2017 technology, so this is a stretch-- beanstalks need some exotically strong materials.  But it's not that much of a stretch.  And of course it would be really expensive and you'd have to ship the whole damn thing from Earth, but you might be able to keep the mass down if you only need a thin cable.  (You haven't specified how much unobtainium you need.)
  • For power:  Perhaps orbiting solar power satellites, beaming down microwaves to the surface?  Not sure how microwave-transparent the Venusian atmosphere may be, but if it lets 'em through, this might be workable.
  • For machinery with moving parts that continues to function on the surface over long periods of time:  Sorry, I haven't an inkling there.

 

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After a night in thoughts about the Venusian mining, I must revise my position.
We should not drop thermonukes onto the Venus.
We should use the domino effect: launch thermonukes into the near-earth asteroids (occasionally into comets), and reorbit them into the Venus.
Every successful asteroid hit will dig out and raise into atmosphere such enormous amounts of the dust (rich with ubuntanium), that zeppelin harvesters can slowly gather it for years or centuries.

Upd. btw that's the obvious way to clean the near-earth orbits from dangerous objects. We should begin right now.

Edited by kerbiloid

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21 hours ago, Souper said:

For some reason technology has not progressed beyond 2017 tech. We have colonized the Moon, Mars and some of Jupiter's moons.

How could we have done that by 2100 without better technology. Stupid premise is stupid.

Edited by Nibb31

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2 hours ago, Nibb31 said:

How could we have done that by 2100 without better technology. Stupid premise is stupid.

By throwing a lot of money at the problem. I would argue that we have 'good enough' technology right now for colonising the Moon and Mars, although the Jovian moons might be a stretch. What we don't have is bottomless pockets, or any sort of motivation to do so.

As for mining Venus. First: terraform Venus. Then send in the miners. Alternatively, I'm with @kerbiloid - find a way of blowing chunks of rock into the upper atmosphere or low orbit and scoop them up from there. Not sure if that's even physically possible but it does have the merit of reducing the problem to 'building a bigger bomb' which, historically, humanity has never had a problem with.

Or figure out how to synthesize unobtanium in the lab back on Earth. This stuff is made of stable elements I presume, as opposed to some exotic transuranic that lasts a microsecond or two if you're lucky?

According to Wikipedia, Venus has a mean surface temperature of 462 degrees Celsius and a surface atmospheric pressure of 92 Earth atmospheres. Both of which are easily within the reach of off-the-shelf lab equipment. So if unobtanium formation is a byproduct of Venusian planetary conditions, we should be able to replicate those conditions in the lab. Which would be trivially easy compared to mining Venus.

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1 hour ago, KSK said:

As for mining Venus. First: terraform Venus. Then send in the miners.

As if mining wasn't a problem in itself.

How do you propose to get rid of all the acid? There is not enough of baking soda in the world

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19 minutes ago, Shpaget said:

As if mining wasn't a problem in itself.

How do you propose to get rid of all the acid? There is not enough of baking soda in the world

Heh. Plus, if there's one thing that Venus doesn't need more of, it's carbon dioxide. :) 

That was kind of my point though. Mining Venus is so far from being possible that one might as well consider an even more absurd option first.

 

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1 hour ago, KSK said:

Heh. Plus, if there's one thing that Venus doesn't need more of, it's carbon dioxide. :) 

 

We can call it VIP - Venus Ice age Prevention and pitch it as a planetary rescue project.

The greenies will love it.

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The only "easy" way to do anything on Venus would be to move a carbonaceous asteroid to the Venus-Sun L1 point and spin a huge sunshade out of it. I'm not sure how big it would need to be, but it could be smaller if it could somehow (mass driver using waste material?) be held between the Sun and Venus closer in. Then you just need to wait for Venus to cool and the atmosphere to condense out, which would probably take centuries.

Sunshade notes: I suggest a carbonaceous asteroid as strong carbon fibers could be manufactured from it. It could be spun up to help maintain its shape. Presumably, it would need a white or other reflective coating. As a bonus, the reflected light could be focused to create a furnace for (s)melting other asteroids.

Going off on a tangent: Is it possible to get/convert reflected light to directly form a laser beam? I suppose it could be used one way or another to generate power for a laser cannon for laser-riding solar sail probes, communications, and system defense from asteroids, comets, and kzin aliens.

All this might be a bit of a stretch from current tech, but I don't think that there any real showstoppers.

9 hours ago, KSK said:

reducing the problem to 'building a bigger bomb' which, historically, humanity has never had a problem with.

LOL!

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The mentioned above asteroid bombardment would also heat the Venusian atmosphere and pollute it with dust.
This pollution would dramatically decrease its albedo (it would get grayish-brown instead of yellowish-while) and heat it even more.
Its dissipation rate would increase and at some moment the green house effect would disappear, and Venus gets cooler.

So, we don't have any choice rather than start chicxulubing the Venus as soon as possible.

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16 hours ago, StrandedonEarth said:

The only "easy" way to do anything on Venus would be to move a carbonaceous asteroid to the Venus-Sun L1 point and spin a huge sunshade out of it. I'm not sure how big it would need to be, but it could be smaller if it could somehow (mass driver using waste material?) be held between the Sun and Venus closer in. Then you just need to wait for Venus to cool and the atmosphere to condense out, which would probably take centuries.

I agree, this would cause the effect you want! Unfortunately, you have to find that asteroid, bring it to the Venus-Sun L1 point and then keep it in place as long as you need to cool Venus down, since the L1 point is partially unstable, and requires station keeping. The only """""reasonable""""" (notice the number of apices!) way to do this is not to attach rockets to the asteroid, since they would be huge, but to use a portion of the asteroid itself as a propellant by hitting it with a VERY strong laser. Some cons: you need an incredibly high amount of power in order to accelerate the asteroid as wanted, and you have to direct the laser as needed. You may want to build a sort of asteroid-orbiting super large array of space mirrors to focus a high amount of solar power to the right side of your asteroid, but I am pretty sure that this would take a lot of money, and would be incredibly hard to handle.

Edited by VikingStormtrooper

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Perhaps you could use some sort of electrolytic process to charge your equipment on Venus to prevent acidic ions from reacting with it?

On 1/4/2017 at 7:14 PM, Shpaget said:

As if mining wasn't a problem in itself.

How do you propose to get rid of all the acid? There is not enough of baking soda in the world

 

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On 1/3/2017 at 3:23 AM, Souper said:

It's 2100. For some reason technology has not progressed beyond 2017 tech. We have colonized the Moon, Mars and some of Jupiter's moons. Then a survey probe detects Exotic Useful Resource™ in high concentrations on Venus, in a pattern similar to iron concentrations on Earth.

 

How would mankind go about mining Venus?

First off the premise to the argument is oxymoronic. in 83 years from now, (dT) in which we colonized the moon (requiring dTechnology/dT) and other places we have had to adapt new technologies.

Given that I have a type of plastic made of a carbon-lithium-boron material that is space stable and can refract light up to 30 degrees.

Next I build a station at Venutian L1, the station is composed of pie-shaped section each with a factory. The station begin synthesizing the plastic as is rotates

The pie sections grow at about 10 feet per section, initially, as in grows the rotation of the station slows.

Eventually the station is diverts 9/10ths of the sunlight reaching venus and the planet cools.

A violent reaction of atmosheric acids with the mostly alkaline surface is expected. But there will be high spots.

The thickness of the atmosphere decreases.

You could eventually land on venus much like landing on earth. During that period you collect your stuff. the position of the filter at L1 could be shifted to increase or decrease light.

So how feasible. Lets say a diamond is 1.5 gram per cm. So lets say our filter is 1 atom across. One mole of carbon is 12 grams, a diamond of 12 grams would occupy 8 cubic centimeters or 0.000008 cubic meters.

That is 6.0223 x 10 23 atoms of carbon. Each carbon occupies 1.32 x 10-29 cubic meters. The cube root of this is 2.36E-10 meters. Lets just say is 1 nanometer thick about 10 hydrogen atoms.

So imagine the L1 for venus is 2 million miles from venus of a toral of 100 m miles to the sun. The sun is  about 100 Venus in diamter and Venus is about the diameter of the earth. So lets just say radius 6,500,000 meters

that means 100 x 2/100 =  2 addition radii so that makes a total of about 20,000,000 meters. That means we need an area of 3.14 x 20E6 x 20E6 ~ 1.5E15 area in meters. 

That would require 1E6 meters of raw materials. That 10E6 would have a density of 1500 kg per cubic meter or require 1.5E9 (1 thousand kilotonnes) of plastic.

Next how long would it take. 1.5E15 meter, assuming at peak we had 24 machines capable of laying out 0.01M/plastic per second in a length of 100 meters at a time. This would roughly cover a football field in 83 minutes. So covering that

large of an area would take how long? 24 x 0.01 = .24 M/second  x 100M length = 24 M per second. At that rate we would need 200,000 years. Lets say each machine is 1000 kilos (very optimistic for a 3 printer 100 meters in length that also works in a vacuum) in mass. Lets say we can waste 1/3 of the mass of the plastic in machine with machine. That then means we can have 0.5E9 mass of machines or 500000 machines.  (therefore total payload to venus is 2 thousand kilotonnes). Thus 500,000 x 0.01 = 5000 M/second. Therefore we need 9506 years to build. Still not doable. Lets say we increase the layout of plastic (this time brought from earth premade) is 1 meter per second. That means 95 years. Lets say we need only to block half the sunlight that 47.5 years.

So our disc has to be tangent to the surface of venus and sun at their closest points, its orbiting both and thus it is turning with respect to both tangents, so the system would only be at a blocking for about 1/4 of the venusian year (venus has effectively no days). This means it needs to be wider to so we are talking minimally 1000 years to cool venus down and lower the surface pressure (assuming that some of the gases will react with surface molecules and some will liquify in the surface). Eventually enough gases liquify to neutralize the greenhouse effect and venus cools as if it were in a much higher orbit, with periods of substantial heating. (you could have two of these devices that are perpendicular to each other so that either are constantly deflecting radiation away from venus.

So now change your scenario abit. we start devising a plan, in say 30 years we begin executing that plan, then in say the year 3000 we reach the venusian surface were we begin mining that mineral. In a period of extreme effort we manage to create a mountain on Venus and lower the surface pressure to 0.001 ATM and achieve the ability to relaunch from venus into venusian orbit (160 km above the surface where the payload is picked up by a ion-driven transfer ship and 10 year later reaches earth L1 were is brought to earth. Total cost I would say 1 quadrillon dollars (given the cost per year is about 1 trillion in current dollars).

Several cost savers.

Provide ION drives can be manufactured from asteroids in space, solar panels from asteroids in space, the material for the deflectors could be made on asteroids and then diverted with ion drives to venusian orbit and insertion maybe lowering cost. The basic idea here is in 1000 years you can easily get anywhere in the inner solar system with ion power and solar panels (though panels are only 10% efficient after 50 years, that should improve). Thus close to the end of the project as the screen is growing its fastest, it can derive product from space based operations that do not require much fuel, thus payload from earth would decline.

 

We all know the problem on venus is greenhouse effects. The problem is how to thin the atmosphere. Instead of protecting the venusian atmosphere from the sun, lets just wipe it out. THis can be done quite easily and probably more cheaply. The major greenhouse components of the atmosphere have both an absorption frequency for outer and inner shell electrons. Using batteries in space it might be possible to store large amounts of energy, say several trillion small lasers. Fluid dynamics could be used to push molecules into orbit. The molecules and atoms can be excited by huge number of lasers that emmit stripping gases like Sulfer of the outer shell electons. These atoms would repell each other with great vigorousness and electrons would be lost to space causing the molecules to essentially blowout of the atmoshere into interplanetary space. We could use pulse laser arrays every few days to essentiall clear the upper atomsphere equitorial regions of all sulfer and carbon atoms, first ejecting them into high orbit, and then shooting them into space were solar winds pick them up.  Once the greenhouse gases are removed a much smaller sheild, say about the diameter of venus should suffice to cool the planet.

A third means, we all know that venus barely spins, but it might be possible to tidally lock it with the sun. If that were the case you have a constantly cold region on the dark side of the planet, however there is alot of heat within venus, therefore it might be possible to use geothermal energy on the dark side to basically create a laser wall to basically sheild one area of venus from the rest of Venus. That dark area would eventually cool allowing people to work on the surface. You could use both filter systems and lasers to effective create positive pressure of low greenhouse gases inside the shield, lasers creating a wall with hotter parts and a pressure to force the unwanted gases out and radiative cooling into space to do the rest. Another means is simply have those lasers roll on the surface of venus, protecting the coolest area as it rolls along, first it could start small, protecting say 1 km of surface and then expand to protect 100s of km of surface. In the beginning one could use geosynchronous lasers to open up an area, and then very carefully landed craft in those areas (requires a direct down means of decelerating). 

A forth means, get a neutron star and place it close to the sun, therefore turning it into a red dwarf wherein there is not enough energy h

 

 

 

 

 

 

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15 hours ago, kerbiloid said:

The mentioned above asteroid bombardment would also heat the Venusian atmosphere and pollute it with dust.
This pollution would dramatically decrease its albedo (it would get grayish-brown instead of yellowish-while) and heat it even more.
Its dissipation rate would increase and at some moment the green house effect would disappear, and Venus gets cooler.

So, we don't have any choice rather than start chicxulubing the Venus as soon as possible.

It gets even better - careful placement of impacts could push planet's orbit.
 

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And every impact large enough to make noticeable effect will deposit a lot of energy into the atmosphere and lithosphere. Planet will get hotter and hotter, with partially molten surface. In effect most of this coveted phlebotinium will evaporate or sink deeper and deeper into the mantle. And we'll have to wait even longer for temperature of the surface to finally drop enough to be accessible again. Unless you are willing to wait for millenia, it's just not going to work.

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2 hours ago, Scotius said:

In effect most of this coveted phlebotinium will evaporate or sink deeper and deeper into the mantle.

(Buys popcorn watching how they reach the mantle... This would be a la-arge asteroid.)

Krakatoa. Just 200 Mt, but 1-2 year of cloud harvesting.

58 Mt in 1961. Cloud height 67 km, top diameter 95 km. Just there was no zeppelin around.

Edited by kerbiloid

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