April 19, 2012
New Space Venture Backed By Director James Cameron And Others
A new private space exploration company, backed by filmmaker/explorer James Cameron, is set to be unveiled Tuesday (April 24) at the Museum of Flight´s Charles Simonyi Space Gallery in Seattle, Washington, which will reveal a master plan to chart the future of space exploration.
While details of the new company, called Planetary Resources, Inc., have been kept secret, officials familiar with the firm said that “the company will overlay two critical sectors – space exploration and natural resources – to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP,” according to media reports on April 18.
As well as support from Cameron, director of blockbuster movies Avatar and Titanic, the company is being backed by Google cofounders Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, former Microsoft exec Charles Simonyi, and Ross Perot Jr., son of former presidential candidate Ross Perot.
Planetary Resources Inc. was co-founded by commercial space pioneers Peters Diamandis and Eric Anderson.
Diamandis is chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation, which offers prizes for technological feats. He is also co-founder of Zero-G Corporation, which offers commercial flights to experience weightlessness aboard a modified Boeing 727-200 jet.
Anderson is the chairman and co-founder of Space Adventures, a multi-million-dollar flight company that offers space flights to the International Space Station for private citizens, such as Simonyi, who flew to the ISS twice with Space Adventures, most recently in 2009, which cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $35 million.
Tuesday´s event will also include former NASA Mars mission manager Chris Lewicki and planetary scientist and veteran NASA astronaut Tom Jones, PhD. The conference will begin at 10:30 a.m. and be available online via webcast. Tickets to the event cost $25.
When Planetary Resources reveals its plans next week, it will be the second billionaire-backed private space company launched within the last six months.
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen unveiled his new company, Stratolaunch Systems, in December, in which he plans to build the world´s largest airplane and use it as an air-based launch pad to send people into orbit.
For now, we can only wonder what Planetary Resources has up its sleeves. According to MIT´s magazine, Technology Review, the project could be an asteroid mining operation, reasoning that the other natural resources we need -- an Earth-like habitat and supply of fossil fuels -- aren´t going to be found in space anytime soon.
Asteroid mining is a very plausible theory. Planetary Resources co-founder Diamandis appeared at TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) in 2005, describing an extraterrestrial environment where “everything we hold of value on this planet – metal and minerals and real estate and energy” are infinitely available in space. He then specifically singled out asteroid mining, claiming that he could finance mining a “20 trillion dollar” asteroid full of nickel-iron alloy by speculating in the precious metals market.
It is difficult to say how the other three members -- Anderson, Jones, and Lewicki -- can tie their previous work to a potential mining operation. Anderson´s experience is primarily in the space tourism industry.
Whatever the plans are, we should be finding out for certain next week.