New Space Venture Will Be Mining Operation, Say Reports
April 22, 2012

New Space Venture Will Be Asteroid Mining Operation

A former NASA astronaut, the cofounders of Google, and a well-known Hollywood filmmaker are among those lending their support for a forthcoming startup that will attempt to mine asteroids for metals and other raw materials, according to AFP and other media reports published Saturday.

As previously reported on RedOrbit, full details on the private space exploration company, which is being called Planetary Resources, Inc., will be revealed on Tuesday, April 24.

However, PCMag's Damon Poeter and others have learned that the company, which was founded by X Prize Foundation Chairman and CEO Peters Diamandis and Space Adventures Chairman and Co-Founder Eric Anderson and is being backed by Titanic and Avatar director James Cameron, Google cofounders Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, former Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi, Texas billionaire Ross Perot Jr. and others, will attempt to establish an outer space mining operation for minerals such as iron and nickel.

"While the announcement may cause some people to snicker at what could be a page out of a sci-fi novel or a Hollywood movie scene, Planetary Resources is making its debut just as scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other groups are embracing the notion of mining 'near-Earth asteroids' and providing blueprints for how such a feat would be accomplished," Amir Efrati of the Wall Street Journal wrote on Friday.

"The possibility of extracting raw materials such as iron and nickel from asteroids has been discussed for decades, but the cost, scientific expertise and technical prowess of fulfilling such as feat have remained an obstacle," he added. "NASA experts have projected it could cost tens of billions of dollars and take well over a decade to land astronauts on an asteroid."

Officially speaking, Planetary Resources will be a "space exploration company to expand earth's resource base," the company announced, according to ABC News Reporter Yunji De Nies. The company is looking to become the first firm ever to drill into an asteroid, creating "a new industry and a new definition of natural resources" in what De Nies refers to as "an expensive, high-risk, dangerous endeavor."

Tuesday's event is being hosted by Diamandis and Anderson and will be held at the Museum of Flight´s Charles Simonyi Space Gallery in Seattle, Washington. The conference will also feature former NASA Mars mission manager Chris Lewicki and planetary scientist and veteran NASA astronaut Tom Jones, PhD. It will begin at 10:30 a.m. and be available online via webcast. Tickets to the event cost $25.

"Asteroid mining could take several forms, including sending humans in a spacecraft to an asteroid so they could explore and mine it. In another scenario, robotic spacecraft could be launched either to mine an asteroid directly or transport it closer to Earth so that humans could more easily reach it," said Efrati. "Such mining could yield a large amount of water, oxygen and metals to help further space exploration by allowing humans to fuel spacecraft, build space stations and other constructs. The resources could potentially be brought back to Earth as well."