April 24, 2012
New Company Announces Ambitious Plans To Mine Asteroids
Lee Rannals for RedOrbit.com
On Tuesday, the potential future of space enterprise was unveiled, as Planetary Resources announced its plans to mine Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs).Planetary Resources said it will be leading the way in this next step in mankind's plan to reach beyond Earth's atmosphere by mining asteroids for raw materials, ranging from water to precious metals like gold and platinum.
"The vision is to make the resources of space available to humanity both in space and here on Earth," Dr. Peter Diamandis, co-founder and co-chairman of Planetary Resources, said during the announcement.
A 1,500-feet platinum-rich asteroid contains the equivalent of all the Platinum Group Metals mined in history, according to a press release.
“Many of the scarce metals and minerals on Earth are in near-infinite quantities in space," Diamandis, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources, Inc., said. "As access to these materials increases, not only will the cost of everything from microelectronics to energy storage be reduced, but new applications for these abundant elements will result in important and novel applications."
The plans laid out by Planetary Resources did not just limit their future to mining asteroids, but also using them as "stepping stones" for deep space exploration.
Asteroids that have an abundance of water could help provide water to orbiting depots, helping to extend missions farther than what has previously been thought of, and making space travel more economical.
“Water is perhaps the most valuable resource in space," Eric Anderson, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of the company, said. "Accessing a water-rich asteroid will greatly enable the large-scale exploration of the solar system. In addition to supporting life, water will also be separated into oxygen and hydrogen for breathable air and rocket propellant."
Anderson said platinum metals are already being mined on Earth because of asteroid impacts on our planet. He said being able to tap into precious metals on asteroids will eventually create an abundance of these expensive metals.
There are currently 8,931 known NEAs candidates that Planetary Resources will be able to tap into. The company plans to do so using a three-part plan.
The first step is to develop the technology needed in order to accomplish this ambitious feat. Anderson announced during the conference that the company plans to launch the first portion of their technology within the next 24 months.
Planetary Resources is developing telescopes, known as the Arkyd-100 series, that will help detect the asteroids the company wants to use a targets.
Once the spacecraft goes into orbit, they will start asking questions like what exactly are the materials they are looking for and where are they located.
After they pinpoint exactly what their target asteroids are, they will be able to start sending spacecraft to mine the asteroids.
“Our mission is not only to expand the world´s resource base, but we want to increase people´s access to, and understanding of, our planet and solar system by developing capable and cost-efficient systems," Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer, said.
Anderson mentioned that one day, they could be providing a platform for deep space exploration missions for NASA as well.
He said during his presentation that Planetary Resources will ask other questions as part of determining which asteroids to go to like "does NASA need gas stations on the way to Mars, or on the way to the moon?"
He said that Charles Simonyi, a computer software executive who has booked two trips to space with Space Adventures, is part of the group of investors for Planetary Resources. Also making the list of investors included Larry Page and Eric Schmidt from Google.
“The pursuit of resources drove the discovery of America and opened the West," Schmidt wrote in a press release. "The same drivers still hold true for opening the space frontier. Expanding the resource base for humanity is important for our future.”
Planetary Resources said in a video announcement that "We are going to change the way the world thinks about natural resources."