Asteroid mining plans revealed by Planetary Resources, Inc.
April 24, 2012
Planetary Resources, Inc. announced today its plan to mine Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) for raw materials, ranging from water to precious metals. By developing cost-effective exploration technologies, the company aims to initiate prospecting missions targeting resource-rich asteroids that are easily accessible.
Mining from asteroids could deliver huge benefits to humanity – potentially adding trillions of dollars to global GDP. Asteroids are rich in resources, and these could provide a sustainable supply to the ever-growing population on Earth.
A single 500-metre platinum-rich asteroid contains the equivalent of all the Platinum Group Metals mined in history. “Many of the scarce metals and minerals on Earth are in near-infinite quantities in space. 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,” said Peter Diamandis, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources, Inc.
Additionally, water-rich NEAs could serve as “stepping stones” for deep space travel, providing fuel and water to orbiting depots. Accessing these resources in space would revolutionise exploration, making it dramatically more affordable.
“Water is perhaps the most valuable resource in space. 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,” said Eric Anderson, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman, Planetary Resources, Inc.
Of the approximately 9,000 known NEAs, more than 1,500 are energetically as easy to reach as the Moon. The capability to characterise NEAs is on the critical path for Planetary Resources. To that end, the company has developed the first line in its family of deep-space prospecting spacecraft, the Arkyd-100 Series – Leo. This spacecraft will be used in low-Earth orbit and help to prioritise the first NEA targets for the company’s follow-on expeditions by the Arkyd-300 Series – Rendezvous Prospector.
Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer, said “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.”
“The promise of Planetary Resources is to apply commercial innovation to space exploration. They are developing cost-effective, production-line spacecraft that will visit near-Earth asteroids in rapid succession, increasing our scientific knowledge of these bodies and enabling the economic development of the resources they contain,” said Tom Jones, Ph.D., veteran NASA astronaut, planetary scientist and Planetary Resources advisor.
Planetary Resources, Inc. is financed by industry-launching visionaries including Google CEO Larry Page and Ross Perot, Jr. Among the company’s advisors is the movie director and explorer James Cameron.
Eric Schmidt, Ph.D., Executive Chairman of Google and a Planetary Resources investor: “The pursuit of resources drove the discovery of America and opened the West. The same drivers still hold true for opening the space frontier. Expanding the resource base for humanity is important for our future.”
K. Ram Shriram, Founder of Sherpalo and a Planetary Resources investor: “I see the same potential in Planetary Resources as I did in the early days of Google.”
Charles Simonyi, Ph.D., Chairman of Intentional Software Corporation and a Planetary Resources investor: “The commercialisation of space began with communications satellites and is developing for human spaceflight. The next logical step is to begin the innovative development of resources from space. I’m proud to be part of this effort.”