NASA, Artist concept by Denise Watt.After several days of increasingly detailed media reports, Planetary Resources today announced its asteroid prospecting and mining business plan. The consortium was formed by a number of well known billionaire investors assisted by distinguished technical experts including a former astronaut and a famous filmmaker.
The venture, which was hinted at last week and formally unveiled Tuesday at Seattle's Museum of Flight, is sufficiently down to Earth to attract funding from such A-list investors as Google CEO Larry Page, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, Texas billionaire Ross Perot Jr. and spacefaring software executive Charles Simonyi. Filmmaker James Cameron has signed on as a senior adviser.The plan is taking an incremental approach, starting with low cost telescopes in Earth Orbit that will survey for promising Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) and later will advance to more sophisticated up close prospecting of prime asteroid candidates. Eventually, resource rich asteroids will be selected for extraction of materials ranging from water, which yields hydrogen and oxygen, enabling more affordable deep space travel, to premium minerals, including platinum grade metals, that have numerous applications on Earth and in space. Use of resources from the Moon or asteroids is a prospect that has been discussed by some for many decades. But the difference between dreams and a serious venture is the commitment of serious money to a project. This is a bold venture and there is a great possibility it will not succeed. In that case, though, others will learn from it and some will eventually succeed. History may regard that today’s announcement as the turning point toward a growing extraterrestrial economy. Humanity will have access to resources beyond Earth and we will be able to relocate some of our heavy industrial activity away from our home planet. In the 21st Century, we are beginning to realize the moral imperative behind human expansion into space: providing resources and opportunities for future generations. UPDATE: Here is a compendium of Space.com features on the Planetary Resources Venture and here are some Spacetoday.net media links.