Planetary Resources Plans to Mine Near-Earth Asteroids

Posted on April 24, 2012

Planetary Resources Asteroid Images

A company named Planetary Resources has announced plans to mine Near-Earth Asteroids for raw materials. The company says the raw materials from these nearby asteroids could include water and precious metals. As an example, the company says in its release, "A single 500-meter platinum-rich asteroid contains the equivalent of all the Platinum Group Metals mined in history."

Peter H. Diamandis, M.D., Co-Founder and Co-Chairman, Planetary Resources, Inc., says, "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."

The company says there are over 1,500 NEAs that can be reached as "energetically easy" as reaching the moon. Telegraph reports that the company believes costs of reaching an asteroid will drop dramatically from $1 billion to a few million dollars. An infographic from Planetary Resources shows that the company sees asteroid mining creating a trillion-dollar industry. Planetary Resources probably won't be the only company mining asteroids if the industry is going to get that big. You can see a larger version of the infographic here.

Planetary Resources Gold Rush

CNET reports that Planetary Resources plans to launch a telescope, Arkyd 100, that will help it find the best and most profitable asteroids by the end of this year. This will be followed by a second telescope and then a swarm of robotic spacecraft that will extract resources from asteroids. The company plans to identify asteroids for potential mining by the end of 2009.

Planetary Resources Telescope

Planetary Resources has a faq that answers some questions. Here is the answer to the question: "Isn't asteroid mining science fiction?"

Exploring for alternate resource deposits is not science fiction. Harnessing valuable minerals from a practically infinite source will provide stability on Earth. The location of this source is a new concept for many. There are over 1,500 asteroids that are as easy to reach as the Moon. These "space rocks" contain a range of minerals, from water to platinum. Asteroid mining will provide sustainable resources on Earth and will afford the availability to maintain a human presence in space.

And here is the answer to "How a start-up possibly achieve such an audacious plan? What are some of Planetary Resources' unique advantages?"

Planetary Resources is poised to initiate prospecting missions at a quick pace, compared to government-sponsored missions that have taken place to date. We are not constrained by federal budget cycles or the ever-changing political landscape. We are focused on targeting resource-rich asteroids that are easily accessible. Planetary Resources will establish a new paradigm for resource utilization that will bring the Solar System within humanity's economic sphere of influence. Our company possesses a world-class team of skilled engineers, scientists, managers, and private investors that have a track record of success in a variety of industries, not just the space industry. In fact, many of our investors and founders have created not just new companies, but entire new industries.

Take a look:

The company's investors ainclude Google's Eric E. Schmidt and Larry Page. Advisors include veteran NASA astronaut Thomas Jones and filmmaker and deep-sea Explorer James Cameron.

Photos: Planetary Resources

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