Its list of advisers includes Google Chief Executive Officer Larry Page, former Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt, filmmaker James Cameron, and the former Microsoft chief software architect and space tourist Charles Simonyi.
This is big news on several fronts, not the least of which being the fact that this venture stands to reinvigorate the world’s passion for space exploration.
Various criticisms of space exploration are sometimes made.
There are an estimated 1,500 asteroids that pass close enough to Earth to make the venture feasible, 10 per cent of which contain precious metals or water, but it’s still exorbitantly expensive to get minerals back to Earth.
Planetary Resources seeks to mine asteroids to further space exploration and to bring resources back to Earth.
That thinking changed when people realized how much damage near Earth asteroids can do when they hit Earth as meteorites, Beshore said.
Although it’s still not clear what Planetary Resources specific plans are, the KISS study provides some indications of what’s in the realm of feasible, according to space experts.
“A water rich asteroid would greatly enhance the large scale exploration of the solar system,” explained Anderson in a news release.
“Water has many uses in space. For instance, it would not only be used for hydration, but also would be broken down into oxygen and hydrogen, for breathable air and rocket propellant.”.
Water may be abundant on Earth, but the cost of getting even small amounts of into orbit is — if you’ll forgive the expression — astronomical.
By making a resource like water available in orbit by mining it there in the first place, Planetary Resources could provide it to future space exploration projects at a fraction of what it costs today.
Moon Express has revealed plans to prospect and mine the Moon for precious planetary resources such as metals and water which are believed to be abundant on the Moon from millions of years of asteroid bombardment.
And surprisingly, aerospace experts say that extracting resources from asteroids and near Earth objects is no longer the stuff of science fiction.
While pursuing the $30M Google Lunar X PRIZE announced by Larry Page and Peter Diamandis in 2007, Moon Express plans to send a series of robotic spacecraft to the Moon for ongoing exploration and commercial development.
“When the availability of these materials increases,” explains Diamandis, “the cost will reduce on everything, including defibrillators, hand held devices, TV and computer monitors, catalysts; and with the abundance of these metals we’ll be able to use them in mass production, like in automotive fuel cells.”.
Giving the complexity and restraints of drilling for oil and gas in deep waters, Diamandis said he is optimistic that mining asteroids is realistic.
Planetary Resources plans to identify prime mining targets using a number of so called Arkyd 101 personal space telescopes, pictured here in an artist’s conception.
Planetary Resources will start by setting up powerful telescopes to determine which nearby asteroids in our solar system contain which resources, such as gold, nickel, iron ore, platinum, and many more valuable minerals.
The devices (which are, reportedly, already being built) would be used to gather information on the roughly 9,000 near Earth asteroids thought to be orbiting our planet, and allow the company to home in on the estimated 100—150 rocks that are both water rich and easily accessible (“easily accessible,” in this instance, meaning easier to access than the Moon).
There’s also talk of making the data collected from these surveys available to other organiziations, including NASA — but that data would come at a price.
Historically speaking, one of the biggest issues with investing in space exploration has been that you’re not liable to see a lot of return on your initial contribution for quite some time.
Teams are also eligible to win a $1 million award for stimulating diversity in the field of space exploration and as much as $4 million in bonus prizes for accomplishing additional technical tasks such as moving ten times as far, surviving the frigid lunar night, or visiting the site of a previous lunar mission.
Infrastructure has to be established, and industries that can utilize that infrastructure need to emerge and grow; after all, you can sell water in space at a fraction of today’s cost, but if there’s nobody there to buy it, your business will fail.
That is unless the company can identify points along its development process that allow it to remain profitable.
NASA will be planning its own missions to near Earth asteroids in the coming decade; establishing “data purchase deals” with outside organizations like NASA could be one of the keys to ensuring that Planetary Resources is a profitable enterprise right from the start.
The Timeline So how long until Planetary Resources strikes it rich in low Earth orbit.
Moon Express will also focus on bringing lunar resources into Earth’s economic sphere to catalyze humanity’s future in space.
It’s tough to say exactly, but the rough timeline looks something like this:In the next 18—24 months, the first in a series of Arkyd class telescopes is launched to begin the search for mining prospects.
According to Planetary Resources’ president and chief engineer, Chris Lewicki: “three, four, five years out, depending on trajectory, is when we envision getting up close and personal with an asteroid.”.
Dr Alan Stern, Moon Express Chief Scientist and former NASA Associate Administrator in charge of all the Agency’s science, agrees that mounting new data about the Moon and its resources make it the natural next step for scientific research and commercial space development.
SPACE.com is reporting that Anderson declined to estimate when Planetary Resources would actually begin extracting resources from asteroids, but according to the Associated Press, “one of the company founders [unnamed] predicts they could have their version of a space based gas station up and running by 2020,” and a recent study, sponsored by the Keck Institute for Space Studies (and co authored by two members of Planetary Resources, including Lewicki), estimates that a 500 ton near Earth asteroid could be coaxed into the Moon’s orbit and mined for resources by 2025.
[Illustration by Rick Sternback/KISS]We’ll know more in the next few hours, when Planetary Resources officially unveils its plans at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.
Meghan Johns is a business journalist based in San Francisco, California. Meghan has a passion for financial markets and breaking news stories and loves writing about business news, stock market, and economic opinions that matters most to its audience. Meghan spends a lot of time discovering and researching latest financial markets and industry news stories in order to make sure the latest and greatest stories are brought to you first on BigBoardNews.com.