There’s gooooooold in dem dere asteroids!
A handful of very wealthy men announced their plans today to begin resource extraction from nearby asteroids, kicking the commercialization of space into high gear. The consortium behind Planetary Resources, including director/explorer James Cameron, Google execs Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis, and Ross Perot Jr., released the first details on their mining venture, which they expect to become a trillion-dollar enterprise. 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. Those “prospecting” telescopes will then lead to the establishment of an orbital fueling station, from which unmanned spacecraft will be able to refuel before departing on journeys to the asteroids themselves. Those spaceships will then extract the minerals out of the asteroids and fly back to Earth. 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. After all, NASA recently spent $2 billion just to get two ounces of gold from an asteroid. The company is hoping to send the first telescopes into space within two years, followed by the refuelling station in 2020.