In a move that sounds more like the plot of Armageddon than a plausible space endeavor, newly announced Planetary Resources revealed today that it plans to mine near Earth asteroids for resources. The project aims to add tens of billions of dollars each year to the global GDP with the new space materials.
“A single 500-meter platinum-rich asteroid contains the equivalent of all the Platinum Group Metals mined in history,” the company said in a press release today. Peter H. Diamandis, the company’s co-founder, pointed out that access to both rare and new materials will help decrease manufacturing costs in the electronics sector.
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.
Planetary Resources is being backed by some very high profile investors, including filmmaker James Cameron and Google co-founder Larry Page. Buzz surrounding the company’s planned announcement began late last week, and today Planetary Resources confirmed its lofty space goals in a press release on its website.
Planetary Resources aims to make asteroid harvesting a full-fledged commercial operation, in which former NASA engineers will work with industry professionals to develop “capable and cost-efficient systems.” The asteroid mining company has already created its own of space craft called the Arkyd-100.
The company has emphasized that isn’t just after the precious metals that can be harvested from asteroids. One of the biggest obstacles for long distance space travel is the limited amount of water that can be brought along – a problem that Planetary Resources hopes to fix by using asteroids as resources for water “stepping stones” out in space.
Planetary Resources’ co-founder and co-chairman Eric Anderson explained further why this water will be crucial for extended space exploration, stating that “in addition to supporting life, water will also be separated into oxygen and hydrogen for breathable air and rocket propellant.”
The company projects that we’ll be harvesting asteroids as they hurtle through space sometime within the next two years. I just hope the company’s inevitable TV commercial campaign will be built entirely around Bruce Willis’ stony good looks.