A team of space entrepreneurs, backed by luminaries from the technology and entertainment industries, have confirmed plans to start mining near-Earth asteroids, creating what they predict will be an industry worth trillions of dollars.
Planetary Resources is backed by the likes of Larry Page and Eric Schmidt of Google, as well as film director James Cameron, and said it had developed its first spacecraft, dubbed the Arkyd-100 Series, which will be the springboard to deep space asteroid-mining expeditions.
The Arkyd-100 will be used in a low-Earth orbit – typically defined as below 2,000 kilometres – and be used to scout out potential asteroids to mine for later expeditions.
“Many of the scarce metals and minerals on Earth are in near-infinite quantities in space," said Peter Diamandis, co-founder of Planetary Resources.
"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 has drawn up a hit list of more than 1,500 near-Earth asteroids out of the 9,000 that are currently known, which it believes it can reach using roughly the same amount of energy as it would take to get to the moon.
Spacecraft can reach these objects with relatively little propulsion because these asteroids have small gravity fields and earth-like orbits, the company claimed.
Further down the road, the company plans to target water-rich asteroids, which it believes could provide the gateway to deep-space exploration.
“Accessing a water-rich asteroid will greatly enable the large-scale exploration of the solar system," added Eric Anderson, Planetary Resources' other co-founder.
"In addition to supporting life, water will also be separated into oxygen and hydrogen for breathable air and rocket propellant."
A full video of the news conference announcing the ambitious project can be seen in the video below.
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