Google co-founders Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, along with blockbuster director James Cameron, show support and sponsor Planetary Resources in their plans for a possible project for mining asteroids near the earth that are packed with resources such as water and minerals – some of which are very rare on Earth.
According to Tom Jones, a former astronaut from NASA and an adviser for Planetary Resources, the team of rocket scientists, pioneers, and visionaries pledge to explore space and make it into a feasible innovation for commerce.
“They are developing cost-effective, production-line spacecraft that will visit near-Earth asteroids in rapid succession, increasing our scientific knowledge of these bodies and enabling the economic development of the resources they contain,” Jones says.
The recently introduced company says they are “poised to initiate” mining missions in space that could prove to be an industry to gain business billions of dollars. A 500-metre asteroid packed with platinum, they claim, could equal all the platinum ever mined on Earth.
“Many of the scarce metals and minerals on Earth are in near-infinite quantities in space,” says 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.”
A venture that could prove to be profitable, if not costly, as Discovery News reports. The channel reported last year that plans for a mining project in the Moon was also presented as a solution to the impending depletion of resources on Earth, which can be abundantly found in the satellite – an example of which are helium-3 and rare elements europium and tantalum.
Physicist are currently working on achieving a pure helium-3 fusion, in which if they succeed, could be an infinite power source on Earth. Europium and tantalum are in high demand for its use in electronics but is only exported by China, who in turn has drastically reduced their rare earth exports.
Asteroids near the Earth that have an abundant supply of water (usually in the form of ice) could be foundations for exploration of space to greater extents by doubly functioning as depots for supply and supply.
In fact, efforts to the end of mining in extraterrestrial bodies have actually been effected prior to Planetary Resources’ presentation of the plan. In 2009, as part of its mission called Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), NASA bombed the Moon and they have observed water ice as residue, a clear indication that the moon has a water cycle and is chemically active. Compounds such as methane, ammonia, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrogen metals like sodium and mercury were also noted. In addition, as Discovery says, “where you have water, you have a potential mother lode for lunar prospecting of hydrogen.”
“Water is perhaps the most valuable resource in space,” Eric Anderson of Planetary Resources says.
“In addition to supporting life, water will also be separated into oxygen and hydrogen for breathable air and rocket propellant.”
“Our mission is not only to expand the world’s resource base. We want to increase the people’s access to, and understanding of our planet and solar system be developing capable and cost-efficient systems,” the company’s chief engineer Chris Lewicki adds.
The company says out of the approximately 9,000 known near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), around 1,500 or more of them can be reached with the same energy expended for reaching the Moon.
Planetary Resources has now created the first in what they say will be a collection of potential spacecraft they call Arkyd-100 Series.