A Quixotic Quest to Mine Asteroids
A new company backed by two Google Inc. billionaires, film director James Cameron and other space exploration proponents is aiming high in the hunt for natural resources—with mining asteroids the possible target. The venture, called Planetary Resources Inc., revealed little in a recent press release except to say that it would “overlay two critical sectors—space exploration and natural resources—to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP” and “help ensure humanity’s prosperity.”
While the announcement may cause some people to snicker at what could be a page out of a sci-fi novel or a Hollywood movie scene, Planetary Resources is making its debut just as scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other groups are embracing the notion of mining “near-Earth asteroids” and providing blueprints for how such a feat would be accomplished. The possibility of extracting raw materials such as iron and nickel from asteroids has been discussed for decades, but the cost, scientific expertise and technical prowess of fulfilling such as feat have remained an obstacle. NASA experts have projected it could cost tens of billions of dollars and take well over a decade to land astronauts on an asteroid.