Company To Mine Natural Resources... In Outer Space

Dusten Carlson

A staple in the genre of science fiction, the mining of asteroids and other bodies in outer space has long been considered just that: science fiction. Now, space start-up Planetary Resources has announced their intention of bringing the science fiction of space mining into economic reality.

The 2-year-old company announced its plans at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, saying that technology had advanced enough to make space-mining economically feasible. What can we expect to find that's of any use in space? The founders say that asteroids that pass near the earth may contain more platinum that has ever been mined on Earth, among other natural resources.

"Everything we hold of value on Earth -- energy, minerals, metals, real estate, water -- is literally available in near infinite quantities in space," said co-founder Peter Diamandis, a futurist and CEO of the X Prize Foundation. "We're going to change the way the world thinks about natural resources."

The "how" is surprisingly pragmatic. Technological advances and changes in the way business is conducted has illuminated the path for Planetary Resource's ambition. While others have attempted to get space-mining ventures off the ground before, never have electronics, robotics, and artificial intelligence been so affordable, easily-obtained, and effective. Aside from the hardware, Planetary Resources has a leg up on former operations due to commercial space travel provided by companies such as Space X. Lastly, there are very deep pockets funding the operation. The company's advisers and investors include Google CEO Larry Page, former CEO Eric Schmidt, and former Microsoft chief software architect and space tourist Charles Simonyi.

The plan, in short, is to find the most valuable asteroids near Earth, mine valuable materials, and deliver them back to Earth or an orbiting fuel depot in space.

"This will be a seminal event in entrepreneurial space and moving off the planet," said co-founder and space engineer Eric Anderson.

It's crazy what science can do these days!