Space mining startup set for launch in US

Apr 21, 2012
This file picture shows asteroid '243 Ida' taken by NASA in 1993
This NASA file picture, taken in 1993 from the Galileo spacecraft, shows an asteroid. A startup evidently devoted to mining asteroids for metals is to make its public debut on Tuesday in the US northwest city of Seattle, seeking to redefine the term "natural resources."

A startup evidently devoted to mining asteroids for metals is to make its public debut on Tuesday in the US northwest city of Seattle, seeking to redefine the term "natural resources."

X Prize founder Peter Diamandis and a former NASA astronaut are slated to unveil Planetary Resources, which boasts an impressive list of backers including Google co-founder Larry Page and famed film maker James Cameron.

"The company will overlay two critical sectors -- space exploration and natural resources -- to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP," Planetary Resources said in a brief release announcing the Tuesday press event in the Pacific Northwest city.

"This innovative start-up will create a new industry and a new definition of 'natural resources.'"

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aironeous
4.4 / 5 (7) Apr 21, 2012
Now were talking. This is what we've needed for a long time. Find these threats and convert them into valuables and the tailings into moons or shoot the tailings at Mars. This mining company will be trading carbon and nitrogen with a moon colony and a mars colony
CapitalismPrevails
1.8 / 5 (5) Apr 21, 2012
Are they mining Unobtainium? Otherwise i wouldn't be so confident they'd be making a profit. Just saying...
Sanescience
5 / 5 (1) Apr 21, 2012
Maybe their looking forward to a day when there is a market for deep space construction :-P
nkalanaga
3.7 / 5 (6) Apr 21, 2012
Asteroids have reasonable amounts of gold and rare earth metals. Delivery to Earth isn't a problem, as long as one has a good guidance system. Launch from the asteroid with a mass driver, and deliver by impact in an uninhabited area. Protect the payload, which will be a solid chunk of metal, with a sacrificial layer of slag left from the refining. The guidance package can be designed to detach before entry or to burn up during entry, whichever is easier.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.6 / 5 (7) Apr 21, 2012
A reasonable way to jumpstart this industry might be to identify a potential impactor and send automated nuclear-powered excavator/processor/mass drivers to it which would begin throwing material toward useful locations while changing the asteroids trajectory. Win-win. I bet govts would pay for this.
Chase_O_
not rated yet Apr 21, 2012
"Are they mining Unobtainium? Otherwise i wouldn't be so confident they'd be making a profit. Just saying..."

That's what I was wondering. Is the dust itself valuable for scientific research? Or are they actually trying to make the profit from the value of the metal they retrieve?
nkalanaga
5 / 5 (1) Apr 22, 2012
TheGhostofOtto1923: Not a bad idea. Using mass drivers to divert hazardous asteroids has been considered, but you're the first I've heard suggest making it a test of both mining and defense at the same time. Even if the payloads missed their targets, as long as they went more or less the right way, we'd have eliminated a threat. Even a couple tons of metal, off target, wouldn't do much damage unless it landed on someone.
CardacianNeverid
3.7 / 5 (6) Apr 22, 2012
elivery to Earth isn't a problem, as long as one has a good guidance system. Launch from the asteroid with a mass driver, and deliver by impact in an uninhabited area -nkalanaga

Sounds like the makings of a good space weapon.

If this wasn't backed by such big hitters, it would smell like a hoax. I'd love to see their business plan (or any detail at all), because I can't see how they can possibly make money on this, unless they get massive gov breaks and incentives. But even so...
Vendicar_Decarian
0.4 / 5 (42) Apr 22, 2012
Interesting....

It is a wonderful way to waste money and resources for zero return.

Capitalism 0 : Asteroids 1.

Win: Asteroids
Czcibor
1.7 / 5 (6) Apr 22, 2012
I see another idea in making profit - avoiding Earth gravity well. Instead of dropping anything from orbit, extract hydrogen and oxygen from asteroids and sell it for refuelling spaceships that are already at an orbit.

But I don't see at the moment great profit anywhere in that whole space mining industry. Still looking for expensive elements in Earth crust (even deep including below oceans bottom seems more cost effective idea)
Czcibor
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 22, 2012
@Vendicar_Decarian:
May I ask you a question? Why, regardless of subject you use it to blast capitalism? Why do you have such an obsession? For example I have quite a few good reasons for blasting communism (including not only ideological arguments but also private revenge for confiscation of my family property and deportation many of my relatives to Siberia, and damage to economy from which after 20 decades of indepence my country still haven't fully recovered what affects my sallary)Somehow I avoiding blasting communism everywhere. What's your problem???
CardacianNeverid
3.2 / 5 (9) Apr 22, 2012
Why, regardless of subject you use it to blast capitalism? Why do you have such an obsession? -Czcibor

Unconstrained capitalism dictated by powerful self-interest lobby groups and corporations not enough for you? How about deregulation and erosion of oversight leading to the GFC? Want more? Standover tactics and racketeering to protect corporate interests at the expense of basic personal freedoms and hard won rights? More?

Egleton
2.3 / 5 (6) Apr 22, 2012
I knew it. The interest in space rocks is not entirely plutonic. (Getit?)
Madness to waste all that delta Q by dropping it down a gravity well.
What is it with you flatlanders? We have run out of room. Must go elsewhere or die. (I cannot make it any simpler. Sorry)

Dr Gerrard O'Neil et al have laid out the business plan back in '78. It was lucrative then, it is vital now.

No? Die then, Lemming.
Czcibor
2.3 / 5 (6) Apr 22, 2012
CardacianNeverid:
Maybe I should rephrase my question. I'm not very curious why he would put negative comments about capitalism at article about let's say economic developement or impact of inequality on human happiness. I'm curious more about his obsession to put that in absolutelly unrelated articles.

I mean: "Carthago delenda est" ;)
Vendicar_Decarian
0.3 / 5 (39) Apr 22, 2012
Haven't you found out yet?

"Why, regardless of subject you use it to blast capitalism?" - Czc

You will if you allow Capitalism to run roughshod over you.

Capitalism needs to be strongly constrained if it is to act in the interest of society as a whole rather than powerful special interest groups that flaunt the rule of law and act strictly in their own self interest.

The massive amount of corruption seen in the U.S. is good evidence of the amoral interests of American style Capitalism.

With regard to the issue of asteroid mining. My point isn't that it is an example of the excesses of Capitalism. It is simply an example of poor thinking.

Nothing will come of it.

Czcibor
2.1 / 5 (7) Apr 22, 2012
VD:
Some people associate everything they see with sex, other as you shown by your own example with evilness of capitalism. Understood.

Aren't you barking under wrong tree concerning special interests? I mean I can show quite plenty of cases from my country that effectively working groups can extract from the society impressive priviledges without being rich incorporated beings. I can show priviledges of peasant in my country (practically no income tax, very low social security contribution and recently EU donations), generous, early retirement for some groups (especially gov employees, but also miners).

Sure if you have in the US stronger corporations and weaker trade unions, it seems logical to me that more often the rent seeking behaviour of corporation would be seen.

Aren't you prooving here evilness of socialism - system in which your earnings are based on arbitrary gov decision, in contrast to capitalism in which your earnings are based on your own merit?
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.8 / 5 (9) Apr 22, 2012
Interesting....

It is a wonderful way to waste money and resources for zero return.

Capitalism 0 : Asteroids 1.

Win: Asteroids
The pace of technological innovation is increasing breathtakingly VD. Cars, trucks, buses, planes, ships will soon be driving themselves. This was hard to imagine even a few years ago. Robotics could make a similar leap in a few years, and would make ventures such as this more practical. We could be exploding into space.
The massive amount of corruption seen in the U.S. is good evidence of the amoral interests of American style Capitalism.
Yah and Greece too.
nkalanaga
5 / 5 (1) Apr 22, 2012
CardacianNeverid: It would be a very effective weapon. However, as a weapon, it would work even better from the Moon. Delivery time is shorter, and it's easier to be accurate. A delivery from an asteroid would take at least weeks, and probably months, by which time the target would likely have surrendered, been destroyed, or switched sides. As a terrorist weapon it would be fine, but I doubt that most terrorists could afford to build the system.

The first place I read of using such a system as a weapon was in Heinlein's "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress", so it's been around a while...
ziphead
1 / 5 (2) Apr 22, 2012
Sounds silly on the face of it. On the other hand it could be pretext for different (real) agenda.
Sanescience
not rated yet Apr 24, 2012
I want to see the "math".

I've seen the math for space probes and it boggles the mind the speed (energies) involved and the harshness of the environments.

And what is the problem that is going to be solved on Earth? Their news preview says "Two of the resources the company plans to mine are platinum-group metals and water, Anderson said."

Water!?

Also in their preview: "And there are a lot of precious metals up there waiting to be mined. A single platinum-rich space rock 1,650 feet (500 meters) wide contains the equivalent of all the platinum-group metals ever mined throughout human history, company officials said."

What!? That is a total guesstimate to make this sound the tinest bit credible. When they find that asteroid then they *might* have something, assuming their extraction costs come way-way-way down at some point in the not to near future.
danlgarmstrong
5 / 5 (1) Apr 26, 2012
This seems to be the real deal. Planetary Resources is over two years old and currently profitable, mostly from technology development deals from other companies and NASA. They plan to start with mass producing and launching cheap space telescopes. These can be used for Earth observation as well as mapping the orbits and preliminary prospecting of 'Near Earth' asteroids. The technology will be extended with propulsion systems, and they will have robotic probes soon after. They will use these systems and sell them to other companies as well. Their own mining plans seem to be to search for water so they can set up refueling depots for these spacecraft. They will provide tools so others also can exploit resources - just like the gold rush merchants who made a fortune selling shovels.