Asteroid mining plans revealed by Planetary Resources, Inc.
April 25, 2012
Planetary Resources, Inc. announced today its plan to mine near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) for raw materials, ranging from water to precious metals.
According to the company, resource extraction from asteroids will deliver multiple benefits to humanity and grow to be valued at tens of billions of dollars annually, based on the high concentration of precious metals found on asteroids, and will provide a sustainable supply to the ever-growing population on Earth.
A single 500-meter platinum-rich asteroid contains the equivalent of all the Platinum Group Metals mined in history, said Peter H. Diamandis, M.D., Co-Founder and Co-Chairman, Planetary Resources, Inc.
“Many of the scarce metals and minerals on Earth are in near-infinite quantities in space. 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.”
According to the company, water-rich NEAs will serve as “stepping stones” for deep space exploration, providing space-sourced fuel and water to orbiting depots; accessing water resources in space will revolutionize exploration and make space travel dramatically more economical.
Of the approximately 9,000 known NEAs, there are more than 1,500 that are energetically as easy to reach as the Moon. To that end, the company has developed the first line in its family of deep-space prospecting spacecraft, the Arkyd-100 Series. The spacecraft will be used in low-Earth orbit and ultimately help prioritize the first several NEA targets for the company’s follow-on Arkyd-300 Series NEA swarm expeditions.
Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer, said “Our mission is not only to expand the world’s resource base, but we want to increase people’s access to, and understanding of, our planet and solar system by developing capable and cost-efficient systems.” Lewicki was NASA Flight Director for the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity and has an asteroid named in his honor: 13609 Lewicki.
“The promise of Planetary Resources is to apply commercial innovation to space exploration,” said Tom Jones, Ph.D., veteran NASA astronaut, planetary scientist and Planetary Resources, Inc. advisor. ”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.”