Google billionaires announce scheme to mine asteroids (+video)
A new company backed by some of the world's most prominent billionaires, including three Google executives, plans to mine near-Earth asteroids for precious metals.
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To that end, it has designed a high-performance, low-cost space telescope that Anderson said should launch to low-Earth orbit within the next 18 to 24 months. This telescope will make observations of its own but also serve as a model for future instruments that will journey near promising asteroids and peer at them in great detail.Skip to next paragraph
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The prospecting phase should take a couple of years or so, Anderson added.
"We will then, at that time, determine which of these objects to pursue first for resource extraction, and what mission we'll be facilitating," he said. "Before you decide where to put the gas station, you've got to understand where the trucks are going to be driving by."
Mining activities will be enabled by swarms of unmanned spacecraft, according to company materials. Planetary Resources will focus on near-Earth asteroids, with no immediate plans to extend its reach to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter or to the surface of the moon, Anderson said.
He declined to estimate when Planetary Resources would begin extracting metals or water from space rocks, saying there are too many variables to lay out a firm timeline. But a recent study sponsored by Caltech's Keck Institute for Space Studies estimated that a 500-ton near-Earth asteroid could be snagged and dragged to the moon's orbit by 2025, at a cost of about $2.6 billion.
Whatever Planetary Resources' exact schedule may be, Anderson said the company is already well on its way to making things happen.
"We're out there right now, talking to customers," Anderson said. "We are open for discussions with companies — aerospace companies, mining companies, prospecting companies, resource companies. We're out working in that field, to really open up the solar system for business."
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