A new space prospecting rush is on
It's not science fiction anymore: Companies are developing plans to mine our solar system.
This year could see the launch of a "space rush" of sorts as companies look skyward for new worlds to explore and mine for natural resources.
While some companies are rolling out plans to take paying customers into space, another set of entrepreneurs wants to bring things back from space -- namely precious metals and perhaps even water from nearby asteroids.
Several firms are already in place with plans to locate and mine these asteroids. The founders of Deep Space Industries held an event this week at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying, where they discussed sending a fleet of unmanned asteroid-prospecting spacecraft into the solar system over the next several years.
"Using resources harvested in space is the only way to afford permanent space development," said Deep Space CEO David Gump in a press statement, adding that some 900 new asteroids passing near Earth are discovered every year. "They can be like the Iron Range of Minnesota was for the Detroit car industry last century -- a key resource located near where it was needed. In this case, metals and fuel from asteroids can expand the in-space industries of this century."
According to the Los Angeles Times, Deep Space Industries is working to raise $20 million in funding for the first stage of its missions, which could start as early as 2015.
Finances are already in place, however, for Planetary Resources, set up several years ago by former top NASA officials and some established space entrepreneurs like X Prize founder Peter Diamandis.
Another investor is philanthropist and former space tourist Charles Simonyi, who helped Microsoft (MSFT) develop the Office software line. (Microsoft owns and publishes moneyNOW, an MSN Money site.)
"Commercial space started with communication satellites," Simonyi told Popular Mechanics last year, "and it’s continuing with space tourism, that I have been fortunately part of. I think that the next step is going to be the exploration and commercialization of space resources."
So what are some of those space resources that could be commercialized? Water, of course, which can be used to support future astronauts. And when broken down into hydrogen and oxygen, water may also end up as rocket fuel.
There are also precious and other metals. Diamandis tells Popular Mechanics that one 500-meter-wide asteroid may hold as much platinum and other rare metals as has ever been mined from the Earth.
"Using low-cost technologies and combining the legacy of our space program with the innovation of today's young high-tech geniuses," said Deep Space Chairman Rick Tumlinson, "we will do things that would have been impossible just a few years ago.”
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So when they find more precious metal on one asteroid than has ever been mined on earth, doesn't that make the price of those metals alot less due to the fact that the reason it's worth so much now is because it's hard to find? (supply and demand). That is of course assuming that THE asteroid thats found isn't the ONLY one with that content. What are the odds of that?
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