I agree with the Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, that reality is so much more amazing than science fiction. Until now I just assumed asteroid mining was a crackpot monopoly for futurists. Last year news of James Cameron’s and Google’s involvement in a venture, Planetary Resources, and that the start-up was actually hiring interns led me to chuckle. But stories keep making the headlines, and Phil Plait explains how a company like Planetary Resources will advance from near-earth orbit (NEO) to retrieving minerals and transporting them from asteroid to Earth.
Here’s a plug for Planetary Resources:
The Planetary Resources venture is unique and historic in two powerful ways: This is the first real merger of capitalists and environmentalists working for the good of all. And Planetary Resources is free-market capitalism at its best, “solving a big problem” government cannot solve, saving the planet.
Yes, Planetary Resources is a for-profit business venture. But one visit to their site and you sense it is much more. Their mission statement has a metaphysical quality: “Planetary Resources is bringing the natural resources of space within humanity’s economic sphere of influence, propelling our future into the 21st century and beyond.” Our “mission is clear: apply commercial, innovative techniques to explore space. We will develop low-cost robotic spacecraft to explore the thousands of resource-rich asteroids within our reach. We will learn everything we can about them, then develop the most efficient capabilities to deliver these resources directly to both space-based and terrestrial customers. Asteroid mining may sound like fiction, but it’s just science.”