New Asteroid Mining Company May Solve World’s Economic Problems

Early on Wednesday morning, a group of billionaires and former NASA scientists will announce Planetary Resources, the first asteroid mining company in history. They claim they will "add trillions of dollars to the global GDP" and "help ensure humanity's prosperity".

The group of investors and scientists on board this enterprise is impressive:

...including Google's Larry Page & Eric Schmidt, Ph.D.; film maker & explorer James Cameron; Chairman of Intentional Software Corporation and Microsoft's former Chief Software Architect Charles Simonyi, Ph.D.; Founder of Sherpalo and Google Board of Directors founding member K. Ram Shriram; and Chairman of Hillwood and The Perot Group Ross Perot, Jr.

Harnessing the resources of asteroids is not a crazy proposition, and the return of investment could be amazing. So much so that they are convinced they can "add trillions of dollars to the global GDP". More importantly, this may solve many of our material needs as resources on Earth keep dwindling fast.

But is it doable? There are no details yet, but if they are going to invest millions of dollars on it, you can be sure it is doable and it will be profitable. They don't have to travel to the asteroid belt to grab them. There are many passing near Earth that may be accessible. In fact, there are already plenty of plans on scientists and engineers' drafting boards.

Needless to say, and despite the fact that it will probably take some years to achieve their goals, this is all extremely exciting. If they are successful, it will truly be a new dawn for humanity.

We'll be covering the press conference live on Tuesday, April 24, at 10.30am PDT (3.30am Wednesday AEST).

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    More like investing billions rather than millions..

    ..but yes, exciting indeed.

    Something makes me think that shit is about to get real.. The US government should have done this years ago but instead wasted about 3 Trillion Dollars on an unnecessary war.

      There are no drugs on asteroids.

        How many asteroids have you checked?

          I'm yet to find an asteroid with an atmosphere, when you find one I'll be sure to check for drugs growing though!

            Please get back to us once you've checked them all.

              Are you guys trying to imply Matthew is leaping to a conclusion about there being no asteroids with atmosphere? Really?

              I'm pretty sure there's no green men on Mars, but I haven't checked... nor have I ever been to New York. Is it real? Who can say...

            Who says that drugs need atmosphere to grow? Stand by world - prepare yourself for zero-G, cosmic-cultivated trippy space drugs!

    I'll wait to hear the press conference, but it doesn't make sense to me. It costs millions of dollars to launch a rocket. It costs even more to bring one back. The thing about minerals is that they tend to be really heavy. How do you bring back enough minerals to make it profitable?

      Throw them at the Earth and hope for the best?

      Getting heavy objects into space is difficult and expensive. Getting heavy objects from space should be easy and cheap, once you get set up to do it.

      You don't need to go up and down, over and over again.. you just need to build a space station to ferry back and forth between.. perhaps even work otu a way to process the stuff up there and then when it's all refined, bring that back.

      it may cost millions of dollars to launch a space shuttle, but not necessarily that much to get people/equipment into space. Keep your eye on current developments and not in the 1980s.

        It's easy. You just send hundreds of Sam Rockwell clones up there to mine it all for you! That'll solve all the staffing problems.

      Space Needle.

    If they re-invest the money they make into exploration then this could seriously be what kick starts some awesome stuff.

    I can see a future where mining probes are maintained and launched from a permanent manned moon base. 10 probes go to 10 different asteroids, return payload to the moon and then make a single trip to earth.

    This truly is great news because now we won't have to send Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck up there to save humanity. Owen Wilson we can still go though, i think his ship blows up first.

    Don't tell Captain Hollister, I just picked up a kitty cat while on shore leave.

    Getting the equipment up will cost a lot. Getting the minerals back down would require them to carefully "drop" them from orbit. Shielding maybe required. Shields could be made of the asteroid its self. It just needs to "land" some where. Even the shield could be shaped like a glider.

    This looks like a good opportunity for me to recommend this excellent novel:

    What a load of complete nonsense! Add trillions to the global GDP? Sorry, but rockets and space doesn't involve magic, you can't ADD money and value into the system as a whole like that. All that mineral value will do is simply DE-value resources from elsewhere. So the rich mining centres in Australia, Africa and Asia will LOSE trillions and the US will gain.
    And the sorts of resources that are "dwindling" are mainly fossil fuels, oil used for plastics... Most of the stuff you could mine for on asteroids are recyclable anyway so that's NOT a "dwindling" resource.
    In fact it's the complete opposite because getting rockets UP into space directly involves the use of thousands of tonnes of non-renewable fossil fuels.

    I love buck Rogers, star trek and all that as much as anyone, but the reasons given here are nothing but kiddy fantasy.

      You are such a killjoy. If we don't try we won't learn how to do it and make it work.

      Exactly what I was thinking. Its exciting and all, but I fail to see how this is gonna make money any time soon.

      You have to think in the correct timeframes and they are not going to start mining asteroids next week. Mineral resources are finite and by the time this sort of thing is doable, we'll have shipped all our mineral wealth to China so they can sell it back to us as manufactured goods for 1000 times the price. Recycling is not 100% efficient, either.

      And you do understand that rockets don't run on petrol, right? The Saturn V used kerosene but that was 60 years ago and things have moved on since then. Today they use things like hydrazine and dinitrogen tetroxide. OK, both of those require ammonia, and we tend to make ammonia from coal or natural gas, but it can be made by several other processes and is therefore not actually reliant on fossil fuels.

        The only crisis we have in mineral resources is on stuff that's a bit less common like all those rare earths in China etc. And that's still abundant enough, just expensive. All that space mining would do is shift the wealth because they wouldn't be paying the Chinese for it anymore.

        It is irrelevant weather the fuel is totally based on Fossil fuel or not, either way that resource is being completely consumed in a destructive fashion in order to bring back mineral resources for no other reason than to make production cheaper for the Americans. There's no real net gain except in your imagination.

        Maybe in the far future established space mining infrastructure and technology development will make colonising our solar system cheaper, but that's the only benefit and it's entirely speculative. The rest is bull.

          Just to add to this, the US is actually sitting on tons of rare earths, they just don't actually have the infrastructure in place to mine it. They mine that long before they mine asteroids.

      We could only hope for something so good ...think I might have to read this one sounds slightly different to some I've read with mining or trade themes .....thanks

      Wouldnt the mining companies stop ripping the resources from our planet and start ripping them from space if its cheaper?. thus leaving vast amounts of enviroment on earth free from the evil mining corps?.

      cant bring an asteroid back with coal in it? maybe you can maybe not, who knows whats out there its SPAAAAAAACCCCEEEE!!!

    I guess they also don't want to pay our Mining tax?

      No, they'll just create a landing tax.

    If they are actually able to capture and return an asteroid to a geostationary orbit (ideally a Lagrange point), perhaps they could use it to anchor the fabled space elevator, which would then solve the economics problem of transporting goods to and from orbit. Which would provide other opportunities like being able to send items to orbit without big rockets, orbital construction facilities for ships, microgee industries. Basically a potential jumping off point for just about every sci-fi idea out there.
    The future could be here a lot faster than you think.


      No-one will build a space elevator because they're all afraid that someone will fly a plane into it.

        That's easy enough to defend against and so shouldn't present an obstacle. A couple of well placed Phalanx systems and you're sweet.

          You make a good point. Bring on the space elevators!

          A couple? Their range is only something like 800m. You'd need at lest 6 or possibly more positioned around the diameter every 500m or so on the sides of the elevator, so you have overlapping fields of fire and total coverage (obviously you don't bother at extreme altitudes)
          The weight, power, and resupply required would make that sort of system a massive burden on the structure.

            Wikipedia says their range is 1-9 miles. Which still means that you'd need more then 2.

            From what else I read, they're automated and really *really* don't like things that fly.

        The strength of the structure required to avoid being shorn/torn apart by gravity and centripetal forces would mean a Plane would bounce off it like a fly off a concrete wall. The structure would have to have incredible tensile strength of 30 tonnes per square millimetre.

      Hmmmm, asteroids don't seem to be hitting us nearly often enough, so let's bring them closer!

    Excellent news for Sam Rockwell!

    this is excellent, i am so excited.

    Too .....
    "unobtainium" .....

    Yes god yes, this is amazing. About time someone took charge with a project like this!

    I assume ther not going to shoot a giant teather on a passing asteroid and let the momentum swing it back into earth......are they........oh comon! its only be a little devastating.

    They should set up a Kickstarter.

    Wont happen... exploration is hard enough (and costly enough) on earth. Add space into the mix and you can factor a $10,000,000/year exploration budget by 1000.

    Maybe in 500 years when the resources are dwindling may it become viable

      I think the opposite. Nobody will invest in purely exploration. Real money is if there's a buck to be made. Spanish went to the Americas for riches, not just to check it out.

      If we haven't already been doing this for 400 years in 500 years time, then it is most likely we won't be here at all.

      "They can't do it now, it's expensive! They should do it when resources are rarer and even more expensive!"

      You, Sir, are a prat.

    :D Love it.
    I've been reading *a lot* of Peter F. Hamilton recently, and all his books feature asteroid mining to some (awesome) degree. Bump them into orbit, then hollow them out & live in them as you mine them, or drop them down into oceans & float them to refineries. SRSLY AWESOME

    Watch out for those pesky Thargoids Commander Jameson.... we hope you enjoyed your time on Lave Station.

    Just so long as we stay away from LV427

      I'm with you Mr John, we all know how this ends.

      Nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.

    This is such a dumb idea. How can you bring untold millions of tons of minerals back to earth, or are they planning to get the stuff crashing into the earth

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