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article imageMulti-billion dollar plans unveiled for mining asteroids

By Abigail Prendergast     Apr 24, 2012 in Science
A company known as Planetary Resources, which is being backed by multiple billionaires including James Cameron, is hoping to find asteroids in space and mine them for materials which are running low on earth.
Billionaire entrepreneurs in the tech industry are investing in the company, Planetary Resources with a view to mining multiple elements from asteroids near the earth. According to Information Week, the startup revealed such plans today and hopes to extract commodities such as water, minerals and precious metals from the large space rocks.
The endeavor, costing several million dollars, will utilize robotic spacecraft to first survey asteroids, then carry out mining, reports BBC News. Some of the mega-rich moguls backing the project include explorer and Avatar director, James Cameron, as well as chief executive of Google Larry Page, along with executive chairman, Eric Schmidt.
There is even the aspiration of having a fuel depot in space by the year 2020.
Many scientists are skeptical about this endeavor, though, saying it is "daring, difficult and highly expensive." Even with platinum and gold being worth nearly $1,600 an ounce, they have reservations as to how this project could, in any way, be cost-effective.
As CNet.com reports, the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) at the California Institute of Technology's Jet Propulsion Laboratory came to the conclusion that the ability to lure an asteroid close to the earth could be within mankind's grasp by 2025. Another study, done by NASA's National Commission on Space in 2009, said mineral extraction from both asteroids and the moon is crucial to potential space colonization in the future.
The estimated cost of the initial "asteroid capture and return" endeavor would cost $2.6 billion.
The first step in the process would see private telescopes launched into space to search for asteroids rich in desired minerals. This inaugural step is set to happen within the next 18 to 24 months. Over the next decade, Planetary Resources and its many billionaire investors hope to make the transition from observing to mining.
Planetary Resources is also being supported by Eric Anderson (space tourism pioneer), Peter Diamandis (X-Prize founder), Ross Perot Jr (son of the former United States presidential candidate) and veteran astronaut Tom Jones.
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