A group of billionaires and former NASA scientists are now unveiling 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" by mining asteroids for rare metals like gold and platinum.
Their objective is to "harness resources from passing-by asteroids". And they claim they are going to launch their first space mining ships within 24 months! We're following the conference and telling you how they are doing it live.
6:32PM: The presentation at Seattle's Museum of Flight has just started. They just presented Charles Simonyi, Planetary Resources, Investor; Eric Anderson, Co-Founder & Co-Chairman, Planetary Resources; Peter H. Diamandis, M.D., Co-Founder & Co-Chairman, Planetary Resources; Chris Lewicki, President & Chief Engineer, Planetary Resources; Tom Jones, Ph.D., Planetary Scientist, Veteran NASA Astronaut & Planetary Resources, Inc. Advisor.
6:36PM: They are playing a video now presenting the new company. Their objective is to "harness resources from passing-by asteroids". Tom Jones, the astronaut and Planetary Resources advisor, is talking in the video about how asteroids passing near Earth contain these materials.
6:43PM: Peter H. Diamandis, Co-Founder & Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources and the author of Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, is talking now. He's making the point that the real engine of exploration has been the search for resources. The Europeans got to America in search for spices, and later gold and other natural resources. Now it's going to be the same for space.
He is talking about what is going to make space resource mining possible:
1. Advanced robotics that will allow for small spacecraft that can do a lot of things on their own.
2. New launch platforms, like SpaceX's Heavy Falcon rockets.
3. Investors with no fear of risk, like Google's Page and Brin. He actually means space nerds with gazillions of dollars.
6:49PM: Of course, Diamandis is now saying that what they are planning is totally doable. That is going to be extremely difficult, but it will work and it will bring the resources we need with a huge return of investment.
6:51PM: Diamandis has introduced Eric Anderson, who's the founder of Space Adventures, the company that brought a lot of millionaires to space. He believes that this industry is going to be huge and that they are only the first company and soon other will follow.
6:53PM: Anderson is going to tackle the economics of this plan. First, what's the value of asteroids.
The company doesn't care about the asteroid belt. They just care about near-Earth asteroids.
One of the main resources they are going to mine is water. This will be used for fuel—oxygen and hydrogen—for space missions to Mars and other points of the solar system. Obviously, they are thinking long term here. He argues that, by mining this fuel on near-Earth asteroids, the cost of space travel will be peanuts.
The second resource is precious metals. He says they want to make precious elements abundant. Just like aluminum was a rare metal at the beginning and now it's one of the core building metals in the world, they want to do the same with platinum, gold and other rare elements. This will allow for technology never seen before.
6:59PM Wow, they are going to be launching their first line of mining spacecraft in 24 months! Holy spaceballs. These are not going to be extractors, but explorers.
They are also going to launch prospectors to space, specialized telescopes that will explore near-Earth asteroids. They will use these prospectors to study and understand the Asteroids. See how big they are, their spin rate, their speed... and then analyse their components, launching swarms of mining explorers.
Once they realise what are the asteroids they want to use, they will launch the extractors. He hasn't mentioned when are these are going to launch. Probably this is still quite far away.
7:07PM He says that they may fail, but that they believe they are going to make it. To back this he has presented the investors, including the founders of Google and Perot Jr. Man, this guy is really enthusiastic. I bet he can launch space mining robots with his bare hands.
7:10PM Chris Lewicki, who was at NASA involved with the Mars' rover exploration programs. "Hello, my name is Chris Lewicki, and I'm a space miner" he says.
7:11PM He believes that they are going to be able to make these space mining robots for single-digit million of dollars. He also claims that their missions will be in the two-digit million numbers. This is pretty bold, just a tiny fraction of current space programs.
He's talking about how they are going to achieve these low price tags.