It is a new sort of space race, a hi-tech gold rush straight from science-fiction.
Space.com reports that new space exploration firm, Deep Space Industries, plans to start prospecting near-Earth asteroids for resources such as metals and water with the help of a fleet of spacecrafts scheduled to be launched by 2015.
“Using resources harvested in space is the only way to afford permanent space development,” Deep Space CEO David Gump said in a statement. “More than 900 new asteroids that pass near Earth are discovered every year,” Gump told Space.com. “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. That is our strategy.”
You can follow the announcement live today at 18:00GMT on the following videocast:
Asteroid-mining race heats up
As the private sector begins to fill in for the cash-strapped national space programs, Deep Space Industries will face competition from another firm, Planetary Ressources. Launched in April 2012, Planetary Ressources has a head-start as its team of engineers have already started producing prototypes, such as space telescopes to identify valuable resources on near-Earth asteroids.
Once a target is found, Planetary Ressources’ website claims their low-cost mining and transport spacecrafts will “allow the delivery of resources to the point of need, be it a fuel depot orbiting the Earth, or elsewhere in the Solar System”.
What seems to be coming out of a science fiction novel nonetheless attracts attention (James Cameron is an advisor) and investments from top tech names, including Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and CEO Larry Page.