- Scientists due to unveil plans to extract raw materials from space rocks
- Mining could replenish stocks of natural resources running low on Earth
PUBLISHED: 15:08 EST, 20 April 2012 | UPDATED: 10:47 EST, 21 April 2012
It could be the plot from a Hollywood movie: After exhausting the Earth’s supply of natural resources, global corporations turn to space to replenish their stockpile of raw materials.
However the stuff of science fiction could soon become a reality following the revelation of proposals to begin mining asteroids to guarantee the human race’s prosperity.
A team of scientists are to unveil plans for the new space venture – and the project has the backing of Hollywood film maker and explorer James Cameron.
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As well as the Hollywood director, other investors include chiefs from internet giant Google and a former software architect for computer corporation Microsoft.
Details of the proposed space mission are to be officially launched on Tuesday, by start-up company Planetary Resources.
The proposals will be unveiled at a press conference at the Museum of Flight in Seattle which will also be available to view online.
The company’s objectives are to be twofold: the mining of natural resources and space exploration, with the aim of selling the raw materials it extracts from the asteroids and adding trillions of dollars to the global GDP.
Backing: Film maker and explorer James Cameron (left) is supporting the project, which is the brainchild of space entrepreneur Peter Diamandis (right)
The shortage of sources for raw materials on the planet has caused global inflation to spike in recent years causing tensions to rise between nations, experts have said.
NASA scientists say the high concentration of raw materials found in asteroids – such as ingredients for fuel and precious metals like iron and platinum – could supply Earth with vital stockpiles of natural resources.
Space entrepreneurs Peter Diamandis and Eric Anderson are just two of the names behind Planetary Resource. In a press release, the company announced its intentions to create ‘a new industry in space and a new definition of natural resources’.
Diamandis and Anderson – both known for their aspirations for commercial space exploration – will host the launch event along with two former NASA officials.
A driving force behind the Ansari X-Prize competition to spur on non-goverment space flight, Diamandis has made no secret of his goal to one day become an asteroid miner.
In an interview earlier this year with Forbes magazine, he said: ‘The earth is a crumb in a supermarket of resources.
‘Now we finally have the technology to extract resources outside earth for the benefit of humanity without having to rape and pillage our planet.’
COSMIC QUARRIES: AN IDEA AS OLD AS THE SPACE PROGRAM
It might seem like a radical concept, but scientists have been toying with the idea of mining asteroids for their natural resources for longer than the space program has been running.
Experts believe it is only now that we have the technology and ability to discover and characterise a sufficient number of small near-Earth asteroids (NEA).
The mining could yield a large amount of water – frozen inside the asteroids – oxygen and metals which could not only be brought back to Earth but could help further space exploration by allowing humans to fuel spacecraft and build space stations.
Nasa believes capturing placing an NEA in lunar orbit could provide a unique, meaningful and easy-to-reach destination for exploration by astronaut crews in the next decade.
It is only now that the sufficiently-powerful electric propulsion systems necessary to transport a captured NEA are becoming available.
Mining asteroids could take several forms. This includes sending humans in a spacecraft to an asteroid to explore and mine it.
Another possible scenario could involve launching a robotic spacecraft to either to mine an asteroid directly or transport it closer to Earth so it could be reached by humans more easily.
Extracting raw materials, such as iron and nickel, from the space rocks is a possibility that has been discussed for decades.
However, the obstacles for such a mission has always been the cost, sufficient scientific expertise and technical prowess.
It could cost tens of billions of dollars – and could take well over a decade – for astronauts to successfully land on an asteroid, NASA experts have said in the past.
Source: The Institute for Space Studies
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