another day down in the asteroid mine

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Next week some people are meeting at the local Museum of Flight to announce a new business venture.  Speculation is that it’s an asteroid mining company. Some famous billionaires are involved. According to Wikipedia, “a relatively small metallic asteroid with a diameter of 1.6 km (0.99 mi) contains more than 20 trillion US dollars’ worth of industrial and precious metals.”

There’s a lot of platinum out there. A lot of iron and nickel. There are metals used in high-tech products that will be mostly mined out of existence on the earth in the next century. It’s conceivable, then, that mining really is the announcement next week and that some serious seed money will appear.

It’s safe to say that there are a few technical issues to be worked out. You know, like getting there, extracting the metal, and then either processing it onsite or shipping it back to our planet for processing. Without any kind of in-space infrastructure, this group will have do everything starting from the earth’s surface, and how are they going to get all the material they need into orbit and beyond? That’s mighty expensive.

That’s what I’ll be listening for on Tuesday — how will they bring down the cost of overcoming gravity? Here’s part of the press release:

Join visionary Peter H. Diamandis, M.D.; leading commercial space entrepreneur Eric Anderson; former NASA Mars mission manager Chris Lewicki; and planetary scientist & veteran NASA astronaut Tom Jones, Ph.D. on Tuesday, April 24 at 10:30 a.m. PDT in Seattle, or via webcast, as they unveil a new space venture with a mission to help ensure humanity’s prosperity.

Supported by an impressive investor and advisor group, 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., the company will overlay two critical sectors — space exploration and natural resources — to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP.

This innovative start-up will create a new industry and a new definition of ‘natural resources.’

There’s a good discussion of issues involved in this Wall Street Journal article.

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