Tech Billionaires Unveil Asteroid Mining Plans
Google bosses and Avatar director James Cameron have teamed up to form a company that aims to mine natural resources from asteroids.
The project, which will require a massive investment and huge advances in technology, was launched at The Museum of Flight in Seattle.
The plan is to use commercially-built robotic ships to extract rocket fuel and valuable minerals including gold and platinum out of the rocks that routinely whiz by Earth.
One of the founders of Planetary Resources Inc has predicted they could have their version of a space-based gas station up and running by 2020.
The first step, to be taken in the next 18 to 24 months, will be the launch of a series of private telescopes that would search for the right type of asteroids.
Planetary Resources has vowed to combine the sectors of "space exploration and natural resources" in a venture that could add "trillions of dollars to the global GDP".
It was co-founded by Eric Anderson, a former Nasa Mars mission manager, and Peter Diamandis, the commercial space entrepreneur behind the X-Prize, a competition that offered $10m (£6.2m) to a group that launched a re-useable manned spacecraft.
Anderson says the company will prove doubters wrong. "Before we started launching people into space as private citizens, people thought that was a pie-in-the-sky idea," he said.
"We're in this for decades. But it's not a charity. And we'll make money from the beginning."
Investors and advisers to the company include Google CEO Larry Page and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and explorer and film director Cameron, the man behind the blockbusters "Titanic" and "Avatar."
The venture will be the latest foray into the far-flung for Cameron, who dived last month in a mini-submarine to the deepest spot in the Mariana Trench.
The plot of his 2009 science fiction hit Avatar concerned resource mining on alien planets.
Asteroids are made mostly of rock and metal and range from a couple of dozen feet (7m) wide to nearly 10 miles (16k) long. Planetary Resources will initially target the 1,500 that pass near Earth.