This week a news report came out about more rich people doing the things that I wish I could do. A group of million/billionaires including James Cameron and founders of Google are teaming up to form a new company called Planetary Resources. They did not go into any great detail (their actual announcement comes next week), but the concept is that they are going to combine space exploration and natural resource extraction into a new industry. Basically, they are going to mine asteroids.
Some of you may say that this is way too science fiction, and for the moment you might be right. The concept itself has been around for a while, just not the technology. One estimate I’ve heard in response to this press release is that we are 20-30 years from making this a viable operation. I would say that with this group of innovators, plus ongoing advancements from other entrepreneurs like Elon Musk they could half that.
You may ask why they would do this? Because Earth only has a finite number of resources. Many asteroids are just giant balls of minerals waiting for exploitation. If Planetary Resources can make this happen (and I desperately hope they do) then they could literally be opening up a new revenue stream that could add trillions of dollars (their estimate) to the world’s economy. Plus it has the added bonus of not having to strip mine pretty places on Earth.
I was very excited when I heard this announcement. I hope that Planetary Resources lives up to its potential, because the basic fact is that if they start making money doing this then dozens of other companies will get involved. This is how a new age of space exploration happens (funny this does seem to be a bit like The Third Age). Money is the driver of so many things. I am quite okay with the idea of rampant capitalism getting involved, because often that is the only way to get things done.
I will wait to see what they say in their actual announcement, but for now I am excited about the potential for humanity’s expansion into space.