The Weekly Geek: Asteroid Action


When most people think of the epic, tongue-in-cheek disaster-thon Armageddon, they picture the dumb scene with Ben Affleck playing with animal crackers on Liv Tyler’s midriff. Then “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” gets stuck in your head, and it’s all over.

In one very important way, it just became the most improbably realistic sci-fi films of the past 20 years. No, an asteroid isn’t hurtling towards the earth, but the whole idea of sending drills to mine space resources just became legit.

According to Wired, a brand new venture called Planetary Resources, Inc., which is backed by a rather eclectic collection of wealthy (and famous/infamous) funders, has just been announced. Its purpose is to create a program to facilitate actual, real-life asteroid mining. Robots will scout space rocks for precious minerals, then grab the good stuff and come on back with truckloads (spaceship-loads?) of valuable resources.


From the post:

Despite the promise of astronomical profits, the long time-scales and uncertain return on asteroid mining has historically driven most investors away from such undertakings. But the new company is also backed by a number of other billionaire luminaries, including Google’s CEO Larry Page and executive chairman Eric Schmidt, former Microsoft chief architect Charles Simonyi, and Ross Perot Jr. The venture also counts on filmmaker James Cameron, former astronaut Tom Jones, former JPL engineer Chris Lewicki, and planetary scientist Sara Seager as advisers.

Still, this new undertaking will be much larger and more ambitious than anything Anderson and Diamandis have attempted before. The hurdles are many and high. While the endeavor is technically feasible, the technology has not yet been developed. And beyond their initial steps, the details of Planetary Resources’ plans remain scarce.

The whole pitch reminds me of that wonderful scene in Contact where Jodie Foster’s character chastises the rich funders for not liking her ambitious idea, deriding it as “science fiction.” That is a fabulous Jodie Foster movie by the way, though I probably don’t need to tell you that, geeks. Check out that suit.

No matter what happens, it’s great to see some innovation in space exploration, especially on this level (there are some serious bucks going into this, after all).

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