Quoted: on mining asteroids

“We’re going from a species that used to use only resources within a day’s walk, to a species that has access [to resources] on our planet to a species now that has access to the resources in our solar system.”

Peter Diamandis, co-founder of Planetary Resources — which has offered tourist space rides — on his Seattle company’s next bold plan: mining asteroids. On board as investors and advisers are Google CEO Larry Page and Chairman Eric Schmidt, filmmaker James Cameron and others. Among other things, the company said Tuesday it is looking to mine platinum and other metals used in things such as batteries, electronics, medical devices — and the payoff could be out of this world: Platinum is reportedly worth $23,000 a pound; the company says mining asteroids could “add trillions of dollars to the global GDP.” But skeptics point out the venture is risky, the plan (broken down in four steps) expensive. For example, according to Wired, telescopes for identifying valuable asteroids cost a few million dollars each; space-prospecting missions up to $30 million. Still, company co-founder Eric Anderson says, “we do understand that the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, if it’s successful, will be big.” Naturally, all this brings up the question about who has the right to profit from space. “The law on this is not settled and not clear,” Henry Hertzfeld, professor of space policy and international affairs at George Washington University, told Space.com. Article 1 of the Outer Space Treaty signed in 1967 reads, in part: “The exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries … and shall be the province of all mankind.” And MSNBC.com science editor Alan Boyle recently wrote that some interpret Article 2 in the same treaty to mean that nations are responsible for the “extraterrestrial activities of their citizens.”


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  • bd

    “We’re going from a species that used to waste only resources within a day’s walk, to a species that wastes resources on our planet to a species now that can waste the resources in our solar system”

  • RedRat

    Quite literally these guys have stars in their eyes. I think that they are overestimating what technology can do and underestimating the enormity of the costs and engineering required to mine materials in the asteroid belt. Given an infinite supply of cash, you can do anything and everything; however, we do not live in that world.

    I do get the idea that this whole affair has a ring of late-night hucksterism typical of those nightly infomercials. I suspect that they are trying to get Uncle Sam to contribute to this questionable affair. The costs of putting rockets and payload into space is just too high to think that you somehow will make a profit off mining for rare metals in the asteroids. We are talking millions of dollars per pound or even kilogram.

    Hey, but if they got the money and its burning a hole in their pockets, go for it. But count me as a taxpayer who does not want any part of this.