Planetary Resources’ Google-guy-backed effort to mine outerspace gets Bechtel support

Granted this stuff can be a little mind-boggling for us run-of-the-mill Earthlings (OK, me), but Bechtel, one of the world’s most ginormous engineering and construction companies, said today that it’s going to join  in Planetary Resources’ effort to mine space asteroids for precious metals and useful elements.

Ground control to Major Tom.

Sure it sounds far-fetched, but here’s why you should care: The people behind all of this get stuff done. Bechtel, the 115-year-old family-run San Francisco company, built the Hoover Dam, the Chunnel Tunnel and Jubail, a whole city in Saudi Arabia.

How’s that for starters?

Sometimes when you’re billed as one of the biggest construction companies in the world (projects in 140 countries on all seven continents) the world just isn’t big enough.

“Planetary Resources’ mission is ambitious, but they’ve  assembled a world-class team to succeed,” said Riley Bechtel, Bechtel Chairman and CEO. “Our companies share a common vision to continually innovate and push boundaries, all aimed at contributing to a better quality of life.  We look forward to joining the Planetary Resources’ team.”

Ah, the world-class team. Planetary Resources is backed by Google-guys CEO Larry Page and Chairman Eric Schmidt, who have gotten some stuff done themselves. It was co-founded by Peter Diamandis, chairman of the X Prize Foundation and the guy who co-founded Singularity University, a major Silicon Valley think tank and school for egghead  executives and those who see the future in wonderful ways.

Let’s just say the guy doesn’t think small.

So why not start work on building robots that will help those of us on Earth mine asteroids for elements that can be used in rocket fuel, for instance, or water, which is really handy, or precious metals that make swell jewelry?

“As we pursue our vision to expand the resource base beyond Earth; we’re extremely excited to announce this partnership with Bechtel.  They are a world leader in the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) industry,” Diamandis said in a Planetary Resources news release announcing the team work.  “Bechtel has a history of consistently tackling the most challenging projects, beginning with the construction of the Hoover Dam more than 75 years ago.”

If you want to see what Planetary Resources has been up to for the past year, the outfit is planning a Google Hangout on April 24 to go over the hightlights. (Thanks to Taylor Soper of GeekWire for alerting me to that in a post.)

Meantime, to infinity and beyond.

(Photo of Diamandis, with Sergey Brin, the other Google founder, by Mercury News photographer Gary Reyes)



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  • Don

    Since when do asteroids have anything valuable ? Some contain nickel-iron, but that’s something sold by the ton, not something sold by the troy ounce.

  • David Johanson

    The question regarding the content value of asteroids is one I was interested also & it led to some fascinating scientific findings. Researches at the University of Bristol have evidence that Earth’s precious metals found on & within its mantle — were deposited from massive meteor showers with heavy concentration of precious metals approximately 200 million years after the Earth was formed.

    So if history repeats itself, the ones selling the shovels will be making the real dough—as the 1849 miners’ learned in the CA gold rush. I’m sure Larry Page, Eric Schmidt & Bechtel know their history & a good bet when they see one.

    Thanks, Mike, fascinating story. The subject of asteroid mining is coming up in my next issue in regarding “Space Law’s” new frontiers.

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