Startup could add trillions to global GDP with asteroid mining - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Startup could add trillions to global GDP with asteroid mining

This image, taken by NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission in 2000, shows a close-up view of Eros, an asteroid with an orbit that takes it somewhat close to Earth. (Source: NASA/JHUAPL) This image, taken by NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission in 2000, shows a close-up view of Eros, an asteroid with an orbit that takes it somewhat close to Earth. (Source: NASA/JHUAPL)
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SEATTLE (RNN) - While many of us wait for our flying cars and jetpacks, a new startup is rumored to be looking into another science fiction favorite in the hopes of finding more natural resources in an unnatural place - space.

On Tuesday, Planetary Resources Inc. will unveil its plan to "expand Earth's resource base and help ensure humanity's prosperity," at the Seattle Museum of Flight.

The company's teasingly vague language has many believing that Planetary Resources will do what no man has ever done before - mine asteroids.

Backed by well-known investors, including filmmaker and deep-sea explorer James Cameron, Google co-founder Larry Page and former Microsoft software developer Charles Simonyi, the group said on its Facebook page that it will "overlay space exploration and natural resources to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP."

Even more impressive is the company's list of employees.

According to a press release, the company was co-founded by Eric Anderson and Peter H. Diamandis, both bigwigs in the world of commercial space exploration. Anderson co-founded Space Adventures, a company that boasts it is the only one taking private citizens to the great beyond. Diamandis founded the X PRIZE Foundation, best known for awarding its $10 million prize to the first nongovernmental group who managed to launch a reusable spacecraft twice in two weeks back in 2004.

Former NASA Mars Rover and Lander Flight Director Chris Lewicki is listed as the group's president and chief engineer while retired astronaut Tom Jones is listed as one of the company's advisors.

But asteroid mining - which could theoretically provide valuable resources for our resource-strapped planet - has never been done before outside the realm of science fiction.

What is asteroid mining?

The idea of using our extraterrestrial neighbors for projects on the home front has been used in books for more than 100 years, viewed as an alternative to mining down on Earth, where we've seen our resources depleting.

According to Space Wealth, a nonprofit group which advocates for government-supported asteroid mining, "we need the metals that are available in asteroid ore to support our technological societies on Earth, so that they may become ecologically sustainable over the decades and centuries to come."

In a September 2011 paper on the profitability of asteroid mining, the group pointed to metals in the platinum group, which sell for thousands of dollars and help fuel things like hydrogen fuel cells and the catalytic converters in cars.

The resource could be depleted in just decades, according to a 2006 study from researchers at Yale University.

Meanwhile, a 200-meter asteroid on its own could supply more than $1 billion of platinum, according to Space Wealth.

Details of the rumored asteroid mining project will be revealed to the public Tuesday. Planetary Resources will also stream the announcement on the company's website.

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