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Google billionaires announce scheme to mine asteroids (+video)

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Many asteroids are rich in water, too, another characteristic the company plans to exploit. Once extracted, this water would be sold in space, providing significant savings over water launched from the ground.

Asteroid water could help astronauts stay hydrated and grow food, provide radiation shielding for spaceships and be broken into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen, the chief components of rocket fuel, Anderson said.

Planetary Resources hopes its mining efforts lead to the establishment of in-space "gas stations" that could help many spacecraft refuel, from Earth-orbiting satellites to Mars-bound vessels.

"We're really talking about enabling the exploration of deep space," Anderson said. "That's what really gets me excited." [Future Visions of Human Spaceflight]

In addition to Page, Planetary Resources counts among its investors Ross Perot Jr., chairman of The Perot Group and son of the former presidential candidate; Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google; K. Ram Shriram, Google board of directors founding member; and Charles Simonyi, chairman of Intentional Software Corp., who has taken two tourist flights to the International Space Station.

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