Why James Cameron and Larry Page want to mine asteroids (+video)
Google execs and filmmaker Cameron are investing in a space mining venture. The goal: create space-based refueling stations on asteroids
A group of high-tech tycoons wants to mine nearby asteroids, hoping to turn science fiction into real profits.
The mega-million dollar plan is to use commercially built robotic ships to squeeze rocket fuel and valuable minerals like platinum and gold out of the lifeless rocks that routinely whiz by Earth. One of the company founders predicts they could have their version of a space-based gas station up and running by 2020.
The inaugural step, to be achieved in the next 18 to 24 months, would be launching the first in a series of private telescopes that would search for rich asteroid targets.
Several scientists not involved in the project said they were simultaneously thrilled and skeptical, calling the plan daring, difficult — and highly expensive. They struggle to see how it could be cost-effective, even with platinum and gold worth nearly $1,600 an ounce. An upcoming NASA mission to return just 2 ounces (60 grams) of an asteroid to Earth will cost about $1 billion.
But the entrepreneurs announcing the project Tuesday in Seattle have a track record of making big money off ventures into space. Company founders Eric Anderson and Peter Diamandis pioneered the idea of selling rides into space to tourists and, Diamandis' company offers "weightless" airplane flights.