So the question isn't if we are going to mine asteroids but when.
Asteroid Mining is a New Paradigm for Resource Discovery
As it develops, I think investors should keep an eye on Planetary Resources.
This new startup, based in Bellevue, WA, is on a "mission" to mine asteroids.
The firm has a solid plan. It will begin by making and selling very low-cost robotic spacecraft for survey missions. The team expects to have a demo craft in orbit around Earth within two years. Next comes the key early part of any good mine – prospecting, the phase in which you find the most valuable spots to drill. That will take between five and 10 years.
Finally, Planetary Resources will develop the most efficient capabilities to deliver these resources – everything from water to platinum – directly to both space-based and Earth-bound customers.
For cutting-edge tech, there's another big payoff – rare earths.
These are the unique elements needed for such products as smart phones and iPads. China controls 97% of the rare earths on Earth. But they don't control outer space...
Now, here is yet another reason I can't help but feel optimistic about America's future. Despite our many challenges, we have so many bright entrepreneurs dedicated to progress that I think we can't help but succeed in the long run.
See, not only does Planetary Resources have tons of money behind it; it also benefits from a team of top-tier leaders focused on success.
This is a group of billionaires who know firsthand how much focus and energy it takes to succeed.
Planetary Resources boasts a cast of big-name backers with a track record for creating wealth – and not just the standard scientists, astronauts, and entrepreneurs you might expect. I'm talking about true visionaries, like:
- Peter Diamandis, who serves as co-chairman for the firm. He also runs the foundation that was responsible for the Ansari X-Prize, a $10 million award for commercial space flight that led to $100 million in high-tech investments;
- Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, two senior execs from Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG);
- Charles Simonyi, formerly of Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT). He has already made two trips to space and funded other related ventures;
- Ross Perot, Jr., son of the high-tech leader who ran for president;
- John S. Lewis, author of "Mining the Sky: Untold Riches from the Asteroids, Comets, and Planets." In this 1997 book, Lewis argues that natural resources and energy are abundant in the solar system and could support a vast civilization many times larger than ours.
- And even film director James Cameron.
Make no mistake about it: These guys are in it for the long haul.
"We're not expecting this company to be an overnight financial home run," Eric Anderson, the company's co-founder and co-chairman, told Reuters last month. "This is going to take time."
Like I said, the US remains committed to space flights. This time, however, it's even better – we don't need to depend so much on NASA and federal funding. Because private enterprise has every incentive to make asteroid mining a success.
And that means it's just a matter of time before tech investors find ways to profit from the New Space Race. Stay tuned.
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