Planetary Resources: Why Are Google Billionaires and James Cameron Backing This Mysterious Space Exploration Company?

By Alexandra Burlacu | Apr 22, 2012 08:27 PM EDT

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Planetary Resources, a new private space exploration company backed by film director James Cameron, Google billionaires Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, and other top investors plans "to help ensure humanity's prosperity." But what exactly is Planetary Resources? And why is it getting backed by the heavyweights?

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While it is still rather vague what the company will do, according to a media alert uncovered by MIT's Technology Review, the new venture called Planetary Resources "will overlay two critical sectors - space exploration and natural resources - to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP." The company may seek to conduct mining operations involving asteroids, Technology Review suggests.

Other backers of the ambitious venture include Google director Ram Shriram, former Microsoft executive and veteran astronaut Charles Simonyi, and Ross Perot Jr., chairman of Hillwood and the Perot Group and son of IT magnate and former presidential candidate Ross Perot. Commercial spaceflight advocates Peter Diamandis and Eric Anderson are the company's co-chairmen. NASA's Mars mission manager Chris Lewicki is president and chief engineer of Planetary Resources. Planetary scientist and former NASA astronaut Tom Jones will serve as an advisor for the company.

Official Unveiling

Planetary Resources will be officially unveiled in a conference call on Tuesday, April 24, in the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington. "This innovative start-up will create a new industry and a new definition of 'natural resources'," company officials said in the statement.

Though something huge is definitely in the works, the exact nature of Planetary Resources' mission remains a mystery for now. The combination of "space exploration and natural resources" mentioned in the statement seem to indicate mining of space, but until the official unveiling on Tuesday, nothing is certain.

The notion of mining in space, however, is not without precedent. Other major efforts in this direction include Moon Express, which aims to make regular trips to mine Earth's Moon, and NASA's OSIRIS-REX, an asteroid-surveying spacecraft NASA plans to launch in 2014.

Tuesday's big unveiling of Planetary Resources will be the second billionaire-backed private space company to be unveiled within the last few months. Back in December, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen unveiled Stratolaunch Systems, a company seeking to build the world's largest airplane to serve as an air-based launch pad for sending people into space, Fox News reports.

The event on Tuesday, March 24 will be streamed, and tickets are available for purchase on the Museum of Flight's page. "A new company will be unveiling its mission to revolutionize current space exploration activities and ultimately create a better standard of living on Earth," states the museum's description of the event.

(reported by Alexandra Burlacu, edited by Surojit Chatterjee)


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