By Tim Frederick | Aug 08, 2012 01:23 AM EDT
With resources on Earth being rapidly depleted, the richest companies and investors are already turning their sights to the vastness of space, where a limitless abundance of resources exists.
One such venture, Planetary Resources Inc. is being backed by Google CEO Larry Page and Chairman Eric Schmidt, among other investors, including Ross Perot Jr. and some recently added billionaires which PR inc. co-founder Eric Anderson has not yet identified.
The company hopes to begin prospecting asteroids within as little as four years' time, and has a preliminary agreement in place with a major mining company that could make those rather...lofty shall we say, ambitions a reality.
The first step will be to launch their Leo Space Telescope into low-earth orbit, which they're planning to do in two years' time courtesy of Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic LLC, with whom they signed an agreement with in July. The Leo Space Telescope will allow observations of both the Earth itself, as well as nearby asteroids.
The primary objective of the telescope will be to search out metallic and water-bearing asteroids. The company claims that a single, 500 metre diameter metallic asteroid would hold more resources than the entirety of the resources that have ever been extracted from our planet. And needless to say, there's a LOT of potential asteroids in space and within close proximity of Earth.
While the company has received funding that will allow it to operate for several years, it has not ruled out going public in the future, to generate additional funds as its venture prepares to kick into more robust operation at that time.
The big question that has yet to be answered is whether extracting metals from asteroids will be any cheaper than it currently is to extract the remaining ones from Earth. While this venture may be necessary many years from now, when Earth is bereft of such resources, it could prove nothing more than an overly costly, albeit exciting, glimpse at future technology at present.
Do you see this venture succeeding, or is too soon for us to start pillaging space resources like we have our planet's? Will we soon reach a point where companies need to stake claims to asteroids as their 'property' in order to mine resources from them? And if so, who will oversee this new era of space and asteroid ownership? Fill the space in the comment box with your thoughts on space and our place in it.
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