Planetary Resources, a company based out of Bellevue, Washington, announced today their plans to eventually launch their own robotic space craft in a venture to mine rare materials from near Earth asteroids. They plan to launch their first demonstration craft into low Earth orbit within 24 months.
The company is taking a multi-step, long term approach to space based asteroid mining. They plan to at first sell observation platforms in Earth orbit before moving on to prospecting potential mining sites with robotic, unmanned probes within the next five to ten years.
The potential profit of this kind of business is quite large. The company plans to both mine asteroids for their water content held in the form of ice to be used for manned space missions and further down the road to mine them for platinum group metals and rare minerals. Based on calculations using today's prices for platinum, a 30-meter long asteroid can yield between $25 and $50 billion dollars in platinum.
The company plans to work toward lowering their prices to between one tenth to one hundredth of the cost of current space missions. Another interesting aspect of this business venture is the notoriety of some of the names investing their money in the project. Google executive's Eric Schmidt and Larry Page along with film maker James Cameron are among the investors in the project.