Who the hell are Planetary Resources?
. More specifically, it's a company made up of ex-NASA engineers, an astronaut, planetary scientists, with the backing of not several billionaires (James Cameron and some Google types).
They have two goals, which they state like this
“will overlay two critical sectors – space exploration and natural resources – to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP”
In short, they're going to mine astroids
Here are the founders, introducing themselves and their technical cojones
Is this a joke? Or a viral ad for a film? Or some shit like that?
I don't think so. I had a look and it seems to be legit. Here's a link to a guy who seems to agree
. And another
You can easily dig up thoughts on how top mine asteroids. Like here
. Generally, you want to process it all in space, then drop some kind of metallic foam down to earth (if you inject liquid metal with nitrogen you can fairly easily make floating masses, so they'd just sit on the sea until you went to pick them up).
Hell, even the respectable, popular press
have picked this up now.
What are they actually planning to do?
Phase 1: Find an asteroid
Phase 2: Extract volatiles from it (things like water, oxygen and nitrogen) to create some kind of supply depots in space
Phase 3: Get our hands on those precious metals (things like platinum, palladium and so on)
Phase 4: Profit!
Planetary Resources did a press conference the other day (on the 24th of April) and now their website contains useful bits of info.
But, within 2 years they expect to have launched space telescopes to find a suitable asteroid. And by 2020 they want to have the first of their supply depots in place.
Frankly, it's exciting shit.
No, seriously, is this a joke?
It doesn't look like it, but that doesn't mean it'll happen. Even if they fail though, they claim to have already started work on the hardware, so it'll push things forwards.
When are they going to launch something?
Wihtin 24 months. Two years.
And it's one of these.
ARKYD SERIES 100 - LEO SPACE TELESCOPE
This is for finding an asteroid (as well as proving that they can launch something). It sits in low earth orbit and they seem to be pushing it as an Earth imaging tool as well as a telescope for looking out to space.
There's a few more models of prospector that they seem to have in mind before any mining happens.
Here's a nice diagram of their plans. Linked because it's big.