A new space-bound company announced plans to mine asteroids with the goal of developing the prime real estate so humans can eventually inhabit the territory.
Deep Space Industries, which was founded just a few weeks ago, said Tuesday it will harvest water and minerals from near-earth asteroids over the next decade. By 2015, the company plans to launch a reconnaissance spacecraft to survey the area, according to Space.com
"Using resources harvested in space is the only way to afford permanent space development," said David Gump, Deep Space CEO, in a statement. "Interplanetary mining could make human space travel more reasonable, as refueling spacecraft could happen far from planetary surfaces. Thus, spacecraft could travel farther and more often."
Gump said more than 900 new asteroids pass near Earth every year.
"[The asteroids] can be like the Iron Range of Minnesota was for the Detroit car industry last century — a key resource located near where it was needed," he said. "In this case, metals and fuel from asteroids can expand the in-space industries of this century. That is our strategy."
The company said it will extract metals and other building materials from space rocks over the next 10 years. These items will first be used to build communications satellites, then space-based solar power stations.
Deep Space will also focus on extracting water from asteroids, which will be divided into hydrogen and oxygen, the main components of rocket fuel.
The mining will be done in three waves. The first will use what Deep Space calls "FireFlies," small 55-pound spacecraft that will do initial prospecting on asteroids. The second wave will use 70-pound "DragonFlies." These will collect samples from the space rocks and bring them back to earth to help determine potential targets for mining.
Catching an asteroid to mine it and eventually live there is simple.
In December, NASA scientists announced a proposal to capture a 500-ton asteroid, move it through space, and then keep it in a predestined position to act as a refueling space station for astronauts making their way to Mars.
According to NASA's plan
, when the space rock passes between Earth and the moon, it would be captured by an "asteroid capture capsule" attached to an old Atlas V rocket.
The spacecraft would approach the asteroid and release a bag engulfing the spinning asteroid. The bag then will cinch up with drawstrings. Once the asteroid is roped in, the spacecraft will deploy its thrusters and tow the asteroid to a gravitationally neutral spot.
"We will only be visitors in space until we learn how to live off the land there," Deep Space chairman Rick Tumlinson said in a statement. "This is the Deep Space mission — to find, harvest and process the resources of space to help save our civilization and support the expansion of humanity beyond the Earth — and doing so in a step-by-step manner that leverages off our space legacy to create an amazing and hopeful future for humanity."
Deep Space is the second company to announce plans to mine asteroids in the past year. A billionaire-backed firm called Planetary Resources unveiled its plans last April.
Space.com will live stream
a press conference with Deep Space officials at 1 p.m. EST Tuesday to unveil more details about the future operation.
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