If the business of America is business, the business of today's tycoons is to lead us -- into space.
Space-mining is a very real thing of the very near future, insist the financial backers behind a plan to mine asteroids for precious metals and other very lucrative materials. A veritable who's who of Silicon Valley capital and influence are behind the scheme, under new company Planetary Resources Inc. of Seattle, including Google CEO Larry Page and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, the Associated Press reported.
Some scientists not involved in the project were skeptical, calling the project difficult and highly expensive.
The company's founders, Eric Anderson and Peter Diamandis, are already used to ideas brushed off as science fiction: they were among the first companies to attempt to execute the idea of bringing tourists into space -- something to date only attempted by a handful of people paying $20 to $35 million each. And Diamandis is behind a company that already offers weightless flights -- though not in space -- to paying customers, the AP reported.
The current idea is to use robotic rocket ships to mine platinum, gold, and "squeeze rocket fuel" from the asteroids that pass by Earth, the AP reported. The company feels it can have a "space-based gas station" operating in orbit by 2020.
They'll get their fuel from the asteroids themselves. The miners will squeeze water from the space rocks, which can then be converted to liquid hydrogen and oxygen -- i.e., rocket fuel -- in space's vacuum.
But will it pay? While platinum and gold are worth $1,600 an ounce, it will cost NASA $1 billion to run a mission that mined only 2 ounces of asteroid, the AP reported.