Niagara Gazette

Web Extra

January 24, 2013

Why everyone Is rushing to mine asteroids in outer space

Last year, a startup called Planetary Resources backed by a bunch of billionaires announced plans to send robotic ships into outer space to mine asteroids.

This week, a startup called Deep Space Industries that is apparently not backed by any billionaires announced plans to send robotic ships into outer space to mine asteroids, refuel spacecraft and satellites, and 3-D print solar power stations to beam clean energy back to Earth.

Next year, look for a startup backed by no one at all to announce plans to cure all of humanity's problems instantaneously and forever via robotic solar-powered 3-D printed outer-space panacea-bots.

Just kidding. But the ambition behind Deep Space Industries' plans is striking for a company that admits it is still looking for more investors. The basic contours of its proposition:

By 2015, build a fleet of small, CubeSat-based "FireFly" spacecraft and send them on one-way, six-month-long trips to inspect small asteroids up-close.

By 2016, begin launching slightly larger "DragonFly" craft on two- to four-year trips to capture and bring back asteroid samples.

Over time, find ways to extract precious metals and fuels from the asteroids and use them to set up the interplanetary equivalent of filling stations and foundries, refueling communications satellites and serving NASA, SpaceX, and anyone else who might happen by.

Oh yeah, and eventually build those awesome-sounding solar power stations.

               

The shorter version: There's gold in them thar asteroids, and Deep Space Industries wants to be in on the rush. Intrigued but skeptical, I spoke with DSI's chief executive, David Gump, whose previous claims to fame include co-founding the space-tech company Astrobotic Technology and producing for RadioShack the first TV commercial to be shot aboard the International Space Station.

Slate: Where is the money coming from? Do you have any major investors on board?

David Gump: We have some investors, and one of the reasons we held the press conference was to let additional investors know about the opportunity. Going forward we'll have three sources of funds: investors, customer progress payments from government customers, and payments from commercial customers.

Slate: What will you do with the asteroid samples once you've obtained them?

Gump: The intent is to bring several of the smaller ones back to Earth orbit where we can process them at our leisure. We have to know whether they're solid or a loose rubble pile. That's also important if you're thinking in terms of planetary defense - you want to know what you're shooting at.

Slate: How do your plans to mine asteroids differ from those of Planetary Resources? Or do you figure there's enough room for two companies doing similar things?

Gump: It's a very big solar system. Two companies are not going to be able to go after all the opportunities out there. As for specific plans, you'd have to ask (Planetary Resources), but they seemed to be focusing on long-distance telescope operation and discovery. We are going to go straightaway to missions that fly past [small asteroids] and missions that in the next year actually bring back samples. We're also putting a great deal of emphasis on, "How do you turn raw asteroids into something that people want to buy?"

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Web Extra
  • NIA New planet art 041814 Astronomers spot most Earth-like planet yet Astronomers have discovered what they say is the most Earth-like planet yet detected -- a distant, rocky world that's similar in size to our own and exists in the Goldilocks zone where it's not too hot and not too cold for life.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • portraitoflotte.jpg VIDEO: From infant to teen in four minutes

    Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester’s time lapse video of his daughter, Lotte — created by filming her every week from her birth until she turned 14 — has become a viral sensation.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 17, 2014

  • Low blood-sugar levels make for grousing spouses

    Husbands and wives reported being most unhappy with their spouses when their blood-sugar levels were lowest, usually at night, according to research released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Missing a meal, dieting or just being hungry may be the reason, researchers said.

    April 17, 2014

  • Doctors to rate cost effectiveness of expensive cancer drugs

    The world's largest organization of cancer doctors plans to rate the cost effectiveness of expensive oncology drugs, and will urge physicians to use the ratings to discuss the costs with their patients.

    April 17, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 4.49.09 PM.png Train, entertain your pets with these 3 smartphone apps

    While they may not have thumbs to use the phone, pets can benefit from smartphone apps designed specifically for them.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Stepping forward: The real Colbert

    Letterman changed the late-night TV game between his run on NBC's "Late Night" and starting the "Late Show" franchise in 1993. And while it's tough to replace a pop-culture icon, Colbert, in terms of pedigree and sense of humor, makes the most sense.

    April 14, 2014

  • Millions of Android phones, tablets vulnerable to Heartbleed bug

    Millions of smartphones and tablets running Google's Android operating system have the Heartbleed software bug, in a sign of how broadly the flaw extends beyond the Web and into consumer devices.

    April 14, 2014

  • mfp file Hoffner Fired coach unjustly accused of visiting porn sites

    The president of Minnesota State University-Mankato accused a football coach of looking at Internet porn on a work computer before firing him, an arbitrator has revealed. The official said the claim could not be supported, and the coach shouldn't have been fired.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
House Ads
AP Video
Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism
Opinion
House Ads
Night & Day
Twitter News
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Front page