A group of hi-tech tycoons including Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt have teamed up with explorer and film-maker James Cameron in a venture to mine nearby asteroids, hoping to turn science fiction into real profits.

The megamillion dollar plan is to use commercially built robotic ships to squeeze rocket fuel and valuable minerals such as platinum and gold out of the rocks that routinely whizz by Earth, with the aim of having a space-based fuel station up and running by 2020.

The inaugural step, to be achieved in the next 18 to 24 months, would be to launch the first of a series of private telescopes that would search for rich asteroid targets.


Asteroids are made mostly of rock and metal, and range from a few metres wide to nearly 10 miles long. The new venture targets the free-flying asteroids, seeking to extract from them the rare earth metals that are used in batteries, electronics and medical devices, Diamandis said.

Water can be broken down in space to liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen for rocket fuel. However, water is very expensive to get off the ground, so the plan is to take it from an asteroid to a spot in space where it can be converted into fuel. From there, it can easily and cheaply be shipped to Earth orbit to refuel commercial satellites or spaceships from Nasa and other countries.

Sounds expensive.

  1. Hmeyers2 says:

    Wake me up when one of these fancy space ideas actually happens.

    Wasn’t there a plan to send a manned mission to Mars that was supposed to happen by 2002 to 2004?

    Didn’t one of the hotel chains say they were going to put a hotel on the Moon around 10 years ago?

    I don’t think Virgin has their sub-orbital flights things going yet and Japan has no idea how to build their proposed space elevator.

  2. Buzz Mega says:

    Gold and rare earth minerals. Whoopie. Wait a minute. Are the prime places you find those here on earth associated with major collision areas from previous, formative asteroid impacts?

    Is there a connection with prior asteroid crash spots and all this loot?

  3. What? says:

    Sounds like the most expensive way to mine for that stuff.

    Let’s say they found a bunch of the stuff they’re looking for. What does it do? Instantly depress the global price for that thing, unless they tell no one what they found – and sell it in small parts only.

    These Elites are dumb.

  4. AdmFubar says:

    HA! ‘roid miners! yeah they’re in deep.. 😛

  5. US says:

    Long term this is the reason the United States of America needs to be in space, either private or public. We will eventually run out of easily accessible raw materials for some things, going to space is the only other option to get them. The country/companies that figure out how to do it well will be in a great position. It may take decades to figure it all out, might as well start trying now.

    I hold out hope that NASA getting out of the manned space business will be something we look back on as the trigger for lots of private innovation.

  6. NewfornatSux says:

    China is already blocking exports in some parts. You can’t build windmills without some of these materials.

  7. NewfornatSux says:

    Svensmark is out with a new theory that says cosmic rays and supernovas are responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs, and global warming.


  8. Alex says:

    It is expensive and it is crazy. Even if they find 1000 tons of gold, bring them to earth is not financially feasible.

    • msbpodcast says:

      If they find 1,000 tons of gold (consulting The Book Of Knowledge told me we’ve only ever mined 165,000 tons of gold to date,) they’d find some way to parachute it back down to earth for a nice and profitable landing.

      If they found more, its all the more incentive.

      By the way, rare earths doesn’t mean that there’s less of them, just that they’re more evenly distributed, unlike metals which are concentrated in veins.

      • Alex says:

        Each space shuttle weighted 100 tons, then you have to construct a ‘parachute’ system that can perform a task 10 times bigger than landing a space-shuttle, or pay for 10 landings. Otherwise you will have a rain of gold powder covering the whole pacific ocean. The main problem is to move 1000 tons of gold from an asteroid to an stable close orbit: you will need a very sophisticated space-‘truck’.

    • Goldfinger says:

      They should read about the Hunt brothers:


      Even if the asteroids are made of green cheese, it’s the marketplace that determines a commodity’s value.

  9. The Monster's Lawyer says:

    Man, like all biologic creatures, has a prime directive to spread and occupy as much space as possible. The limiting factors are levied by nature for those microbes that do not change (cannot change) their environment and thus they are limited by it. Creatures that can change the limitations must and will, to probagate the species ever outward.
    This is why, at some point, this or something like this will occur. No matter what naysayers may say.

  10. sargasso_c says:

    Waiting around for NASA and ESA to do it will be a serious waste of time and probably never happen. I think this is a good idea.

  11. robin1943 says:

    Next we will get Obama giving them a government loan which they can plow back into the Dems campaign.

  12. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:


    Another element of Reality. Reality: a limitation to Man’s Dreams.

    I wonder what assumptions are made to make this pencil out?

    Was it ever penciled out beyond a news release?

    You know: scam of the day?

  13. Richard says:

    If we started now, in a 100 years they might actually break even.

  14. Dallas says:

    Noob Gingrich’s goverment funded moon colony seems less wacky now.


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