Asteroid mining might bring back memories of action movie star Bruce Willis who played a miner in the 90s blockbuster film Armageddon, on a space mission to blow-up a doomsday asteroid headed for Earth.
However, United States-based Planetary Resources reveals the concept could become an economically viable opportunity.
“We have crossed continents; we have crossed oceans; we have mastered the skies; now, we can cross into space,” Planetary Resources president Chris Lewicki says.
Lewicki, a former NASA engineer, believes the innate human desire to explore will open-up new marketplaces rich with resources, especially asteroid water.
“In addition to being critical for life support, water molecules can be converted to rocket fuel enabling a reusable and re-fuelable transportation system in space that allows us to do more and go farther,” he says.
“Because we are accessing the most important resource to our customers, we will be able to deliver this resource to any customer’s point of need.
“Planetary Resources will be the resource provider for people and products in space.”
Governments are coming onboard to play a major role in enabling asteroid mining.
“The Government of Luxembourg is investing 25 million Euros (A$34.3m) in Planetary Resources, which will be put towards launching the first commercial asteroid prospecting mission by [the year] 2020,” Lewicki says.
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement also provided 12m Euros (A$16.5m) in direct investment, and 13m Euros (A$16.9m) in grants which will be crucial for reaching an asteroid.
“This is an example of how government and industry can work together to identify opportunities and craft programs which are mutually beneficial to the private and public sectors,” Lewicki says.
He also urges governments to help remove regulatory barriers.
“The support of Luxembourg validates our mission along with the passage of the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act in 2015,” he says.
Lewicki will speak at the Austmine 2017: Mining’s Innovation Imperative conference and exhibition on 22-24 May at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.