Planetary Resources is a 100% real company, based in Bellevue, WA, which is planning to capture and mine near-Earth asteroids. They've created this fantastic, Apple-esque marketing video, which is both appealingly home-made and awesomely ambitious and grandiose. As one YouTube commenter put it: "Thumbs up for humanity!"
The company is pretty fascinating -- check out their team page, which reveals that it's backed by a diverse group of scientists, engineers, technologists, and NASA veterans, including Eric Schmidt and Larry Page of Google, Sara Seager of MIT, and, perhaps inevitably, film director James Cameron. I'm looking forward to an asteroid mining movie, shot on location, in summer of 2022!
And don't miss the technology page, which explains how the mining might actually happen, using a small fleet of small space telescopes and other ships, including the Arkyd Series 200 Asteroid Interceptor and Arkyd Series 300 Rendezvouz Prospector. The video shows an intriguing, flexible spaceship swallowing an asteroid whole. And the commercial incentives, the company points out, are staggering: more platinum could be mined from a single asteroid than has been mined in the whole history of the world. Mining water from asteroids in space might "enable the large-scale exploration of the Solar System."
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Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.