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."
Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His last article for Ideas was about choosing Congress by lottery.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
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.