|Artist's Rendition of Asteroid Prospector|
It's unclear exactly when the actual mining of these asteroids will begin, but within 24 months Planetary Resources plans to release the first of its spacecraft, the Arkyd 101, which will operate in low-earth orbit as a space telescope. "We will use this capability to look out to the asteroids," Planetary Resources president Chris Lewicki said at the press conference.
After the Arkyd 100-series, the company will launch the Arkyd series, which will go beyond the low orbit of the Arkyd 200. Next, the Arkyd 300 series will directly explore asteroids with swarms of a half dozen spacecraft that will collaborate to learn more about the asteroids. Subsequent series of spacecraft will actually do the mining. According to Anderson, the spacecraft will take advantage of the latest in information technology, including cloud computing.Sweet. And when we get there, we'll find all kinds of awesome stuff:
Anderson said in the press conference that he sees the key resources available in asteroids to be water and precious metals such as platinum. Water is widely used as a rocket propellant, and Anderson said that he foresees the water found in asteroids as a means to create "gas stations on the way to Mars or to the moon." He also said that it could be used to produce breathable air and to support life as drinking water. Precious metals like platinum, meanwhile, don't occur naturally in the Earth's crust, but are found in abundance in asteroids--a single asteroid could hold the equivalent of all the platinum ever mined on Earth. Other minerals found in asteroids include nickel and iron.So we're set if we get thirsty, and man jewelry should be cheaper in space. Score!