This is all very well, but where’s the profit for investors like you Larry P? This is where much of the coverage of the Planetary Resources launch has rather missed the point. It does not take much digging to discover that this endeavour is more about mining resources in space, for use in space (it’s in big letters on their website). Or, in other words, interplanetary gas stations.
“We want to establish propellant stations around the Earth-Moon system and, quite frankly, around the Solar System,” Anderson explains. “So missions that launch from the surface of the Earth need not carry the fuel with them to go any further than the gas station.”
By his calculations, a 50m (150ft) wide asteroid that is made up of 20% ice would generate enough liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen to have launched every space shuttle mission in the history of the space shuttle programme. “That’s an enormous amount of fuel that becomes available.” Suddenly, human missions to Mars and beyond become much more feasible. “This has the ability to reduce the cost of deep space exploration by [factors of] 10 or 100.”
And, as we know from the oil industry on Earth, if you have got the monopoly on gas supplies, you can’t fail to make money. Although that does rather assume that there’s an interplanetary transport industry to support. No point in owning a space gas station, if no-one has any rockets to fill up.
So Larry P, investing in asteroid mining is definitely high risk. This unprecedented venture faces enormous technical and financial challenges. But talking to Anderson it’s clear that this is about a lot more than just profit: “At its very core, this is about creating an economy in the solar system…this is about creating a pathway for humans to colonise the solar system. That’s what it’s really about.”
Before we go, just time for one more question. James C of Los Angeles writes: Will there be blue aliens living on these asteroids?
*Richard Hollingham is not a qualified space financial advisor
**These are not actual reader’s questions. However. Richard is always keen to hear from you. If you would like to comment on this story or ask a question, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.