If you follow space news, you’ve likely seen one of the articles on this event. Woah!
I’ve like to contribute just a couple things to the wild speculation at this point. The MIT Technology Review article concludes that asteroid mining is the only possible thing of interest in space – but really, that is just one writer’s blog. I want to point outthat there are other possibilities:
- Space-based solar power systems: either a constellation of satellites or a system of stations on the lunar surface that collect solar energy and beam it back to Earth, with the potential to provide inexpensive (after the initial investment!), reliable electricity to anywhere on the globe. Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy correctly identified this as a possibility. Tom Jones’ involvement makes me think this possibility less likely, though.
- Lunar mining: not only are there potential resources on asteroids, but there are some on our nearest planetary neighbor! While the Moon had higher gravity than an asteroid – requiring a little more than a token kick to lift return vehicles – its proximity makes it a more reachable target.
- Water mining: outer solar system moons are often covered with water ice laced with minerals or organic compounds. A robot could land on the surface, cut out blocks of ice, and thenshove them Earthward. I’m not sure there is an economic case for this activity, but I wouldn’t rule it out as a bad idea for all time.
My bet is that they are going for asteroids or the Moon, but I think space power systems are a potential line of business for Planetary Resources. Maybe they plan on becoming a general space-based utility company!