back to article 'Asteroid mining company' makes classic hypegasm debut today

A group of wealthy advertising and software kingpins have allied themselves with celebrity auteur James Cameron and prominent "new space" business figures to launch a business focused on mining asteroids for precious resources. As is common with Silicon Valley new-tech business launches, hypegasm media management techniques …


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  1. Sarah Davis

    Hollywoods already rubbing it's hands together

    well there's an accident waiting to be turned into a movie

    1. Bill Neal

      Re: Hollywoods already rubbing it's hands together


      "Building Better Worlds"

      1. Greg J Preece

        Re: Hollywoods already rubbing it's hands together

        @Bill - Beat me to it. I was going to point out the irony of the guy who made Aliens founding Weyland-Yutani.

        1. Bill Neal

          Re: Aliens

          While we're on the subject, it may be worth mentioning Prometheus:

          We are never going to find a decent monster out there if we don't start looking, right?

    2. Studley

      yes, this has no chance of backfiring

      1. Land on unstable object passing by planet

      2. Destabilise it

      3. ?????

      4. Profit!*

      *assuming there is anybody left to profit from

      1. them

        Re: yes, this has no chance of backfiring


        Even if they don't go as far as dropping a large mass of ore on us, just extracting significant mass from very-near-earth asteroids will change their orbital paths beyond our ability to reliably predict, and give us a bunch more potential collision events to monitor.

        I would suggest that the risk of adding more potential impacts is itself an environmental argument that ought to outweigh the environmental arguments that focus on the pollution due to terrestrial mining.

      2. h4rm0ny
        Thumb Up

        Re: yes, this has no chance of backfiring

        You missed out:

        5. Make future attempts at this much more likely to be successful and to show that this is possible and can be profitable, thus massively increasing the chances of us profitably mining asteroids and producing fuel in Space in the future.

        I think it reasonable to think that with all that expertise on board both in existing Space operations and in building and running hugely profitable enterprises, that sums have been done and this is at the least, plausibly viable.

        This is a necessary step to using the vast resources available in Space. So the question to everyone is essentially, do you want us to use the vast resources available in Space. It's their money, they're starting programs that can massively benefit humanity in the future. The programs even raise the profile of science and create highly technical jobs also. We should be happy about this.

      3. duhhuh

        Re: yes, this has no chance of backfiring

        Platinum... riiiight.

        They are definitely not after those other rare minerals, that enable them to make their toys.

  2. Christoph

    Lots of money to be made?

    Anyone thinking of investing might want to listen to this first:

    1. Ben 50
      Thumb Up

      Re: Lots of money to be made?

      :-) That's a great tune! Well... I guess it's like the Gold Rush... once the hype's in place and everybody wants to get up there, it's the people selling the provisions and infrastructure that'll make the real money. That's what their play is aimed at achieving, right?

    2. Mikel

      Cash flow positive

      The company is already cash flow positive, and is not looking for more investors at this time.

  3. Andrew James

    I'd be surprised if at least one space-ready nation hasnt already through of this idea of capturing near earth objects and putting them into lunar orbit to later be used like stones in a slingshot to launch at their enemies. There's enough people around the world skilled enough to write the software needed to calculate how quickly something would have to be travelling when leaving lunar orbit in order to achieve a strike that hits at least in the right country, if not in the right city or postcode.

    They could then chalk it up to an unfortunate natural disaster.

    1. Aaron Em

      Never get away with it

      It'd be too obvious while you were setting it up; no one who knows about it is going to let it slide, for the same reason everybody agreed back in our parents' day that FOBS was taking it just that extra little bit too far for comfort. (Which is, for those who might be wondering, why Kim Jong-un's favorite new toy has everyone so worried.)

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Larry Page will BWAHAHA from on high while admiring the exceedingly decorative crater of Oracle Headquarters.

  4. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Plan for world domination

    The difference between shipping "precious" (only until availability increases and prices drop) metals to Earth from asteroids and bombing the planet from orbit is not much more than where the delivery comes down - and how fast.

    Success is not being at the top of the food chain, it's being at the top of the gravity well.

    1. ArmanX

      Re: Plan for world domination

      Thus, King of the Mountain?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Red Dwarf

    hopping from rock to rock - meeting space chicks and running away from noodly appendages. A space cowboy's life for me.

    1. Morphius

      Re: Red Dwarf

      Just keep Rimmer away from the drive plate... I would definately take a penguin puppet onboard though!

  6. AdamT
    Thumb Up

    Slightly different take on this...

    ... from the Bad Astronomer here:

    I think both articles make reasonable points. It's a high risk venture but, hype aside, they do seem to have a fairly careful step by step outline plan starting with something that is perfectly feasible right now. And the track record of these people suggests that they are happy with the concept of putting a lot of money into "because it is there" type projects that won't return much for a long time, if at all. Question is whether even the large amount of money they can marshall will be large enough...

    1. Mikel

      Re: Slightly different take on this...

      A venture can be high risk. For example one of the billionaires on the stage with his own money in (Simonyi, I think) said that he would not recommend his neighbor mortgage his home for this venture. But for those currently invested it's little risk at all for two reasons: 1) They wouldn't miss the money if it failed and 2) It is not possible for this venture to fail with this much money behind it.

      Some of the biggest problems a venture can have is running out of investor money or patience before you get the cheddar, or there not being any cheddar. The first can't happen because these guys are so loaded, and the second is just not possible because the cheddar is ALL THAT IS outside of Earth - worlds beyond imagining, wealth beyond the dreams of Midas. And maybe all the Earth too, if you think about it...

      Government interference can be a problem for a little guy who's just looking to build a nuclear reactor. But not for guys with an aggregate $100+ billion. For a single billion you can run for President and pack both houses of Congress too.

      NASA estimates $2.6 billion for the first asteroid capture mission, $1B for each after. All told it will probably cost $10B to become self-sustaining with fuel factories selling their output on orbit - and 20 years for those costs to mount up and offsetting revenues to come in. They're cash-flow positive now, and there's no reason to expect they'll ever be $2B in the hole, which is no big deal for this group.

      Yeah, it's going to happen.

  7. JDX Gold badge

    It's great Sci-Fi and would be super-cool, but it seems several orders of magnitude from being economically viable even if the tech was not a barrier.

    So it'll probably IPO for $100bn.

  8. Joe Carter
    Thumb Up

    at least they are trying

    Better than spending more than 5x as much on a bunch of people running in circles and splashing around in pools.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: at least they are trying

      Better how exactly?

      1. Beau

        Re: at least they are trying

        Simply because, if no one had ever dreamed of living in a mud hut, we would still be living in caves. Even when the first huts collapsed when it rained, which they probably did, they managed eventually to get it right.

        "That is what we call progress"

  9. Camilla Smythe

    Moon Zero Two

  10. b166er

    John Carmack in?

  11. Kirstian K
    Thumb Up

    Bring it on

    the challenge is there, so climb that mountain is what i say.

    i liked the idea someone mentioned about changing the trajectory (sorry on spelling - is that right?) to bomb the earth, not to bomb the earth obviously, but if we could bring the comets into orbit we could have 'lots' of temporary moons, mine them, and then once we are done, send them on there way (with all our crap too maybe..), see this could be the start of something REALLY special, or alternativly instead of crap, put people on it, a mini colony maybe, and send it on its way... its a great way of spreading our seed around the universe...!

    (copy right me... 2012)

  12. Sean M

    New Scientist article

    New Scientist published an article this week on the Earth occasionally having temporary extra moons. And one of them could be nudged into a close enough orbit to mine :

  13. ItsNotMe

    Hey...why not?

    We've already fucked large portions of the Earth with mining...why not start anew somewhere else?

    1. Swarthy

      Earth First!

      We'll Strip-mine the other planets later.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

        Re: Hey...why not?

        You still get the green freaks protesting no matter what, although getting rid of them would be easy.... a couple of thrusters to spin the rock up a bit and they'll fly right off

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Hey...why not?

        > Mining a barren hunk of atmosphereless, lifeless rock is one of the most environmentally

        > friendly things anyone could possibly do.

        Because the environmental costs of getting equipment there and getting extracted resources back are zero, of course.

        As for "bas[ing] a fair proportion of our heavy industry" in Space Industrial Park: pretty much all of "heavy industry" consumes vast amounts of resources - things like oxygen and water - as part of industrial processes. J Random Asteroid is unlikely to have enough water to move "a fair proportion" of those processes there, even if it were somehow economical to build the facilities in the first place. Those processes are also typically designed to work in Earth-like conditions, with, y'know, an atmosphere and around 1g of gravity.

        If we can re-engineer those processes to use far fewer resources and still be economical ON A FRIGGIN' SPACE ROCK, then they'll probably still be economical here.

        I've never understood the "space is full of tasty resources" argument. 1) It is not "full" of resources; they're very thinly spread out, which means it's expensive (in many ways) to get them. And 2) the Earth is still loaded with resources that just aren't economical - yet - to extract. If demand for those resources ever reaches the point where it is economical, it'll very likely be far more economical to extract them here than to go comparison shopping elsewhere in the solar system.

        1. chr0m4t1c

          Re: Hey...why not?

          No, getting stuff up there & back is not free to start off with, but it's a snowballing process.

          (Making some assumptions that these things are available "up there")

          First, you find water - almost certainly asteroid(s) made largely of ice.

          Second, use solar power to crack the water into it's components (already possible and would be considerably more efficient in space). Now you have fuel already in orbit as well as water, which in itself is pretty useful in the food chain and something to breathe.

          Use that fuel to search for more ice.

          Eventually you will have enough fuel to not only explore space but to also allow for a round-trip to earth.

          Use those free round-trips to lift stuff to build and stock an in-orbit hydroponics site - you don't need to lift the water anymore because it's already up there. Now you can start growing food.

          Once food production is underway you no longer need to lift that into orbit either.

          Next, start to look for stuff you can use to build more craft (hopefully you're now finding ice quite easily as you've refined the process over the years).

          Use your "free" round-trips to lift stuff into orbit for refining and manufacturing of the ore you find "up there". N.B. at this stage you should no longer need to lift food, water or fuel into space.

          Anyway, you get the idea. Eventually you'll hardly need to lift anything into orbit for infrastructure purposes, it'll all be self-sustaining (at least until you run out of asteroids).

          It'll probably take 50-100 years to get that far, but it will give us a great platform to start thinking about colonies on Mars and ultimately (perhaps) even escaping our solar system.

    3. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Hey...why not?

      @Itsnotme - you are trolling, right? You can't really hold such a stupid thought to be true ... can you?

  14. James Micallef Silver badge

    Dismissive, any??

    "All in all, Planetary Resources don't really seem to be bringing anything very new to the table: their ideas have been around for a long time, nothing in the way of actual new technology is on offer, and only a modicum of genuine space-tech expertise. The main strengths of Diamandis, Anderson and the company's other celebrity backers lie really in promotion and hype rather than space hardware or resource mining. "

    So just to spell it out clearly, you believe this is all hype and no end product, why don't you just say it plainly? Let's be clear here, saying these people's strengths isn't space hardware and resource mining is trivially true because no-one has the sort of expertise beyond low-earth orbit. The point is to develop that expertise. Saying their ideas are old and they don't bring any new technology to the table is missing the point - they are now at the point where old visions CAN be brought to reality with new technologies, and they are in the position to be able to invest in technology and coordinate existing tech resources to make their vision happen.

    Sure, they're bigging up their vision but that doesn't make it just hype. And as far as I can make out, they're putting (a lot of) their own money into this venture so they are at least "eating their own dog food" as the yanks say.

    This is a hugely difficult and complex enterprise, and chances are it will be over budget, over deadline and underwhelming in results. But it's a first step that needs to be taken if we want to really conquer space not just sniff around the edges. Sitting on the sidelines being smug isn't helpful.

    I wish them the best in this venture even if neither they nor I ever get to see any concrete results in our lifetimes

    1. Tom 13

      Re: why don't you just say it plainly?

      You did note the name at the top right? This IS plainly written, just with a bit more detail than usual. Frankly given that the "burn them down with facts and a caustic 'tude" is his bread and butter article, I think the new guys with all the hype did pretty well -- there are still a few buildings standing after Lewis finished.

      Truthfully, Lewis's warnings are all prudent - this is high risk in new territory. I do think he missed one thing though, something someone else commented on the thread in yesterday's El Reg article. There is something new in this endeavor: a shot, albeit a small one, at consistency of planning and execution. Yes the ideas are all old and have been argued to death using Socratic and Platonic techniques. But because of that lack of consistency, I don't think you can accurately say anyone has ever tried to execute them before. And sometimes, no matter how intuitively obvious it is that heavy things fall faster than light things, strange things happen when you conduct the actual experiment.

      Oh and, if they figure out a way for me to invest a monthly Benjamin to the project, I will.

    2. Jean-Luc
      Thumb Up

      Re: Dismissive, any??

      Totally agree. This sounds a LOT more interesting than ISS, base on the Moon or flying people to Mars. Or any of the crud that the meat-in-space parts of NASA has to dream up to justify its existence.

      (I have much more respect for the automated-only parts of NASA . Like survey probes, sats and telescopes).

      Sure, it is quite likely to fail, and I wouldn't _invest_ in it. Donate? Maybe. But these guys are likely smart enough to know that and have enough cash at hand to take a wild stab at getting us out of our current space rut. And it won't be run by politicians behooved to aerospace lobbyists.

      Hats off, gentlemen. Even if it never makes it off the ground.

  15. Bill Neal

    Urine recycling?

    They should send Bear Grylls to the ISS. He'd fit right in!

  16. Steve E-G

    Squids in Space?

    Are they also going to be using super intelligent squid to pilot the rockets? (Stephen Baxter ref.)

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ... Some real life Manic Miners on the anniversary of the ZX Spectrum :)

    Altogether now....

  18. Graham Marsden

    "the crew of the International Space Station, famously...

    "...must drink their own recycled urine"

    Right, because on Earth all urine is neatly stored away and never re-enters the water cycle to be drunk again...

  19. Mr Young

    Space is going commercial!

    That should speed things up - I hope to see it in my lifetime. Saying that - it might be a bit scary steering an asteroid towards the moon - if things go wrong it might end up falling on my house FFS

  20. Captain DaFt
    Thumb Up

    As an Asimov fan, I say "Yeah!"

    I want a pet siliconey!

  21. Timbo

    errr....but what about the moon ??

    I thought it was known that the moon has water on it - so why go to the bother of capturing asteroid(s) when the moon is just a short distance away, and we know where the water its not a wild goose chase....

    Once they have the infrastructure in place on the moon, then they can capture asteroids, and crashland them near to the moon-factories.

    1. Wild Bill

      Re: errr....but what about the moon ??

      Yeah, fucking with the moon seems a really good idea. It's not like its exact position and trajectory has any effect on life on earth or anything

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: fucking with the moon

        "Yeah, fucking with the moon seems a really good idea. It's not like its exact position and trajectory has any effect on life on earth or anything"

        You can't be serious. PLEASE tell me you are not serious. You cannot actually have so little grasp of science and scale that you think human activity of any kind on the moon (let alone a little mining) is going to alter the Moon's mass or trajectory. Can you?

      2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: errr....but what about the moon ??

        @ Wild Bill - the precautionary principle can be taken too far, you know. Just as long as they don't have any nuclear waste dumps that can explode and blow the Moon out of orbit at ridiculously high speeds, we'll be fine.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: errr....but what about the moon ??

          Ala Space 1999 you mean? :)

  22. Gary Bickford

    My 2c: This is one more example of many recent ones, of the essential genius of the 'American' success story - although I don't for a minute think this will be an American-only adventure. But those who settled in America came here because they were willing to risk themselves, their families, everything, to leap into the unknown. For a while we used the US government as our vehicle to express our ever-outward way of looking at things, but now at last we have begun to think of the 'space race' no longer in terms of one government vs. another, but instead of many individual entities, sponsored by many different institutions, truly 'going where no man has gone before'. China, Russia, US, India governments will no longer be competing with just each other, but with hundreds of entrepreneurs cooperating and competing. Soon the governments will be too busy regulating to bother competing.

    And, I predict, in not too many years the U.N. will have to establish an orbital 'Coast Guard' to enforce rules of transit, maintain short term orbital priorities, handle rescues of vessels and people, and prevent/reduce pollution of orbital, lunar and near-Earth space.

    As for the mining aspects, I figured out a while back that, in addition to the well-described water ideas above, asteroid metals will be most valuable in constructing and expanding the infrastructure in space. A single nickel-iron asteroid of a few hundred feet in diameter, plus a similar amount of carbonaceous asteroid, could provide the materials for a huge number of steel vessels.

    One area that has been only slightly researched is pure-vacuum microgravity manufacturing of various electronic and exotic materials. There will be research centers (private or public?) in orbit and on the Moon. The cost of dropping such products down to Earth would be small relative to their value. (How easy is it to make large sheets of graphene in microgravity? Nobody knows.) And there will undoubtedly be whole categories of new materials and products that can only be made in that environment, or on the Moon. So there is some hope for a reasonable trade balance in the long run.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How much additional mass is required to be brought back to earth, before we spiral elliptically into the sun ?

    1. h4rm0ny

      On what time scale? Cannot answer without knowing if you're talking billions of years, millions, centuries. ;)

  24. SkepticalOptimist

    A bit too early to tell

    A similar article could have been written several centuries ago about another seemingly foolish venture.

    "All in all, Christopher Columbus doesn't really seem to be brining anything very new to the table: his ideas have been around for a long time, nothing in the way of actual new technology to offer, and only a modicum of genuine expertise in navigation and geography. The main strengths of Columbus's venture lie really in promotion and hype rather than nautical hardware or spice transportation. Certainly the way they're handling the expedition announcement bears all the hallmarks of Renaissance Genoan puffery with little in the way of big money or real major new technology behind it."

  25. rav
    Thumb Down

    Near Earth Orbit asteroids??? Are you nuts!

    Take one NEO nudge it the wrong way and what you get is a 100,000 megaton kinetic impactor. If it doesn't smash the moon into bits then it will certainly smash the crap out of the earth.

    Ever wonder why the dark side of the moon seems to have many more meteor craters than the earth side?

    Avatar is the incorrect life imitates art self reference.

    Every time I watch an Alien invasion movie I shake my head. All it takes is a few asteroids shot earthward a few hundred thousand kilometers per second to end all life ends fairly painlessly; for the aliens anyway.

    And Cameron proposes to do that?

    What a maroon, what an ignoranimous.

    The enormous amounts of energy required can not be adequately controlled much less accurately directed.

    Hey Cameron, don't listen to Billy Bob Thornton or Bruce Willis okay!

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Near Earth Orbit asteroids??? Are you nuts!

      rav,it is people like you that are keeping us shackled to this planet. The only evidence of "maroon, ... ignoranimous" attitudes around here comes from the naysayers.

    2. Mikel

      Re: Near Earth Orbit asteroids??? Are you nuts!

      There's a good chance the rock they're looking for is already on course to smack directly into Earth, and they'll nudge it into orbit around the moon instead.

  26. GreenJimll

    If these guys are already all super-rich and don't need new investors for this venture, why are they bothering to tell people about it? One reason why folk like SpaceX big up their launches, etc is that it means that potential investors and customers can see that they mean business and potentially start giving them cash.

    In the case of these guys surely it would have made more sense to keep it as quiet as possible so that they don't find that they've got competitors with red flags, or lots of Government folk trying their best to derail the plans early on? I can't see why they need a hype-event if they aren't looking for investors.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Because even for the super-rich, this is a massively expensive endeavour.

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