A new gold rush is on! Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt (along with filmmaker James Cameron) are backing a plan to mine gold and other precious metals from asteroids.
They've formed a company called Planetary Resources, which will start out by developing low-cost robotic spacecraft that can survey nearby asteroids. NASA will probably be one of their first customers.
In Reuters, Irene Klotz quotes Peter Diamandis, the company's CEO, as saying, "If you look back historically at what has caused humanity to make its largest investments in exploration and in transportation, it has been going after resources, whether it's the Europeans going after the spice routes or the American settlers looking toward the west for gold, oil, timber or land."
After they get their robots built, they plan to start mining some of the thousands of asteroids that pass relatively close to Earth. Besides precious metals, some asteroids also contain water, and could be used by NASA and private space companies as "watering stations" for human space missions. In space, water is more precious than gold.
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