Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

Community News Network

January 23, 2013

Why everyone Is rushing to mine asteroids in outer space

Last year, a startup called Planetary Resources backed by a bunch of billionaires announced plans to send robotic ships into outer space to mine asteroids.

This week, a startup called Deep Space Industries that is apparently not backed by any billionaires announced plans to send robotic ships into outer space to mine asteroids, refuel spacecraft and satellites, and 3-D print solar power stations to beam clean energy back to Earth.

Next year, look for a startup backed by no one at all to announce plans to cure all of humanity's problems instantaneously and forever via robotic solar-powered 3-D printed outer-space panacea-bots.

Just kidding. But the ambition behind Deep Space Industries' plans is striking for a company that admits it is still looking for more investors. The basic contours of its proposition:

By 2015, build a fleet of small, CubeSat-based "FireFly" spacecraft and send them on one-way, six-month-long trips to inspect small asteroids up-close.

By 2016, begin launching slightly larger "DragonFly" craft on two- to four-year trips to capture and bring back asteroid samples.

Over time, find ways to extract precious metals and fuels from the asteroids and use them to set up the interplanetary equivalent of filling stations and foundries, refueling communications satellites and serving NASA, SpaceX, and anyone else who might happen by.

Oh yeah, and eventually build those awesome-sounding solar power stations.

               

The shorter version: There's gold in them thar asteroids, and Deep Space Industries wants to be in on the rush. Intrigued but skeptical, I spoke with DSI's chief executive, David Gump, whose previous claims to fame include co-founding the space-tech company Astrobotic Technology and producing for RadioShack the first TV commercial to be shot aboard the International Space Station.

Slate: Where is the money coming from? Do you have any major investors on board?

David Gump: We have some investors, and one of the reasons we held the press conference was to let additional investors know about the opportunity. Going forward we'll have three sources of funds: investors, customer progress payments from government customers, and payments from commercial customers.

Slate: What will you do with the asteroid samples once you've obtained them?

Gump: The intent is to bring several of the smaller ones back to Earth orbit where we can process them at our leisure. We have to know whether they're solid or a loose rubble pile. That's also important if you're thinking in terms of planetary defense - you want to know what you're shooting at.

Slate: How do your plans to mine asteroids differ from those of Planetary Resources? Or do you figure there's enough room for two companies doing similar things?

Gump: It's a very big solar system. Two companies are not going to be able to go after all the opportunities out there. As for specific plans, you'd have to ask (Planetary Resources), but they seemed to be focusing on long-distance telescope operation and discovery. We are going to go straightaway to missions that fly past [small asteroids] and missions that in the next year actually bring back samples. We're also putting a great deal of emphasis on, "How do you turn raw asteroids into something that people want to buy?"

 

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 15, 2014

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 15, 2014

  • treadmill-very-fast.jpg Tax deduction for a gym membership?

    April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • bomb1 VIDEO: A year after marathon bombing, Boston remains strong

    The City of Boston came together Tuesday to honor those who were injured and lost their lives at the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary of the bombing. While the day was sure to be emotional, those affected by last year's race are showing they won't let the tragedy keep them down.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Google acquires drone maker Titan Aerospace to spread Internet

    Google is adding drones to its fleets of robots and driverless cars.
    The Internet search company said it acquired Titan Aerospace, the maker of high-altitude, solar-powered satellites that provides customer access to data services around the world. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

    April 14, 2014

  • E-Cigarettes target youth with festivals, lawmakers say

    The findings, in a survey released Monday by members of Congress, should prod U.S. regulators to curb the industry, the lawmakers said. While e-cigarettes currently are unregulated, the Food and Drug Administration is working on a plan that would extend its tobacco oversight to the products.

    April 14, 2014

  • Search teams will send unmanned sub to look for missing Malaysian airliner

    Teams searching for a missing Malaysian airliner are planning for the first time to send an unmanned submarine into the depths of the Indian Ocean to look for wreckage, an Australian official leading the multi-nation search said Monday.

    April 14, 2014

  • Why Facebook is getting into the banking game

    Who would want to use Facebook as a bank? That's the question that immediately arises from news that the social network intends to get into the electronic money business.

    April 14, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 4.49.09 PM.png Train, entertain your pets with these 3 smartphone apps

    While they may not have thumbs to use the phone, pets can benefit from smartphone apps designed specifically for them.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Stepping forward: The real Colbert

    Letterman changed the late-night TV game between his run on NBC's "Late Night" and starting the "Late Show" franchise in 1993. And while it's tough to replace a pop-culture icon, Colbert, in terms of pedigree and sense of humor, makes the most sense.

    April 11, 2014

Features
AP Video
Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast Freeze Leaves Florida Panhandle With Dead Trees At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Are School Dress Codes Too Strict? Suspicious Bags Found Near Marathon Finish Line Boston Marks the 1st Anniversary of Bombing NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program 8-year-old Boy Gets His Wish: Fly Like Iron Man Sex Offenders Arrested in Slayings of CA Women New York Police End Muslim Surveillance Program Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary US Supports Ukraine's Efforts to Calm Tensions T. Rex Gets New Home at Smithsonian Suspect in Kansas Shootings Faces Murder Charges Raw: Storm Topples RVs Near Miss. Gulf Coast NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse The Boston Marathon Bombing: One Year Later Michael Phelps Set to Come Out of Retirement First Women Move to Army Platoon Artillery Jobs
Facebook
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Which service of the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce do you believe is most beneficial for its membership?

Events
Legislative lobbying
Promotional material publication
Educational programs for the community
Other
     View Results