Company Aims For Riches Through Asteroid Mining

By: AP
By: AP
Planetary Resources Inc., says they

NASA Animation

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new company is making plans to mine fuel and minerals out of asteroids that whiz past Earth.

Planetary Resources Inc., says the mining and fuel processing would all be done by robotic ships and will eventually lead to the creation of a kind of gas station based in space.

The Seattle-based company's founders pioneered the idea of selling rides into space to wealthy tourists. Investors and advisers include the CEO and chairman of Google, filmmaker James Cameron and former astronaut Thomas Jones.

Jones calls the mega-million dollar plan "the stuff of science fiction." But he adds, like many ideas in science fiction, "it's possible to begin the process of making them reality."

The first step would be launching a series of telescopes to search for rich asteroid targets. The company expects to get that done within two years.

Outside scientists call the plan daring, difficult and highly expensive. They say it's hard to see how it will be cost-effective.

An upcoming NASA mission to return just 2 ounces of an asteroid to Earth will cost about $1 billion.

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