Energy extraction may be approaching its final frontier.
We’re not mining Pandora for unobtanium just yet, but Avatar director James Cameron is one of the many millionaires and billionaires involved in an effort to reap natural resources from asteroids. As the AP reports,
The mega-million dollar plan is to use commercially built robotic ships to squeeze rocket fuel and valuable minerals like platinum and gold out of the lifeless rocks that routinely whiz by Earth. One of the company founders predicts they could have their version of a space-based gas station up and running by 2020.
Google executives are involved in the project, too, though as the BBC reports, some scientists think the initiative may be as successful as Google Buzz:
However, several scientists have responded with scepticism, calling the plan daring, difficult and highly expensive.
They struggle to see how it could be cost-effective, even with platinum and gold worth nearly £35 per gram ($1,600 an ounce). An upcoming Nasa mission to return just 60g (two ounces) of material from an asteroid to Earth will cost about $1bn.
The inaugural step, to be achieved in the next 18 to 24 months, would be launching the first in a series of private telescopes that would search for asteroid targets rich in resources. The intention will be to open deep-space exploration to private industry.
A tip for investors: sometimes these space mining expeditions don’t turn out as initially planned.