Story by Mark Neuman
Photos courtesy Ted Huetter/Museum of Flight
Sounding perhaps like youthful science fiction fans excitedly reciting passages from their favorite cosmic short stories, a handful of well-funded grown up visionaries announced plans today (April 24) to “meet and intercept the asteroids” and mine space.
The announcement came today at the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery located at the Museum of Flight in Tukwila.
“It’s been said ‘It’s only science fiction until it becomes science fact,’” Douglas King, Museum president and CEO, reminded those attending the combination press conference and luncheon gathering. King served as the event emcee.
The plan to explore the inner solar system and pick, pluck and utilize the high volume minerals to be found in the hundreds of thousands of various sized asteroids buzzing about the neighbors of Earth springs from Planetary Resources, Inc., a Bellevue-based startup.
The first flight could occur in as soon as two years, the crowd was told. Generally, the first many flights would utilize robotics and would not carry humans.
Planetary Resources is backed by a few of those who have escaped the surly bonds of earthly net worth.
Centimillionaires and billionaires investing in and advising the group include, among others, Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, filmmaker and explorer James Cameron, space tourist and former Microsoft Chief Software Architect Charles Simonyi, and Chairman of Hillwood Development Corporation Ross Perot, Jr
Eric Anderson, Planetary Resources Co-founder and Co-chairman, said “We need to grab those asteroids to build the future of our earth. People have been mining asteroids for a long time, the asteroids that slammed into earth a long time ago.
“We see the future of earth as a Garden of Eden,” Anderson said. “Asteroid mining will be a modern day gold rush.”
The Museum of Flight is the future site of Highline School District’s Raisbeck Aviation High School. The new school facility is under construction and is scheduled to open in 2013.
Just prior to today’s press conference, Simonyi, standing next to the Soyuz capsule that took him and a Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut to the International Space Station in 2007, spoke to the Tukwila Blog about the importance of aviation and education.
“Young people need intellectual stimulation and challenge and a sense of responsibility,” Simonyi said. “Aviation teaches all these things in a very positive way.”
While Planetary Resources is thinking big, they’re going to keep their staff relatively small for now.
“We’re not looking to do a lot of hiring right now,” Anderson told the crowd. “Not only can a small group of people change the world, that’s the only thing that ever has.”
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