29 April 2012

If They Buy a White Persian Cat, Call Daniel Craig

So, a collection of eccentric billionaires have decided to start as company to mine the asteroids:
Some time in the next 18 to 24 months, Planetary Resources, Inc. will launch a series of mass-produced 9" space telescopes, dubbed Arkyd Series 100 spacecraft. They're specifically designed to identify which of the roughly 8,900 near-Earth asteroids are both smaller than 50 meters and suitable targets for retrieval back to Earth orbit. These small near-Earth asteroids represent a transient population, with life spans in the millions of years, typically cut short by running into a planet or being thrown out of the solar system by Jupiter.

That mission, according to Planetary Resources co-founder Eric Anderson, will be completed well enough within the ensuing year or two that the follow-up spacecraft, the Arkyd Series 200, can track some of these asteroids as they fly by in high Earth orbit. Still later, Arkyd Series 300 swarm spacecraft can begin launching to survey those asteroids from a closer perspective, gathering information on spin, shape, and composition.

In theory, several spacecraft could be launched every year for as long as necessary. At some point, the company would have enough information to launch spacecraft built to travel to an asteroid and retrieve them over several years, ultimately delivering them to a high Earth orbit. By some time in the next decade, both robotic and manned spacecraft would be waiting in orbit for the asteroids as they arrived.


These angel investors form an amazing list. They include Google's CEO Larry Page and Chairman Eric Schmidt, Microsoft billionaire Charles Simonyi, Ross Perot Jr., and James Cameron. Charles Simonyi has been to space twice via one of Eric Anderson's previous ventures, Space Adventures. Ross Perot and James Cameron are also known as adventurers in their own right, and Cameron just returned from a solo submarine voyage to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. All are willing to contribute large sums of money at high risk of loss for what could be a long period of time.
When you look at these guys, Cameron, Perot, the Google Twins, etc., you see a lot of ego.

Maybe I've watched one too many bond films, butthe idea that these guys want to go and place a number of asteroids, each about ½ a million tons (50m of solid iron weighs that) at a Lagrange point, where they can be given a nudge toward, for example, Fresno, unless we meet their demands.

I'm wondering what their nefarious demands will be.


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