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Startup Plans to Mine Asteroids for Precious Metals

Planetary Resources aims for outer space to alleviate the scarcity of raw materials

A new company, financed in part by film director James Cameron ("Avatar," "Titanic"), Google co-founders Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, and real estate tycoon Ross Perot Jr., plans to mine asteroids with the intent of gaining access to water, precious metals and resources in short supply on Earth.

"Many of the scarce metals and minerals on Earth are in near-infinite quantities in space," points out Peter Diamandis, co-founder and co-chairman (with Eric Anderson) of Planetary Resources. "As access to these materials increases, not only will the cost of everything from microelectronics to energy storage be reduced, but new applications for these abundant elements will result in important and novel applications."

The company believes that space mining could someday develop into a multibillion-dollar industry. Just a single 500-meter platinum-rich asteroid, they say, could contain the equivalent of all the platinum group metals mined to date.

Planetary Resources has designed a deep-space prospecting spacecraft, and is working on another spacecraft that will retrieve the minerals and return them either to fuel depots orbiting Earth or elsewhere in space.

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