(NewsCore/The Blaze) A new company backed by two Google billionaires, film director James Cameron and other space exploration proponents is aiming high in the hunt for natural resources -- with mining asteroids the possible target.
The venture, called Planetary Resources Inc., revealed little in a press release this week except to say that it would "overlay two critical sectors -- space exploration and natural resources -- to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP" and "help ensure humanity's prosperity."
The company is formally unveiling its plans at an event Tuesday in Seattle.
While the announcement may cause some people to snicker at what could be a page out of a sci-fi novel or a Hollywood movie scene, Planetary Resources is making its debut just as scientists at NASA and other groups are embracing the notion of mining "near-Earth asteroids" and providing blueprints for how such a feat would be accomplished.
The possibility of extracting raw materials such as iron and nickel from asteroids has been discussed for decades, but the cost, scientific expertise and technical prowess of fulfilling such as feat have remained an obstacle.
NASA experts have projected it could cost tens of billions of dollars and take well over a decade to land astronauts on an asteroid-- and then who knows what the cost of extracting and transporting the natural resources could be.
Tuesday's event is being hosted by Peter Diamandis and Eric Anderson, known for their efforts to develop commercial space exploration, and two former NASA officials.
Diamandis, a driving force behind the Ansari X-Prize competition to spur non-governmental space flight, has long discussed his goal to become an asteroid miner.
"I believe that opening up the resources of space for the benefit of humanity is critical," he said in an interview with Forbes magazine earlier this year about plans to launch an asteroid mining company.
Planetary Resources lists reputable names as members of its "investor and adviser group," including Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive and executive chairman, respectively; James Cameron; former Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi; Ram Shriram, a Google director and venture capitalist; and Ross Perot Jr., son of the Texas technology entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Ross Perot.
Former NASA Mars mission manager Chris Lewicki is listed in the press release as the president and chief engineer of Planetary Resources, with Diamandis and Anderson as co-chairmen.
While none of the men could be reached for comment, Michio Kaku, a physics professor at City University of New York, aptly summarized, "If you put two Google billionaires with Microsoft billionaires with some astronauts together, you can't go wrong."
"I think private enterprise will boldly go where governments fear to tread. And I think the space program has been in purgatory in the last few years. NASA is an agency to nowhere. So, we need private enterprise, especially people with deep pockets to help jump start the program and maybe mining the heavens is just the ticket," he concluded.