Download: Asteroids to be mined for platinum, gold, silver and diamonds
Eric Anderson’s short-sightedness prevented him from realising his dream of becoming an astronaut, so he created his own space tourism company, Space Adventures, which to date has sent seven people (all multimillionaires) into space on Russian rockets .
Now Anderson reckons he’s worked out where he’s going to make the millions needed to fund his own mission to the moon: by mining the mineral-rich asteroids for platinum, gold, silver and diamonds.
Anderson, who read aerospace engineering at university, has a group wealthy businessmen investing hundreds of millions of dollars in his latest project – Planetary Resources – including Google bosses Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, Titanic director James Cameron, and Ross Perot Jr (son of the former presidential candidate).
The first stage of the project – sending up hundreds of rockets with telescopes to find the best asteroids – should be underway within two years. The rockets will piggyback on Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spacecraft.
“When we have a set of them [space telescopes], we will use them to create a constellation of telescopes which will be able to explore the near-Earth asteroids,” he says. “There are 500,000 to 1m of them.”
Anderson says the asteroids, which range in size from 10 metres to 50km, are full of expensive metals – gold, silver, diamonds – “all that fun stuff”.
Of most interest to Anderson are the asteroids’ huge reserves of platinum, the world’s most expensive metal, in some cases “100 to 1,000 times more concentrated” than in platinum mines on earth.