A new world of resources is about to open up in outer space and it's backed by some pretty big investors: film director James Cameron and Google billionaires Eric Schmidt, Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
The billionaires are behind an asteroid mining scheme, to draw precious metals and water from the floating space rocks.
Their company, called Planetary Resources, Inc., will use the profits from the sale of the materials to boost our presence in space, brining us close to E.T. than ever before.
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Planetary Resources co-founder and co-chairman Eric Anderson told SPACE.com. "If you look at space resources, the logical next step is to go to the near-Earth asteroids. They're just so valuable, and so easy to reach energetically. Near-Earth asteroids really are the low-hanging fruit of the solar system."
Space.com, built a handy asteroid mining infographic to show just how this process could work.
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You may think this sounds like science fiction, but Planetary Resources' president and chief engineer, Chris Lewicki told MSNBC: "Everything is science fiction right up to the point that it's science fact."
The company reads like a who's who of billionaire space playboys. Eric Anderson is the man behind Planetary Resources Inc., and he has some history in ground-breaking space exploration having launched 10 day-trips to the International Space Station. Peter Diamandis, is behind the multimillion-dollar X Prize program, and Zero G Corp., the weightless tourist flight venture.
Diamandis told MSNBC: "As a teenager, when I was asked what I wanted to be, I'd say, 'An asteroid miner'."
So why mine asteroids? These remnants of the early days of the universe hold a range of metals elements like hydrogen, helium, nickel, iron and magnesium.
Helium, for example, is a limited resource on Earth and stocks are running perilously low.
Far from being just a gas to pump up party balloons, helium is used by Nasa to purge fuel from rockets and by the nuclear energy industry in fuel research.
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