February 14, 2013

Asteroid Mining Industry will Aid in Planetary Defense

As you probably have heard, today, February 15th, a 150-foot (45 meter) asteroid is whizzing by the Earth a hair’s breath from the surface. Missing us by only 14,000 miles, well within the 22,300 mile orbit of the Geostationary satellites that orbit around the Earth’s equator.

I wanted to put this in perspective for you with some of the chilling and fascinating facts:

  1. This is approximately the same size as the asteroid that hit the Earth in Russia in Siberia (the “Tunguska Event”) on June 30th 1908.
  2. That impact was equivalent to 1,000 Hiroshima nuclear bombs & knocked down 80 million trees down over an area covering 2,150 square kilometers (830 sq mi).
  3. Had it hit near a population center it would have killed millions of people.

Today, there are approximately 610,000 asteroids that are actively tracked in our Solar System. This number represents less than one percent of the more than 60 million asteroids that orbit the Sun. Of these Asteroids, about 1.5 Million are larger than 1 kilometer in size and are what might be described as “Extinction-level / dinosaur killing asteroids.”

Today Scientists are closely tracking 434 asteroids which are large enough, and come close enough to the Earth to be of potential future concern, and while none of these pose any significant risk today, increased surveillance is required.

The following video produced by Cosmographia and the team at Planetary shows how over the past 15 years, we have started to discover asteroids at an astounding rate, going from 33,000 known in 1997, to nearly 610,000 known today.

Asteroids of the size of 2012 DA14 (~ 50 meters in diameter) may number as many as 500,000. Many of these very near-Earth asteroids are sometimes only discovered a few weeks before they pass by the Earth with little or no notice.

While the primary business of Planetary Resources is to ultimately prospect and mine the most select of these for fuels and precious metals, the company views that this economically driven activities will assist humanity in the arena of planetary protection in two critical ways.

First, the Arkyd-100 Space Telescopes which the company is currently designing and building will assist in the detection and characterization of these small, potentially hazardous, yet undetected asteroids.

Second, as the company ultimately develops the capability and infrastructure for intercepting and mining asteroids, Planetary Resources expects to be able to help in the (slight) re-direction of these rocks to keep the Earth safe.

Mining Asteroids will ultimately benefit humanity on and off the Earth in a multitude of ways. First by providing us access to the fuels to accelerate human exploration of space. Second, by expanding humanity’s economic access to platinum group metals important for our rapidly growing high-technology industries; and, third, by giving us the infrastructure to routinely and swiftly interact with and redirect asteroids, like 2012 DA14, which could someday pose a threat to Earth.

I wanted to end with another great Cosmographia video showing you the orbit of 2012 DA14 as it comes close to the Earth to put this into perspective.

Also, on the production floor of Planetary Resources Inc, we now have full-scale mechanical prototypes of the Arkyd-100 Series which is the first line in its family of deep-space prospecting spacecraft. According to our President & Chief Engineer, Chris Lewicki, “The Arkyd-100 Series will be the most advanced spacecraft per kilogram that has ever been built. The system will be highly capable and cost-effective which will allow for a constellation of them to be launched. That efficiency will not only fast-track our asteroid prospecting effort, but will also lend a hand in scientific discovery and planetary defense.”

Best wishes,

Peter H. Diamandis & Eric C. Anderson
Co-Founder & Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources