Outer space is the 'next resource frontier,' says CEO of asteroid mining firm

TORONTO -- When humans set out to colonize other planets, they're going to need resources to build their settlements.

That's the pitch Chris Lewicki, the president and CEO of a U.S.

See Full Article

asteroid mining company, delivered Monday at the annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto.

Shipping raw materials from Earth into space would be an expensive endeavour, says Lewicki, the head of Planetary Resources, who pegs the cost of sending water into orbit at $10 million per tonne.

"In order for them to do that sustainably, and to do that indefinitely, they're going to need to use resources they can find nearby," Lewicki said.

Once the stuff of science fiction novels, asteroid mining could soon become a reality, says Lewicki.

"This is something that is going from theoretical to practical," he said. "The next resource frontier is outer space."

Planetary Resources has already begun testing technologies that could be used to extract metals such as iron, nickel and cobalt from resource-rich asteroids close to Earth. The Redmond, Wash.-based company deployed its first spacecraft last July and plans to launch another one this year.

The A6, as it's called, will have an imaging system that can measure temperature differences of the various objects it encounters, as well as gather data relating to the presence of water.

Planetary Resources expects to start extracting water from nearby asteroids by the early 2020s.

Water is important not only to human life but also to industries, Lewicki says. It can also be broken down into its components -- oxygen and hydrogen.

"In space, the oxygen becomes quite important," Lewicki says. "The hydrogen becomes rocket fuel."

The concept of tapping asteroids for resources is so novel that there are few regulations determining who has a right to the harvested materials.

The U.S. recently signed a law that legalizes commercial asteroid mining and deems any resource extracted from a space rock the property of whoever mined it. No such law exists in Canada.

While regulations are often blasted for stymying progress, Lewicki says rules will be necessary as the space mining industry takes off.

"We often talk about the challenge of regulations," Lewicki says. "But regulations create an important framework."

Lewicki says there are a number of existing models that could be used to determine asteroid jurisdiction. Countries could lay claim to specific asteroids, lease the land or apply for the rights to harvest minerals.

"The only thing that is new about the industry of asteroid mining is it doesn't happen within what we are familiar with as the national territory of any country, and that's the item that the United States has taken the first step on," Lewicki said.

"Maybe we'll see the beginning of the national federation of planets start out of this."



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Agreement reached to end strike by video-game voice actors

    Tech & Science CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- Video-game voice actors have agreed to end a nearly yearlong strike against several major gaming publishers. The actors union SAG-AFTRA and a representative for the publishers said Monday they reached a tentative agreement on Saturday to end the strike. Source
  • Personality study finds fish have hidden depths

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Fish have complex individual personalities, a British university study found in research published Monday. Scientists from Exeter University in southwest England studied how individual Trinidadian guppy fish behaved in various stressful situations and discovered wide differences in how they responded. Source
  • Global accounting firm Deloitte hacked

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Global accounting firm Deloitte said on Monday it was the victim of a cyberattack that affected the data of a small number of clients, providing few details on the breach. Deloitte said in a statement that attackers accessed data from the company's email platform, confirming some details in a report by the Guardian newspaper, which broke news of the hack on Monday. Source
  • London studying ways to reduce new fatberg under Chinatown

    Tech & Science CTV News
    LONDON -- British engineers are studying ways to dispose of yet another oversize "fatberg" threatening London's aged sewers. Stuart White of Thames Water says the latest fat blob is located in a busy area beneath Chinatown near London's famed Leicester Square. Source
  • Invasive grass carp threatening Lake Erie

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TOLEDO, Ohio -- Researchers have fresh evidence that invasive grass carp are swimming and spawning near the mouth of a river that flows into Lake Erie. Their next step is figuring out how to stop it from gaining a foothold and devouring wetland plants along the shoreline and underwater vegetation in the lake that shelters native fish. Source
  • Australia to create its own space agency

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CANBERRA, Australia -- Australia announced on Monday it would create its own space agency to increase its share of the $330 billion space economy. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the agency would be part of Australia's development of an innovation and science economy. Source
  • 7 right whales entangled this summer, new data shows

    Tech & Science CBC News
    New figures show at least seven North Atlantic right whales got entangled in fishing gear in the Gulf of St. Lawrence this summer, and two died as a result. Two of the whales were freed by rescuers, including Joe Howlett, who was killed during one of the missions. Source
  • Astronomers discover an asteroid is actually two — and that it's also a comet

    Tech & Science CBC News
    When is an asteroid not just an asteroid? When it's a comet. Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have found that an asteroid discovered in 2006 is actually two — and that it sprouts a tail just like a comet. Source
  • The Long Dark is a fiercely Canadian video game. Why aren't there more like it?

    Tech & Science CBC News
    You've crashed your plane into the side of a mountain on a remote island in the Canadian north. Your partner is nowhere to be found. A geomagnetic disaster has rendered phones, radios and all other electronic equipment inoperable. Source
  • Something new under the sun: A binary asteroid that's also a comet

    Tech & Science CBC News
    When is an asteroid not just an asteroid? When it's a comet. Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have found that an asteroid discovered in 2006 is actually two — and that it sprouts a tail just like a comet. Source