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

  • How a blind man plays mainstream video games and the future of accessibility in games

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Nintendo's Switch console came out earlier this month and now the party game 1-2 Switch is gaining a lot of attention for being accessible to blind and visually impaired gamers. "Being able to play that with my friends and not have a disability hinder my playthrough, it was amazing," said Steve Saylor, a blind gamer from Toronto. Source
  • If you're a hungry black hole, try snacking on a star

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Black holes could be seen as the bouncers of the solar system. They hang out and use their brute strength — their mass and energy — to keep all the stars and planets in their galaxy in line. Source
  • Make way, beaver and gray jay: New contest seeks 'Canada's greatest animal'

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Will it be the prowling grey wolf with its haunting moonlight howl? Or maybe the great grey owl with its piercing know-it-all stare? What about the graceful whooping crane with its impressive wingspan? These distinctly Canadian animals, dubbed the “Eh! Team” by the Calgary Zoo, are all in the running to become “Canada’s Greatest Animal” in a new online contest. Source
  • Google unveils Android O with developer preview

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Google has unveiled Android O, the latest iteration of the firm's mobile operating system, with a preview version released for developers. The developers' OS showcases several major changes in store, ahead of the system's official presentation at the Google I/O conference in May. Source
  • Let there be light: German scientists test 'artificial sun'

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BERLIN -- Scientists in Germany flipped the switch Thursday on what's being described as "the world's largest artificial sun" and which they hope will help shed light on new ways of making climate-friendly fuel. The giant honeycomb-like setup of 149 spotlights -- officially known as "Synlight" -- in Juelich, about 30 kilometres west of Cologne, uses xenon short-arc lamps normally found in cinemas to simulate natural sunlight that's often in short supply in Germany at this time of year. Source
  • California races nature, clock to make key dam repairs

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SAN FRANCISCO -- California is not just fighting nature as it attempts to repair the damaged main spillway at the nation's tallest dam, pounded last month by surging storm waters. It's also racing the clock. Source
  • Indonesia survey shows massive coral death from cruise ship

    Tech & Science CTV News
    JAKARTA, Indonesia - Indonesia says nearly 19,000 square metres of coral reef was damaged by a foreign cruise ship that ran aground in the pristine waters of Raja Ampat in West Papua province earlier this month. Source
  • Ground-breaking bat cave discovery gives Alberta researchers baseline in fight against deadly disease

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The recent discovery of a large cave or hibernacula in northern Alberta where hundreds of bats have found hibernating is giving researchers a baseline measurement in the fight against the deadly white-nose syndrome. "Up until now, within the bulk of Alberta, the large hibernacula we have found are in the Rocky Mountains, so it's nice to find that this is the third-largest known hibernacula in the province," Dave Critchley of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bat Caver program told The…
  • Groundbreaking bat cave discovery gives Alberta researchers baseline in fight against deadly disease

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The recent discovery of a large cave or hibernacula in northern Alberta where hundreds of bats have found hibernating is giving researchers a baseline measurement in the fight against the deadly white-nose syndrome. "Up until now, within the bulk of Alberta, the large hibernacula we have found are in the Rocky Mountains, so it's nice to find that this is the third-largest known hibernacula in the province," Dave Critchley of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bat Caver program told The…
  • New wintertime low for Arctic sea ice: scientists

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The extent of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean has set a new record low for the wintertime in a region strongly affected by long-term trends of global warming, U.S. and European scientists said on Wednesday. Source