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

  • Company founded by Google accuses Uber of stealing self-driving secrets

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SAN FRANCISCO -- A self-driving car company founded by Google is colliding with ride-haling service Uber in a court battle revolving around allegations of betrayal, high-tech espionage and greed. The brewing showdown emerged late Thursday in a lawsuit filed in a San Francisco federal court by Waymo, a once-secretive self-driving company hatched by Google eight years ago. Source
  • Scat secrets: Edmonton study explores role of predator poop in spreading plant seeds

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Some of the world's most ferocious predators — natural-born killers such as cougars and bears — are sort of gardeners in disguise, according to a new study from the University of Alberta. The secret is in the scat. Source
  • Study: Global warming is shrinking river vital to 40M people

    Tech & Science CTV News
    DENVER -- Global warming is already shrinking the Colorado River, the most important waterway in the American Southwest, and it could reduce the flow by more than a third by the end of the century, two scientists say. Source
  • Large iceberg poised to break off Antarctic ice shelf

    Tech & Science CBC News
    An iceberg that's 80 kilometres long is poised to break off Antarctica. Scientists say the rift has slowly been developing across the Antarctic Peninsula's Larsen C ice shelf for years, but it grew by 18 kilometres in December and now has only 20 kilometres left before it snaps off. Source
  • Climate change doubles size of lakes in N.W.T. bison sanctuary, reducing habitat

    Tech & Science CBC News
    New research suggests that climate change has mysteriously caused lakes near Fort Providence, N.W.T., to nearly double in size, forcing a herd of at-risk bison to stray from their preferred habitat. Lakes in the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary off the northwest shore of Great Slave Lake are now bigger than any time in at least the last 200 years, said Josh Thienpont, a University of Ottawa scientist and a lead author on the paper, published Thursday in the journal Nature. Source
  • 'Doomsday' seed vault receives 50,000 new samples

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Nearly 10 years after a "doomsday" seed vault opened on an Arctic island, some 50,000 new samples from seed collections around the world have been deposited in the world's largest repository built to safeguard against wars or natural disasters wiping out global food crops. Source
  • Will astronomers ever be able to confirm life exists on other planets?

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Scientists continue to seek signs of life outside our solar system, but how will they know when they find it? Astronomers announced Wednesday they had found seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a star 39 light-years away. Three of the planets lie within the "habitable zone," a theoretical range in which liquid water could exist. Source
  • Celebrity gamer dies during 24-hour live-stream of 'World of Tanks' play on Twitch

    Tech & Science Toronto Sun
    Twenty-two hours into a 24-hour-long marathon video game session, Twitch streamer Brian Vigneault, 35, got up to take a smoke break. He never returned to his computer. His fans, mainly fellow gamers who watched Vigneault play the online skirmisher World of Tanks, wondered if Vigneault had fallen asleep. Source
  • Lawmakers renew push for drilling in Alaska wildlife refuge

    Tech & Science CTV News
    ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Former U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski in 2001 gave a speech urging colleagues to approve oil drilling in America's largest wildlife refuge. The Alaska Republican held up a blank sheet of paper to illustrate his point. Source
  • Even if scientists could make woolly mammoths de-extinct, should they?

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Bringing extinct animals back to life was once considered something that would only happen in movies like Jurassic Park, but with new technology, some say it's could happen within the next 20 years. Recently, social media became flooded with stories about geneticist George Church who said he may be able to create a woolly mammoth embryo in two years. Source