Planetary Resources Inc. Planning on Mining an Asteroid

One 300-500 meter asteroid has enough resources to make it financially feasible to mine for ore and water

Space news ( September 02, 2015) – Finding and moving an asteroid of this size with the right composition safely to the right location for mining is the difficult part 

Here is an illustration that shows the three typical orbit patterns of near-Earth asteroids. You can see that the Aten, Amor and Apollo orbits come very close to, and sometimes intersect, with the Earth’s orbit. When this occurs we observe them and can even rendezvous with them with our Arkyd spacecraft. Credit: Planetary Resources, Inc.
Here is an illustration that shows the three typical orbit patterns of near-Earth asteroids. You can see that the Aten, Amor and Apollo orbits come very close to, and sometimes intersect, with the Earth’s orbit. When this occurs we observe them and can even rendezvous with them with our Arkyd spacecraft. Credit: Planetary Resources, Inc.

Planetary Resources Inc. is currently doing a survey of potential asteroids with the right composition close enough to make mining safely feasible. Potential asteroids are all closer to Earth than Main Belt asteroids, which are much more difficult to reach and mine for ore and water. Mining a Main Belt asteroid is a project for the future and one better done from a location closer to the target area.

1999 JU3 is on Planetary Resources Target list. It is a known carbonaceous asteroid that is predicted to be worth trillions. Image Credit: Planetary Resources, Inc. http://www.planetaryresources.com/asteroids/#asteroids-targets
1999 JU3 is on Planetary Resources Target list. It is a known carbonaceous asteroid that is predicted to be worth trillions. Image Credit: Planetary Resources, Inc. http://www.planetaryresources.com/asteroids/#asteroids-targets

At this point, Planetary Resources is gathering together the data collected by scientists during the last two decades on over 11,000 potential asteroids, along with nearly a million possible targets located in the Main Belt. Using this data they have developed a list of potential asteroids they’re currently following and evaluating for further prospecting. 

Prospecting potential asteroids using specifically designed spacecraft

In Planetary Resources factory in Redmond, WA engineers and scientists are developing advanced spacecraft capable of traveling to and prospecting potential asteroids. Called Arkyd rendezvous prospectors, these low-cost spacecraft are equipped with hyperspectral and infrared sensors, which will allow scientists to gather data on the composition of potential asteroids. They’ll also analyze data collected and send it back to Earth to be evaluated by geologists for mining feasibility.

Planetary Resources engineers are currently testing this space prospecting technology in low-Earth orbit. The Arkyd 3R deployed from the International Space Station during July. Engineers and scientists are presently testing systems and technologies designed for use in future Arkyd spacecraft.

Arkyd 6 launching in 2015
Arkyd 6 launching in 2015

Work continues

Later in 2015, Planetary Resources is planning on launching Arkyd 6 (A6), a slightly larger and more robust spacecraft carrying an infrared imaging sensor geologists want to use to look at asteroids for water and water-bearing minerals. The data they collect using their Arkyd 3R and A6 spacecraft will be used to define a mission profile for the feasible mining of a potential asteroid in the near future.

For more information on Planetary Resources and plans to mine an asteroid visit here.

For more information on asteroids go here.

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NASA’s Asteroid Hunting Contest

Develop improved algorithms to help NASA identify problem asteroids

NASA wants to find all the problem asteroids near Earth
Asteroids travelling past Earth regularly could become a problem

Astronomy News – NASA and Planetary Resources Inc. just put out the call for amateur and professional astronomers to help develop or improve algorithms used to identify asteroids in images from ground-based telescopes. The winning solution must increase detection sensitivity, minimize the number of false positives, ignore imperfections in the data and run on all current computer systems. This is the chance for you to make a name for yourself and possibly part of the $35,000 in awards being handed out to the successful party. The winners could find their names in the history books as contributors to the job of helping keep the Earth safe from asteroids. You could also be part of the group coming up with new ideas to help protect the planet from the asteroids they discover.

Earth-based telescopes used to find problem asteroids coming near Earth need to be improved
Amateur and professional scientists are being challenged to improve current techniques used to find problem asteroids travelling near Earth

Called the Asteroid Hunting contest series, the first contest will start on March 17, 2014.  Amateur and professional astronomers can sign up for the event by creating an account on the contest website here. They can also check out the contest rules and different parts of the contest they can take part in.

The Asteroid Hunting contest series is managed by the NASA Tournament Lab and is the first part of the agency’s Asteroid Grand Challenge. The entire Asteroid Grand Challenge contest is scheduled to take until the end of August to complete.

“For the past three years, NASA has been learning and advancing the ability to leverage distributed algorithm and coding skills through the NASA Tournament Lab to solve tough problems,” said Jason Crusan, NASA Tournament Lab director. “We are now applying our experience with algorithm contests to helping protect the planet from asteroid threats through image analysis.”

“Protecting the planet from the threat of asteroid impact means first knowing where they are,” said Jenn Gustetic, Prizes and Challenges Program executive. “By opening up the search for asteroids, we are harnessing the potential of innovators and makers and citizen scientists everywhere to help solve this global challenge.”

“Current asteroid detection initiatives are only tracking one percent of the estimated objects that orbit the Sun. We are excited to partner with NASA in this contest to help increase the quantity and knowledge about asteroids that are potential threats, human destinations, or resource rich.” said Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer of the asteroid mining company Planetary Resources, Inc. “Applying distributed algorithm and coding skills to the extensive NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey data set will yield important insights into the state of the art in detecting asteroids.”

NASA’s asteroid initiative is managed by the Center for Excellence for Collaboration Innovation (CoECI) and was formed at the request of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. For more information on the agency visit http://www.nasa.gov/coeci.

For more information on Planetary Resources Inc. visit http://www.planetaryresources.com.

For more information on NASA’s asteroid initiative visit http://www.nasa.gov/asteroidinitiative

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All images and diagrams were provided by NASA.