LONDON – Space mining, extracting resources from near-earth asteroids, is “not science fiction any more”. With these words, spoken by Jean-Jacques Dordain, the former director general of the European Space Agency, Luxembourg announced its entry into the space-mining race.
Dordain was appearing alongside Etienne Schneider, Luxembourg’s economy minister, as he unveiled the country’s bid to be a pioneer in a whole new resources sector, one with quite literally infinite potential. [nL8N15I2WV]
That the small Duchy of Luxembourg should be challenging the current dominant player in space exploration, the U.S., might initially appear surprising.
But in truth it is only building on its historical role in pioneering satellite technology. In 1985 it sponsored SES, which is now the world’s largest commercial satellite operator.
And while asteroid mining really does sound like science fiction, much of the groundwork has already been laid.
Private operators such as Planetary Resources Inc. (PRI) and Deep Space Industries are getting in on the action, chasing the promise by U.S. astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson that, “the first trillionaire, in the world, is going to be the person who first mines asteroids”. (Interview at the 2014 South-by-Southwest festival).
PRI is, ambitiously maybe, aiming to be commissioning mines within five years. (“Courage or Capital; the final obstacles for sustainable asteroid mining” – Accenture)
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