To Ed Lu, the threat from killer asteroids is evident.
It’s like I told you Tuesday: Worst-case scenario, a large rock traveling at high speeds could wipe out most of the life on our planet. That remains a remote chance. But this fact is clear: Even a small space rock could cause widespread damage. It could kill thousands, or perhaps millions, if it were to strike a heavily populated urban area.
That’s why Lu figured the world’s governments would have to come together to protect Earth.
Then again, he is a former NASA astronaut. So he’s used to seeing government agencies invest billions in space missions of all kinds.
In 2001, Ed Lu and several colleagues formed the B612 Foundation. The non-profit is dedicated to protecting the Earth from asteroids and helping to spur interest in mapping the most threatening of these killer space rocks. The goal is to locate most of the ones that could devastate the human race and make plans to deflect them off course.
Given that the technology to do so already exists, it sounded like a no-brainer that the world’s political leaders to climb on board.
But over time, it became clear that budget-strapped governments had no stomach for the huge project. That left him two choices – quit the field outright…
In May, I wrote to tell you about a team of experts that has launched a new company to mine precious metals from asteroids near Earth. Planetary Resources plans to extract ore and other resources from orbiting space rocks.
Not long ago, of course, this was the stuff of sci-fi.
It smacks of the 1998 movie Armageddon, in which a team of roughnecks lands on an asteroid on a collision course with Earth in order to blow it out of the sky.
As it turns out, there is a real-life asteroid hunter who is doing something even more exciting.
Dr. Ed Lu is a former NASA astronaut and veteran of three space flights, and he has just announced a new mission – find the asteroids that pose a threat to our planet and eradicate them. His work is more vital than you might think.
You see, near-Earth asteroids are a double-edged sword.
No doubt, thousands of them contain valuable metals and other physical assets that will open up a whole new paradigm of resource discovery and make some savvy investors rich.
On the other hand…
We’re surrounded by a belt of them that could strike Earth. Under the worst-case scenario, a large rock traveling at high speeds could wipe out most of the life on our planet. That remains a remote chance. But this fact is clear: Even a small space rock could cause widespread damage. It could kill thousands, or perhaps millions, if it were to strike a heavily populated urban area.
Asteroid mining hasn’t even gotten off the ground yet.
But it’s already drawing some bad – and very misguided – press.
I wrote to you last month to tell you about a new startup that wants to mine asteroids for resources that could be worth trillions. Indeed, as I said, just one of these rocks the size of an art museum could be worth $100 billion. (See “‘Mining the Sky’ for an Abundant Future.”)
I also told you to keep an eye on Planetary Resources and its breakthrough high-tech system as a possible future investment. Not only does the new firm have the backing of several billionaires, it also has the support of the U.S. government.
And let’s not forget our friends across the pond…
This month, the European Space Agency will begin training a team to land on one of these giant space rocks and return with samples for researchers to study. They want to tap asteroids for metals and minerals, too.
Clearly, some very bright leaders all over the world believe “mining the sky” will be a key part of our future.
That’s why I still believe the question isn’t if we will mine asteroids, but when.
But in a story last Tuesday, none other than TheWall Street Journal tried to cast doubt on the whole concept.
The central part of the report is that Earth has more resources than we can dig up in decades.
As a long-time Journal reader, I have to say I was surprised the writer was so naive. The article focused on only one aspect of space mining – that Earth is running out of resources like gold, silver, and platinum. As I see it, the Journal was bending over backwards to support the current, terrestrial mining industry.
Commercial space travel was long confined to the realm of science fiction.
But no more.
With SpaceX’s successful rocket launch on May 22, commercial space travel is now a concrete, viable reality… and one that will yield lots of investment opportunities in the very near future.
After a three-day delay, the well-funded startup’s private space ship – a gumdrop-shaped capsule called Dragon – rocketed into outer space. It then docked with the International Space Station on the very first try. SpaceX made history. It was the first time a private firm has flown such a mission.
A few minutes before dawn tomorrow, Saturday, May 19, we’re set to cross what could be a major space-related milestone.
Tomorrow morning, an intriguing little startup firm called SpaceX is scheduled to launch one of its Falcon 9 rockets from Cape Canaveral, Fl., to dock its Dragon spacecraft with the International Space Station.
Make no mistake about it – this could mark a turning point for the U.S.
NASA ended the shuttle program last year. That leaves the U.S. hitching rides to the Space Station from our “good friends” the Russians. That’s not good for national security, much less for innovation and exploration.
We’ve already talked about the “New Space Race” – part of that being the asteroid mining initiative that private company Planetary Resources is embarking upon.
When it comes to space transportation, thankfully, SpaceX plans to pick up where cash-strapped NASA left off. Tomorrow’s launch could eventually have a value of at least $1.6 billion – that’s the total price tag for a contract NASA gave to SpaceX for 12 Space Station flights.
Many people think the United States has turned its back on the Space Race.
And it certainly looks like our leaders have thrown in the towel…
Two years ago the Obama administration cancelled plans for another manned moon shot. The thinking goes, it’s not prudent to work on extraterrestrial exploration when we’ve got so many problems right here at home.
Just two weeks ago, the very symbol of our commitment to explore the heavens flew for the last time. I’m sure I’m not the only person who felt sad watching the Space Shuttle Discovery take its last “flight” by piggy-backing on top of a Boeing 747.
Now, with history’s most-flown spacecraft mothballed in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, that’s the end of the story, right?