Planetary Resources To Change How We Explore The Cosmos

planetary resources
JD Hancock/Flickr

Planetary Resources is a group of world leaders that are building the ground floor opportunities for a space travel industry. Not long ago, in “One Good Reason Why Space Travel Will Happen In Your Lifetime,” we told of their idea to mine near-Earth asteroids for raw materials, basically making space travel profitable. Now, the forward-thinking team at Planetary Resources has tapped a diverse group of supporters to make access to space widely available for exploration and research.

Planetary Resources already includes Google’s CEO Larry Page, filmmaker James Cameron and others who are known for turning exploration into profit.

Recently added to the roster are Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson, actor Seth Green, Star Trek’s Brent Spiner (Data) and Rob Picardo (The Doctor), Bill Nye the Science Guy, futurist Jason Silva and MIT astrophysicist Dr. Sara Seager.

Coming up on Wednesday, May 29 at 10:00 a.m. PDT in Seattle at the Great Gallery at The Museum of Flight (also streaming live), Planetary Resources’ Peter Diamandis, Eric Anderson and Chris Lewicki, along with vlogger Hank Green, will announce an unprecedented project that proposes to change the way humans explore the cosmos.While exact details are being kept secret for now, the plan is to give students, teachers and the public access to “the most innovative space observation technology ever built,” said Planetary Resources in a Reddit post. Also to be covered at the live event, an offer for the public to directly participate in cutting-edge citizen science and discovery.

Doubtful? Check this video with Chief Asteroid Miner Chris Lewicki. Looks legit to me. What do you think?

Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield Makes First Music Video In Space


It’s official. We Canadians rock. If William Shatner and Bryan Adams aren’t enough for you, there’s Chris Hadfield. He’s an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency and has become hugely popular with his videos about life aboard the International Space Station, answering such profound questions as how to cut your nails in space.

Now Hadfield is coming home. He’s turned over command of the ISS to Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov and will be departing on a Soyuz module, which will land in Kazakhstan today at 10:31 p.m. EDT. As a final sendoff, he’s made the first music video in space, a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” Hadfield isn’t a bad musician, and the video has beautiful visuals of him on the ISS.

Put it on full screen, sit back and enjoy. It’s a great day to be Canadian.

Paying More For Flights? Try $70.6 Million Per Seat

paying more for flightsTravelers have become accustomed to paying more for flights as airline fees soar, tapping them for billions. Between baggage fees, service fees and in-flight fees, it is getting harder to find cheap fares and no one knows that better than NASA.

As the space shuttle program came to an end in 2011, NASA began relying on the Russian Space Agency to ferry astronauts and supplies back and forth from the International Space Station (ISS). But even NASA, OK with paying $65 million per seat, did not see the latest price hike coming. Agreeing to pay $424 million for the flights of six astronauts aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft to service the ISS in 2016 and the first half of 2017, NASA is not happy.

But NASA really has no other choice than to pay the $70.6 million per seat fare as Russia has the market cornered as the only way to get to and from the space station.Yes, several U.S. companies are in the process of taking that business away from Russia, but those efforts are a few years away. SpaceX is making cargo shipments, but not shipping humans yet. Still, according to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, had congress approved NASA’s funding request for commercial space travel, the situation could have been avoided.

“Because the funding for the President’s plan has been significantly reduced, we now won’t be able to support American launches until 2017,” said Bolden in a NASA blog post reported by LaboratoryEquipment.

It’s a tough place to be for NASA. On the other hand, the $100 million they spent to build a home for retired space shuttle Atlantis in Florida could have come in handy right about now. At least we can choose not to check luggage, comparison shop and bring our own meals on board. Astronauts don’t have that option.



[Photo - Flickr user chatarra picks]

Space Travel Takes Giant Branson-Fueled Leap

space travel

Taking another step toward space travel for all, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo lit its engine Monday, breaking the sound barrier high above California’s Mojave Air and Space port with billionaire Richard Branson on hand for the event.

“Today was the most significant day in the program,” Branson told NBC News. “I think that for those people who have been good enough to stick with us for the last eight years, who signed up early on, their time to become astronauts is very soon now … We’ll soon be able to make their dreams come true.”

Branson reportedly has 500 would-be space travelers signed up for the $200,000, two-hour flight that will include six minutes of weightlessness.

Confirming the flight and milestone accomplishment, Branson blogged:

“This is a momentous day and the single most important flight test to date for our Virgin Galactic program. What a feeling to be on the ground with all the team in Mojave to witness Virgin Galactic go faster than the speed of sound. It marks the moment when we put together two key elements of our spaceflight system – the spacecraft and its rocket motor, which have both been tested extensively by themselves over several years – and start the phase of testing that will demonstrate our vehicle’s ability to go to space (hopefully later this year).”

On board the first flight with paying passengers will be Virgin frequent fliers, allowed to trade miles for a ride in space.

Virgin Galactic's First Rocket Powered Flight Breaks The Sound Barrier

[Photo credit -MarsScientific.com and Clay Center Observatory]

One Good Reason Why Space Travel Will Happen In Your Lifetime

space travelThe idea of space travel for all of us has been the stuff of dreams for centuries. Long before we had electricity or telephones, we looked to the stars, hoping to travel there some day. Science fiction writers fueled the fire and instilled in many of us a solid belief that some day we would travel beyond our earthly bounds. In the last half-century we have walked on the moon, built a permanent orbiting space station, shuttled space workers back and forth from Earth and more. Now, the ground floor opportunities for a space travel industry are being built, the foundation is being laid and ideas are being hatched to make a profit out of it.

Bechtel is an engineering, project management and construction company respected around the world. Founded in 1898, Bechtel has worked on over 22,000 projects in 140 countries on all seven continents of the planet. They provide infrastructure, power generation, communications and more with a work force of 53,000 people. In a “there’s no place left to go” sort of way, Bectel looks to the sky.

Planetary Resources is a new group of world leaders committed to expanding the world’s resource base so that humanity can continue to grow and prosper. The group is not comprised of world leaders like presidents, kings and dictators, but people that make things happen like Google’s CEO Larry Page, film maker James Cameron, United States Air Force General T. Michael Moseley (Ret.) and Sara Seager, Ph.D., Professor of Planetary Science and Physics at MIT. To these people, exploring the unknown and making a living off of it is familiar ground.

We first met Planetary Resources in May of last year in the article “Space Travel: Hurry Up, We Have Mining To Do” when Gadling reported Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer, stating, “Our mission is not only to expand the world’s resource base, but we want to increase people’s access to, and understanding of, our planet and solar system by developing capable and cost-efficient systems.”

Now, it appears that the moon, stars and planets have aligned and something is about to happen.

In a move that has an undeniable flavor of entrepreneurship, the start-up mechanism that enables forward-thinking ideas to blossom, Bechtel and Planetary Resources are collaborating to mine near-Earth asteroids for raw materials.To do that, they will have to develop innovative and cost-effective robotic exploration technologies.

“As we pursue our vision to expand the resource base beyond Earth; we’re extremely excited to announce this partnership with Bechtel. They are a world leader in the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) industry,” said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources on the organization’s website.

It’s that “expand the resource base beyond Earth” part that should be of interest to us and shore up dreams of space travel for all some day. Venturing into space has always been an investment in the future at best, more commonly known as a space program that is a government budget item that can and has been cut.

Here, we have respected leaders of today’s world looking to the stars in a way not thought of since the gold rush period of the 1800s. Back then, because of that burning desire for gold, San Francisco grew by leaps and bounds. Roads, churches, schools and railroads were built and along the way agriculture and ranching expanded.

Mining asteroids? Could very well be the profit-centered technology enabler that ends up putting us in space.

If the whole idea sounds a little bit familiar, it might be due to 1998’s Hollywood blockbuster “Armageddon,” which had normally deep-sea oil drillers frantically trying to destroy an asteroid before it collided with Earth and wiped out civilization.

Let’s pause a moment to re-live that historic event via this video:


Armageddon had a budget of $140 million and was in international box-office success, grossing over a half $billion. Also on this hot space travel topic, our friends at Huffington Post tell us “Studies have found that around 7,500 near-Earth asteroids exist, most of which are worth between $1 billion and $25 billion each if their resources were sold on Earth.”

So there you have it: Science Fiction fuels real-world ideas and everybody makes money.

Want to be part of it all? Planetary Resources is enabling us too, promising exclusive behind-the-scenes information by joining their mailing list and a learn more library.

[Photo credit - Flickr user by Gerard Stolk]