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?

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]

The Titanic Chronicles: 100 Years Ago Today

TitanicThe story of RMS Titanic, immortalized by the 1997 James Cameron film of the same name, is a lasting one. Bringing the story to theaters in a blockbuster hit, enhanced and re-released this month, gave the story life long after so many had died at sea. Now, footage of recent maritime events, including the grounding of Costa Concordia and fires aboard other ships, brought home a realism no film could match. Still, the fate of Titanic still holds as the worst maritime disaster ever, one that occurred on this day, 100 years ago.

11:40 p.m. on April 15, 1912 was a Sunday and the maiden voyage of RMS Titanic was well underway. Earlier in the day, radio messages received warned of icebergs in the ship’s path but were ignored. That night, a lookout cried “Iceberg, right ahead!” but the ship could not avoid a collision. That iceberg ran down the right side of the ship causing fatal damage to what was believed to be an unsinkable vessel.

Just after Midnight, the ship’s captain ordered lifeboats into the water in what had to be his most difficult decision ever.

Still today, the Captain is referred to as the Master of the Vessel. Still today, he or she has a great many lives to be responsible for. In January, it was Captain Francisco Schettino who gave the abandon ship order for Costa Concordia.

In April of 1912, it was Captain Edward J. Smith as the master of Titanic who was fully aware of the iceberg warnings that had been received via radio days before the tragedy. To insure safety, even back then, Smith charted a new course, slightly south of the original plan, to avoid icebergs.But radio was a new thing then and the focus was on relaying messages sent to and from the ship by passengers or those on land. Earlier in the day of that fateful night in 1912 – 100 years ago today – Titanic had received a message from the steamer Amerika warning of icebergs directly in the path of the ship. Later, another message of iceberg danger was received too. Both went unheeded as radio operators worked to send and receive more important passenger messages.

Today’s cruise ship Captains regularly alter courses too, commonly in response to changing weather conditions. When a crime occurs involving passengers or the crew, the captain, as master of the vessel, is responsible for those people as well and works closely with the US Coast Guard, US Customs and Border Patrol and other agencies to insure a swift and just resolution.

Not long ago, evidence indicated that Captain Francisco Schettino altered the course of Costa Concordia, coming too close to shore and causing the tragedy that followed. The event caused cruise industry leaders to reaffirm their commitment to safety.

Officers and crew members from Royal Caribbean, along with sister-brands Celebrity and Azamara Cruises, now have the advantage of being a part of new simulator training center at Resolve Maritime Academy in Fort Lauderdale. Signaling a renewed focus on safety, staff of the $6.5 million facility cut the grand opening ribbon recently as part of an ongoing safety program but timing surely looked to address current concerns of the cruising public.

“This was not a knee-jerk reaction to recent events,” Captain William Wright, senior vice president of marine operations for Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises said of the two year process to get the facility to opening day.

Still, while simulations can take into account a variety of factors that can go wrong, staff members at the Resolve training facility quickly note that it is the human element that can often make the difference in avoiding disaster at sea.



Fiction: The Titanic being raised out of the Atlantic.

[Flickr photo by mecookie]

‘Titanic’ Back At Box Office, Enhanced For Your Tragedy-Viewing Pleasure

Titanic modelApril 15, 2012 marks the 100-year anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic, the supposedly unsinkable ocean liner. Today, “Titanic” the movie by James Cameron, is re-released and enhanced for 3D, Real D and iMax, all to make the memorable scenes more vividly spectacular.

“The story of the Titanic endures because it is the soaring story of courage and cowardice,” says an article in today’s Washington Times. “It is the story of the men and women that managed to endure, the selfless officers and crew, and the band of musicians who played almost to the end.”

After recent additions to maritime history including the near-disaster grounding of Costa Concordia, a tragedy in its own right, the re-release of Cameron’s masterpiece is timely and more relevant today than when it was when first released in 1997.

“Titanic’s story carries the sad realization of a number of ‘ifs’ to be endlessly debated,” continues the article. “If only she had had more lifeboats; if Captain Smith and J. Bruce Ismay, Managing Director of the White Star Line, had not pushed the engines to their utmost capacity; if their corporate arrogance hadn’t forced the speed to break some existing record.”

“If only she had collided with the iceberg head-on, there would have been a chance for more survivors, but the side cut made it a tragically different story.”

Bringing home the message of Titanic, it was a side cut in Costa Concordia flooding one too many of that ship’s water-tight compartments that sealed its fate too.

Here we have original footage of Titanic of 1912 before its departure to its final journey.



[Flickr photo via Artshooter]

James Cameron completes solo dive of the Mariana Trench

James Cameron completes dive of the Mariana TrenchA couple of weeks ago we told you about James Cameron’s plans to dive the Mariana Trench, a massive canyon in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that marks the deepest point on our planet. This past weekend Cameron saw those plans come to fruition when he crawled inside his specially built submersible – dubbed the DeepSea Challenger – and piloted the vehicle nearly seven miles beneath the surface. Once there, he not only set a record for the deepest solo dive in history, but he also became the first person to catch a real glimpse of the murkiest depths of the ocean floor.

Cameron’s journey began with a two-and-a-half hour descent into the Challenger Deep, a cold, sunless abyss that has only been visited by man on one previous occasion. His original plan was to spend six hours exploring those depths but several malfunctions to the sub caused him to cut short his visit. First a mechanical arm designed to collect samples from the ocean floor refused to work and later, the starboard thrusters on the vehicle failed as well. With those engines out, Cameron couldn’t maneuver properly, which prompted him to return to the surface about three hours ahead of schedule. His ascent took approximately 70 minutes to complete.

The bottom of the Mariana Trench was previously only visited by ocean explorers Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard back in 1960. When they made that historic dive over 52 years ago they didn’t have the sophisticated equipment that Cameron carried with him on his expedition. In fact, Walsh and Piccard didn’t even have lights that could penetrate those depths and as a result, Cameron is the first person to actually see the bottom of the trench with any clarity. He described that place as desolate and isolated, and even compared it to the surface of the moon. He also says that he found only very small organisms living at those incredible depths.

Even while wearing his explorer’s cap Cameron can’t get away from his filmmaking roots. The entire voyage was filmed in high definition 3D and the footage will be used in an upcoming documentary on sea exploration. The director expects to collect more video for the film on future dives as well, and has already indicated that a second dive could take place in a matter of days or weeks. I, for one, can’t wait to see what they have to show us.

Find out more about expedition at DeepSeaChallenge.com.

[Photo credit: Mark Thiessen, National Geographic]


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