Broadcast live today: How James Cameron's company will mine asteroids

Google's billionaire co-founders Larry Page and Eric Schmidt and filmmaker James Cameron will officially announce today plans to mine asteroids. The company's presentation will be broadcast live today at 1:30 p.m. ET.

The group has created Planetary Resources, based in Bellevue, Washington, which will focus on developing and selling extremely low-cost robotic spacecraft for surveying missions in a first stage.

The company, founded about three years ago, but operating behind the scenes until now, is overseen by former NASA Mars mission manager Chris Lewicki.

Planetary Resources, which employs about 20 people, has caused a stir since it issued a cryptic statement last week daringly stating it could "ensure humanity's prosperity.”

According to the company’s press release, “. . . the company will overlay two critical sectors – space exploration and natural resources – to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP. This innovative start-up will create a new industry and a new definition of ‘natural resources.’”

What's out there to mine?

Asteroids are rich in valuable minerals. An M-type asteroid, the third most common type, just one km diameter could contain more than two billion tons of iron ore and nickel.

Google co-founders have been known to take on big, outside-of-the-norm projects. The company is testing driverless cars. Google’s founders have also invested in space tourism projects and the company has been sponsoring a Moon-related prize, the Lunar X-prize. This US$30 million competition aims to find privately funded teams to launch and operate a rover on the moon.

In February this year, a group of international experts met in Quebec, Canada to evaluate the feasibility of mining on the moon.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Agency (NASA), has been encouraging research to determine the mineral value of near-earth asteroids, particularly the moon. In 2009, as Mining.com reported, NASA inaugurated the first lunar mining competition in the hope that a future robotic mining operation on the moon could yield the energy needed to power earth’s major cities and give the space agency a boost in the quest for major human exploration of planetary space.

Planetary Resources will hold a press conference at The Museum of Flight in Seattle, U.S., this afternoon to unveil the first step of its long-term plan: a low-cost robotic spacecraft designed for surveying missions.

You can watch the announcement live, scheduled at 1:30 pm ET here:

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