VIDEO: Prospecting in space is just a few short years away, according to Planetary Resources

Planetary Resources has an idea that's out of this world: Instead of limiting ourselves to the resources of one planet, why not see what the rest of the universe has to offer?

Asteroid mining could become reality sooner than we think. Billionaire-backed Planetary Resources is launching technology demonstration missions this summer to showcase the asteroid-prospecting spacecraft they've developed.

They say that within three years they'll be launching their first customer-financed mission to explore targets for resource extraction.

The company has attracted some high profile investors, most notably Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt.

There are, of course, some major obstacles. Mining is often a multi-billion-dollar investment on earth. In space the costs are astronomical.

There's also the issue of figuring out how much ore individual asteroids are carrying. A recent set of studies from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics highlighted just how little we know about the composition of space rocks.

MINING.com recently spoke with Planetary Resources' Chief Engineer Chris Lewicki. Here's what he had to say about how his company will tackle these issues.