Asteroid mining company Planetary Resources is expanding its horizons by focusing on a celestial body we all know rather well — Earth.
The Redmond, Washington-based firm said Thursday it has received a $21.1 million investment to deploy and operate Ceres, an advanced Earth observation business that features the first commercial infrared and hyperspectral sensor platform to better understand and manage humanity’s natural resources.
From now on, Earth observation will be another aspect of Planetary Resources’ operations, the company said in a statement.
Conceived from the company’s vision for the exploration and utilization of asteroid resources, Ceres will leverage Planetary Resources’ Arkyd spacecraft to deliver affordable, on-demand intelligence of natural resources available on any spot on the planet.
“While typical satellite imagery provides only a picture, Ceres will provide actionable data with higher spectral resolutions – going beyond what the human eye can see – by measuring thermographic properties and detecting the composition of materials on Earth’s surface,” it said in the statement.
Planetary Resources also announced it would be shutting down what was once a wildly popular Kickstarter project, which would have enabled backers to take “space selfie” pictures with the company’s space telescopes.
Chris Lewicki, Planetary Resources’ President and Chief Engineer, said all 17,614 backers would be offered full refunds.
Many consider asteroid mining a first and key step to the eventual colonization of outer space, something like California’s Gold Rush, but out of this planet.
Nearly 9,000 asteroids larger than 36 meters (150 feet) in diameter orbit near Earth. Geologists believe they are packed with iron ore, nickel and precious metals at much higher concentrations than those found on Earth, making up a market valued in the trillions of dollars.
Asteroids are also a prime source for water in space, essential for interplanetary outpost.
Watch the announcement below: