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Drinking from celestial watersToday, Planetary Resources announced it will be launching a project that seeks to send swarms of robots to mine asteroids for valuable natural resources. Focusing initially on water-rich asteroids, the prospecting explorers say if successful, their missions will enable more complex, large-scale exploration of the Solar System, including advanced planetary colonization.
In space, access to water and other life-supporting volatiles available on asteroids can provide necessities of life including hydration, breathable air, radiation shielding, and even manufacturing capabilities.
Incorporating recent modern innovations in commercial microelectronics, medical devices, and information technology in ways not traditionally used by robotic spacecraft, Planetary Resources says they will create robotic explorers that cost an order of magnitude less than current systems, using a swarm of relatively simple worker 'bots instead of one expensive space vehicle.
Using the best practices of commercial aerospace innovation, operational adaptability, and rapid manufacturing, they say these robotic explorers will be cheap and redundant, allowing they team to take greater risks without jeopardizing the entire mission.
Leo the space telescopeLeo is the space telescope that Planetary Resources will use as a stepping-stone to near-Earth asteroids. The low Earth orbit telescope, the Arkyd 100 series is Planetary Resources' scout vehicle.
Scheduled to be put into low-Earth orbit by the end of next year the craft will use optical spectroscopy to determine asteroid composition and assess whether it is a potential target for asteroid prospecting.
Critical to the success of their program, Planetary Resources says, is the development of tools including collaborative exploration, deep space optical communications, and efficient micro-propulsion.