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Planetary Resources has a plan to mine asteroids

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The tech world is abuzz with news of a new venture that’s earned the backing of high-profile names such as Google Chief Executive Larry Page, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, director James Cameron and Ross Perot Jr., according to a report from Wired.

The new company, Planetary Resources Inc., is dedicated to mining asteroids for precious metals and sending what they find back to Earth. The company is the brainchild of co-founders Eric Anderson, who also founded the space tourism company Space Adventures, and Peter Diamandis, the man behind the X Prize foundation.

Diamandis has talked about asteroid mining in the past, most notably in a TED talk in 2005.

“The Earth is a crumb in a supermarket full of resources,” Diamandis told an audience at Oxford University at the time. He said that the government is “unable to take the risks required to open up this precious frontier” and that entrepreneurs are the ones with the resources and willingness to lead the drive into space.

Other partners in the venture include former NASA Mars mission manager Chris Lewicki and planetary scientist and veteran NASA astronaut Tom Jones, according to a release obtained by MIT’s Technology Review.

The Wired report says that the two men are most interested in minerals from the platinum group of metals: platinum, palladium, osmium and iridium, which are important for the production of medical devices and renewable energy technology.

The company is announcing more about its plans at 1 p.m. Eastern; the Associated Press reports that Planetary Resources is expecting to launch its first series of private telescopes to begin looking for the best targets for mining.

So what do scientists think about the project?

The Mercury News gathered its share of skeptics, including Purdue University planetary geologist Jay Melosh, who said that the venture simply isn’t cost-effective.

Physicist Michio Kaku told ABC News that he believes that Planetary Resources has the right combination of crazy and genius to pull off the venture, as well as the ability to bankroll it.

The bottom line, he told the news organization, is that Diamandis and Anderson “are rich.”

Space exploration and travel have been a pet topic of interest for tech moguls, including Elon Musk — the founder of PayPal — whose private spaceship was recently cleared for launch to the International Space Station. Musk’s craft was set to launch next Monday but the flight has been moved back, the Daily Mail reported. The craft is likely to launch about May 7, the report said.

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VentureBeat: Planetary Resources mission will be tough-going, but rewards could be astronomical

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