Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, has signed a Space Act Agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to design and implement crowdsourcing algorithm challenges in the effort to detect, track and characterize near-Earth objects (NEOs). All data compiled and used for these challenges will be open-sourced and publicly available.
Under the non-reimbursable agreement, Planetary Resources will guide the development of challenges, facilitate the online availability of NASA-funded sky survey data sets, and help support the competition and review results. NASA will develop and manage the contests, and explore use of the best solutions for enhancement of existing NASA-funded survey programs. The program will build upon the dataset produced by ‘Asteroid Zoo’, a partnership with the Zooniverse collaboration and Adler Planetarium to engage citizen scientists.
The primary business of Planetary Resources is to prospect and mine asteroids with high concentrations of water and precious metals, and this economically driven activity will not only help identify prospective targets but also aid in learning more about our Solar System and protecting Earth from hazardous asteroids. “Our mission is to mine asteroids for precious resources, but we uniquely understand the crowd’s interest to be actively involved in space exploration. And, we are always seeking new and innovative ways to increase our knowledge of NEOs, especially those that may be potentially hazardous,” said Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer, Planetary Resources, Inc.
Lindley Johnson, Program Executive of NASA’s near Earth object observation program, said, “This partnership uses NASA resources in innovative ways and takes advantage of public expertise to improve identification of potential threats to our planet. This opportunity is one of many efforts we’re undertaking as part of our asteroid initiative.”
Today, there are approximately 620,000 asteroids that are tracked in our Solar System. This number represents less than one percent of the estimated objects that orbit the Sun. “While improving the algorithms to detect NEOs helps gain more data, additional surveys, telescopes and capability put to the search will also assist in completing the task of compiling a comprehensive open-sourced catalog,” continued Lewicki.
With the understanding of the importance of public involvement, Planetary Resources recently completed a successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for the ARKYD – the world’s first crowdfunded space telescope. The company exceeded its original US$1 million goal and raised a total of $1,505,367 with more than 18,000 people from around the globe pledging their support for ARKYD. Over 17,000 people requested their very own #SpaceSelfie, another 2,100 donated time on the ARKYD to education and many others are looking to gain access to the ARKYD to explore the cosmos on their own!
Planetary Resources, Inc. was founded in 2009 by Eric Anderson and Dr. Peter H. Diamandis. Our vision is to establish a new paradigm for resource utilization that will bring the Solar System within humanity’s economic sphere of influence. The company will conduct low-cost robotic space exploration beginning with the Arkyd Series of space missions that will identify the most commercially viable near-Earth asteroids. These initial missions will assist the company in enabling the retrieval of raw materials from these select asteroids, including water, precious metals and more.
Planetary Resources is financed by industry-launching visionaries, three of whom include Google’s CEO Larry Page and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt; and Ross Perot, Jr., Chairman of Hillwood and The Perot Group; who are committed to expanding the world’s resource base so humanity can continue to grow and prosper for centuries to come. Some of the company’s partners and advisors include the Bechtel Corporation; film maker and explorer James Cameron; former Chief of Staff, United States Air Force General T. Michael Moseley (Ret.); and Sara Seager, Ph.D., Professor of Planetary Science and Physics at MIT. Members of the company’s technical staff have worked on every recent U.S. Mars lander including Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity, and include other key non-aerospace and safety-critical disciplines