The world is not enough for Google bosses

Not content with the domination of cyberspace, Google's billionaire founders have set their sights on outer space – and the mining of natural resources from asteroids

Having created one of the titans of cyberspace, which helps to run the lives of billions, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt may well regard themselves as masters of planet Earth. Google's mega-rich founders have built a global empire worth over £120bn by channelling unimaginable volumes of information to our cherished laptops, smartphones and tablets.

But it seems that, for Page and Schmidt, the world is no longer enough. The pair are now staking a claim for galactic domination by backing a plan to mine asteroids. Google's chief executive and executive chairman are named as key players in Planetary Resources Inc, which appears set to go boldly where no magnate has gone before.

The exact nature of the business will be revealed on Tuesday, but it appears Page and Schmidt are aiming high. "The company will overlay two critical sectors – space exploration and natural resources – to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP," Planetary Resources said in a press release. "This innovative start-up will create a new industry and a new definition of 'natural resources'."

Others investing in the new business include Avatar director James Cameron; Ross Perot Jr, son of the former presidential candidate; and billionaire Microsoft alumnus Charles Simonyi, who has already made two trips to the International Space Station. The announcement comes just as scientists are embracing the idea of mining "near-Earth asteroids".

Earlier this month, a study by Nasa concluded that, for a cost of £1.6bn, robotic spacecraft could capture a 500-ton asteroid seven metres in diameter and bring it into orbit around the Moon to be explored and mined. The spacecraft would have a flight time of six to 10 years, and humans would be able to carry out the task by around 2025.

President Barack Obama has already talked of sending a manned mission to an asteroid by the same year, while Nasa is working on an unmanned mission, called Osiris-Rex, that would launch in 2016 and land on an asteroid, bringing a small chunk of it back to Earth by 2023.

The costs would be as eye-watering as a Martian atmosphere, but the potential rewards are vast. Large amounts of water, oxygen and metals could be extracted to help further space exploration by allowing humans to build space stations and fuel spacecraft. The resources could also be brought back to Earth to bolster diminishing reserves. And with the likes of the Google bosses on board, the project would appear to have plenty of financial support. Schmidt was awarded a compensation package worth £62m last year for shifting from CEO to executive chairman.

Planetary Resources was co-founded by Eric Anderson, a former Nasa Mars-mission manager, and Peter Diamandis, the commercial space entrepreneur behind the X-Prize competition,which offered £6m to a group that launched a reusable manned spacecraft.

The venture will be the latest foray into the far-flung for Cameron, who last month dived in a mini-submarine to the deepest spot in the Mariana Trench. It also has echoes of his 2009 science fiction blockbuster Avatar, which concerned mining on alien planets.

Planetary Resources will be the second billionaire-backed private space company to be announced within the past six months. In December, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen unveiled his new firm, Stratolaunch Systems, which plans to build the world's largest aircraft and use it as an air-based launch pad to send people into orbit.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Account Manager

£30 - 38k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a digitally focussed Account Man...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP / MySQL / HTML / CSS

£23000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this digital ...

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Cashier

£16500 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity exists ...

Day In a Page

A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935