Feb 02 2013
Last week Deep Space Industries of McLean, VA publicly announced their mission, as a new space company formed only six months earlier, to commercially develop the resources of space. They’re reminiscent of another new company, Planetary Resources of Seattle, that promised last April to also seek its fortune in the stars.
DSI believes it’s time “to begin harvesting the resources of space — including asteroids, sunlight, low gravity — both for their use in space and to increase the wealth and prosperity of the people of Earth.”
In August, 2008 I suggested that based on the last 200 years of macroeconomic trends and the history of exploration and technology development, that a “gold rush” into space was likely to emerge by 2015 as part of a 1960s-style transformative decade called a Maslow Window.
For example, it’s not a coincidence that about 45-50 years after Lewis and Clark drew international attention to the American northwest, the California Gold Rush became symbolic of its commercial potential. Likewise, it’s no surprise that a “gold rush” into space — symbolized now by Planetary Resources and DSI — will materialize 45-50 years after the Apollo Moon program initially introduced the international community to the resources and commercial potential of space.
All four of these seemingly unrelated seminal events were/are fundamentally driven by twice-per-century JFK-style booms apparently triggered by self-organized “critical states” in the international economic system, known as Maslow Windows. The most recent one featured the Apollo program and the next transformative 1960s-style decade is expected by mid-decade.
Importantly, both asteroid mining companies expect to be operating during the approaching Maslow Window (~2015 to 2025). For example, DSI’s public business plan features initial asteroid explorations using it’s off-the-shelf, cubesat-based systems (“Fireflies”) by 2015, while larger “Dragonflies” will do asteroid sample-returns in 2016.
They also speak of supporting Solar Power Satellites and human spaceflight to Mars by 2025.
There are, of course, great financial, scientific, technological and other risks associated with such an ambitious endeavor. For example, it might take years to identify commercial-level asteroid targets — not to mention the initial requirements for significant investor capital.
However, I was impressed with DSI’s vision, direction, and human resources. Indeed, one of my closest colleagues during General Dynamics days — Chris Cassell, Ph.D. — is a Founder of the company.