Outside experts are sceptical about the project, announced at a news conference in Seattle on Tuesday, which would likely require untold millions, or perhaps billions of dollars and huge advances in technology.
But the same entrepreneurs pioneered the selling of space rides to tourists – a notion that seemed fanciful not long ago, too.
"Since my early teenage years, I've wanted to be an asteroid miner. I always viewed it as a glamorous vision of where we could go," Peter Diamandis, one of the founders of Planetary Resources, said at a news conference at The Museum of Flight in Seattle. The company's vision "is to make the resources of space available to humanity."
The inaugural step, to be achieved in the next 18 to 24 months, would be launching the first in a series of private telescopes that would search for the right type of asteroids.
The plan is to use commercially built robotic ships to squeeze rocket fuel and valuable minerals out of the rocks that routinely whizz by Earth. One of the company founders predicts they could have their version of a space-based gas station up and running by 2020.
Several scientists not involved in the project said they were simultaneously thrilled and wary, calling the plan daring, difficult – and very pricey. They do not see how it could be cost-effective, even with platinum and gold worth nearly $1,600 an ounce. An forthcoming NASA mission to return just 2 ounces (60 grams) of an asteroid to Earth will cost about $1 billion.
Source: telegraph.co.ukAdded: 25 January 2013