Planetary Resources – The Market Problem and Radical Solution


Imagine that you’re on a road trip from
Seattle to New York City. Now, what if there were no gas stations along
the way, and you had to bring ALL the fuel that you’d ever need with you. You’d have
no room left for anything! Well in outer space, the problem is even worse
than this. After all, judging by the space race of the
60s and 70s, you might have thought that we’d have colonized Mars by now.
But we haven’t. We’re trapped at the bottom of Earth’s
gravity well, which is so deep that escaping the first 300 kilometers takes more energy
than the next 300 million. It takes 50 kilos of propellant to deliver
just one kilo to LEO, but 4 more would get you the next 35,000 kilometers, and 2 more
the last 300 million—to Mars, to the Asteroids, to anywhere in the inner Solar System.
But those 4 kilos to GEO each need 50 kilos to get into LEO first. And those 2 to everywhere
else each need 4, which each need 50. This exponential nature of the rocket equation
has us stuck hugging our planet. Planetary Resources has had a Copernican-shift
in thinking: travel beyond Earth’s gravity well is nearly effortless, so if fuel is sourced
from space, for space, we can avoid this exponential problem altogether.
Fortunately, rockets run most efficiently on hydrogen and oxygen, which is just electrolyzed
water, and exists in near-infinite quantities…on asteroids. These future oil fields of space
are also ultra-high-grade precious metal mines that lie unperturbed as the low-hanging fruit
of our Solar System—energetically closer than the Moon and just waiting to be harvested.
Mining asteroids could provide a fuel source 1,000 times more efficient than the brute
force, bring-everything-with-you approach used by the Apollo Moon program.
So how big is the space market when economics improve by 1,000 fold? No one knows for sure.
But neither did the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, nor IBM, or Bill Gates at the dawn of
their new markets.

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