Asteroid mining 'less far fetched than you might think'

Exclusive: Red Bull Stratos Technical Director says asteroid mining is closer than expected

Red Bull Stratos Technical Director Art Thompson tells T3 asteroid mining is close to reality and his mission is helping the required tech progress

With the Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin joining forces with AVATAR director James Cameron to look into the possibilities of asteroid mining, industry experts have told T3 such plans are not as far fetched as we may think.

Whilst the collection of billionaire investors that make up the Planetary Resources group turned heads earlier this week by suggesting they intend to explore the potential for asteroid mining missions, space travel specialists have suggested such attempts will soon be a thing of reality.

“I think right now asteroid mining probably seems far-fetched but in time it will seem less so,” Art Thompson, Technical Project Director on the Red Bull Stratos mission told T3 in an exclusive interview. “We look at things now and think in the past somebody would tell you ‘can you imagine that people pay five dollars for a cup of coffee or that they actually pay for water and put it in a bottle.’ That seemed far fetched then too.”

Suggesting necessity and rapidly lowering costs in reaching previously unexplored areas of space will make such missions a possibility; Thompson has said he believes asteroid mining is a distinct possibility for the near future.

“We have limited resources as to what we have here on earth and so the idea of going somewhere else right now doesn’t make sense to you or I because the cost of getting there makes it prohibitive but there will be a day when we develop methods of getting there that are cheaper or the cost of things have got to a point where rationally it makes sense to do something like asteroid mining.”

The man largely responsible for many of the futuristic technologies used on the Red Bull Stratos mission that will allow Austrian Felix Baumgartner to travel 120,000 feet up before jumping from space in history’s highest freefall skydive has suggested that tech developed for the Stratos mission could soon be expanded for use on manned asteroid missions.

On the pressurised flight suits developed to allow Baumgartner to jump from the unprecedented height, fall at speeds of up to 690mph, breaking the sound barrier on the way, Thompson has said that the increased manoeuvrability over past space suits would make them a prime choice for further development in line with planned asteroid visits.

“There are certain disadvantage of using that type of suit on an asteroid or another planet as you still have to have a better thermal barrier, but looking at the idea, higher flexibility provided is something they would need in space flight. They can’t be encumbered by something that you can’t move around in. So a lot of the technology and space suit development is going to require higher flexibility.”

Backing Thompson up, Colonel Joe Kittinger the current freefall record holder who made a 102,800 foot space jump way back in 1960 has also spoken out on the future potentials of the suit being pioneered by the Stratos team.

“Felix will be testing the next generation pressure suit,” Colonel Kittinger said. “It will be a contribution that this project will make to the protective garments being worn by future high flying aviators. In my project I used a standard Air Force partial pressure suit, but in this case Felix is advancing the state of the art in the test of the equipment he uses.”

What sci-fi esque exploits would you like to see enter the realms of reality alongside the likes of asteroid mining? Let us know via the T3 Twitter and Facebook feeds.