A spokeswoman for Planetary Resources, Stacey Tearne, told GeekWire that financial challenges have forced the company to focus on leveraging the Arkyd-6 mission for near-term revenue — apparently by selling imagery and data.
“Planetary Resources missed a fundraising milestone,” Tearne explained in an email. “The company remains committed to utilizing the resources from space to further explore space, but is focusing on near-term revenue streams by maximizing the opportunity of having a spacecraft in orbit.”
Tearne said no further information was available, and did not address questions about employment cutbacks. However, reports from other sources in the space community suggest there have been notable job reductions. For what it’s worth, Planetary Resources had more than 70 employees at last report.
It’s been one of the most intriguing on-the-books-but-never-executed space missions of the 21st century: two tourists paying $150 million each would fly around the moon in a modified Russian Soyuz spacecraft before landing back on Earth. It would be humanity’s first trip to the moon since Apollo 17, which landed there 45 years ago this month.
Space Adventures said it had signed two wealthy tourists to go years ago. There was much speculation about the identities of these individuals. Was it Google Founder Sergey Brin? Titanic director James Cameron? Brin and Cameron? Cameron and a seat full of camera equipment?
The answer is none of the above. One prospective lunar tourist is someone few people have ever heard of. The other is a well known figure in the space community who was hiding in plain sight. The reason they didn’t fly to the moon together might surprise you.
First in an irregular series on entrepreneurial buzz words
Come on let’s pivot again, Like we did last quarter! Yeaaah, let’s pivot again, Like we did last year!
Do you remember when, ROI was really hummin’, Yeaaaah, let’s pivot again, Pivotin’ time is here!
Heeee, and round and round til IPO we go! Oh, baby, make those investors love us so!
Let’s pivot again, Like we did last quarter! Yeaaah, let’s pivot again, Like we did last year!
There comes a time in the existence of many startups when there an urgent need to change direction. You set up the company to pursue a goal, but for one reason or several — a lack of a market, shortage of investment, regulatory hurdles, a flawed concept — you have to direct all that talent, technology and enthusiasm toward a new objective that will keep the company in operation.
Planetary Resources has raised $12.2 million in new financing as part of an offering of $20 million, according to a company filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission. The funding came from 16 unnamed investors.
The Redmond, Wash., company is focused on mining asteroids. It was co-founded by Peter Diamandis and Eric Anderson.
Problem: If humanity is to move off Earth and become an interplanetary species, it will need an economic reason to do so.
Solution: Near-earth asteroids contain (literally) trillions of dollars worth of resources and materials that could be harvested and brought back to Earth. A number of them are also energetically easier to get to than the surface of the Moon. That tremendous bounty creates a huge incentive for the private sector to create the requisite detection, propulsion and harvesting technology to capture these precious metals and minerals. Technology: Planetary resources led by Peter Diamandis and Eric Anderson is developing the technology and spacecraft to detect, harvest, capture and bring back these resources from Near-Earth asteroids.
With human flights beyond Earth orbit not expected to occur for at least eight years, the private sector is increasingly eying deep space for a series of ambitious robotic and human missions for both adventure and profit.
Nine programs are currently underway that include robotic and human landings of the moon, human flybys of the moon and Mars, the mining of the moon and asteroids, and even a settlement on Mars. Backers of these initiatives include the X Prize Foundation, Google and its executives, and the world’s first space tourist, Dennis Tito.
Former Astrobotic Technology President David Gump has resurfaced with a new company, Deep Space Industries, which will announce the “world’s first fleet of commercial asteroid-prospecting spacecraft” during a press conference at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
Deep Space Industries is the second asteroid mining company to make a public announcement in the past year. Planetary Resources — founded by Peter Diamandis and Eric Anderson — is aiming for the same market.
Seattle, Wash. – Planetary Resources PR – April 24, 2012 – Planetary Resources, Inc. announced today its plan to mine Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) for raw materials, ranging from water to precious metals. Through the development of cost-effective exploration technologies, the company is poised to initiate prospecting missions targeting resource-rich asteroids that are easily accessible.
Resource extraction from asteroids will deliver multiple benefits to humanity and grow to be valued at tens of billions of dollars annually. The effort will tap into the high concentration of precious metals found on asteroids and provide a sustainable supply to the ever-growing population on Earth.
A single 500-meter platinum-rich asteroid contains the equivalent of all the Platinum Group Metals mined in history.
Not waiting for Tuesday’s press conference, Planetary Resources officials have outlined their plans for mining asteroids to The New York Times:
The president and chief engineer is Christopher A. Lewicki, who previously worked as a manager on Mars missions at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Based in Bellevue, Wash., the company employs about 25 engineers and has development contracts for technologies like laser communications that it believes it will need for prospecting and mining missions.
The plan is to launch the first spacecraft — a small telescope to find small nearby asteroids — within the next two years. Next, the company would send out a batch of small explorers to visit some of them. Actual mining would begin after that, first targeting water and then platinum.
Eric Anderson wants a national conversation about the future of space exploration. It’s an interesting plea because Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich started exactly that a few weeks ago by announcing plans for a moon base by 2021. Mitt Romney, the candidate whom Anderson is advising, mocked the idea while proposing no alternatives of his own. The end result of that conversation was a SNL sketch called, “Newt Gingrich: Moon President.” That was good for Mitt, although it painted Newt and the broader space community that supports the goal as, if you’ll excuse the phrase, loony.
So, Anderson now wants to start a new national conversation. That might be easier to do if Romney had a strategy. Instead, he has merely described a process by which he would figure out his policy, which involves forming an advisory board that includes Anderson, Mike Griffin, Scott Pace and Eugene Cernan. In other words, Top. Men. That’s not much on which to base a national conversation. Perhaps Anderson will go into more detail in future videos.
Jeff Foust over at Space Politics has interviewed Eric Anderson, the Space Adventures CEO and Commercial Spaceflight Federation chairman who is serving on Mitt Romney’s space advisory board. Anderson and seven other members of the group signed an open letter last week supporting Romney and harshly criticizing the Obama Administration’s space policy.
Anderson says he’s had several one-on-one conversations with the candidate, who has expressed his enthusiasm for private sector human spaceflight development. He also defended Romney’s lack of specific solutions while pointing to the candidate’s business background as evidence of his support of commercial space solutions.
“You must remember, Mitt Romney is a very experienced businessman. People in business of course believe in private industry! They know that if you can find goods and services in the private sector then clearly those would be preferable to the government recreating that capability,” he told Foust.
In a move destined to anger NewSpace advocates, Mitt Romney has released a letter of support signed by eight space leaders, including prominent commercial space critics Mike Griffin, Scott Pace and Gene Cernan. Pace, in fact, is chairman of the Romney Space Policy Advisory Group.
“We have watched with dismay as President Obama dismantled the structure that was guiding both the government and commercial space sectors, while providing no purpose or vision or mission,” the signers wrote. “This failure of leadership has thrust the space program into disarray and triggered a dangerous erosion of our technical workforce and capabilities. In short, we have a space program unworthy of a great nation.”
An estimated 140 private individuals will travel into orbit on a commercial basis through 2020, according to a new market forecast done by Space Adventures.
Officials from the Virginia-based space tourism company held a press conference on Thursday to explain their results and to provide an update on the company’s planned circum-lunar flyby. Space Adventures Chairman Eric Anderson and board member Richard Garriott discussed the results of their survey, which was done at the request of NASA, Boeing and other companies.
Over the past decade, seven private space tourists — including Garriott — flew to the International Space Sstation on eight missions (one man flew twice). Space Adventures expect orbital space tourism to increase substantially over the next decade as new private vehicles come online to challenge Russia’s monopoly on space tourism.