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Blockchain company buys would-be space miner Planetary Resources

by Greg Klein | November 2, 2018

The principle sounds as lofty as the ambition: “democratizing and decentralizing space endeavours to unite our species and unlock untapped human potential.” That’s how ConsenSys founder Joe Lubin explained his company’s takeover of Planetary Resources, a space explorer that hopes to begin asteroid mining by the middle of the next decade.

Blockchain company buys out would-be space miner Planetary Resources

A simulated image of a Planetary Resources spacecraft.

Lubin, also co-founder of Ethereum, added some soaring jargon to the announcement. “Bringing deep space capabilities into the ConsenSys ecosystem reflects our belief in the potential for Ethereum to help humanity craft new societal rule systems through automated trust and guaranteed execution.”

With about 1,100 employees in six continents, ConsenSys describes itself as a “venture production studio focused on building and scaling tools, disruptive startups and enterprise software products powered by decentralized technology, specifically Ethereum. Our mission is to use these solutions to power the emerging economic, social and political operating systems of the planet.”

Planetary Resources began in 2009, launched its first demo satellite in 2015 and currently has another demo in orbit. By 2020 the company expects to begin what would be—as far as we Earthlings know—this solar system’s first commercial space prospecting program.

Luxembourg, a country with space ambitions of its own, backed the company in 2016 with a promised €12-million investment and €13 million in grants.

Ethereum smart contract functionality is a natural solution for private-ordering and commerce in space—the only domain of human activity not ordered around territorial sovereignty—in which a diverse range of actors from a growing number of countries must co-ordinate and transact.—Brian Israel

As part of the acquisition, NASA veteran and Planetary Resources president/CEO/co-founder Chris Lewicki joins ConsenSys, as does general counsel Brian Israel, a former adviser to the U.S. on space law. Israel commented that “Ethereum smart contract functionality is a natural solution for private-ordering and commerce in space—the only domain of human activity not ordered around territorial sovereignty—in which a diverse range of actors from a growing number of countries must co-ordinate and transact.”

Transmitting data from orbit since January, Planetary Resources’ Arkyd-6 satellite tests a number of technologies including a mid-wave infrared imager that will depict earthly features like agricultural land, resource exploration plays and infrastructure for mining and energy, as well as “perform specific celestial observations from our vantage point in low Earth orbit.” The experience will help develop the Arkyd-301, planned by 2020 to search some of the 16,000 near-Earth asteroids for suitable mining targets.

Although estimates attribute asteroids with almost unimaginable mineral wealth, water would comprise the initial target. A necessity for humans exploring space, H2O can also provide hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel.

ConsenSys gave no indication how it would finance the space projects.

Read more about Planetary Resources.

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