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Re: starship-design: Private Asteroid Mining

In a message dated 9/10/97 10:57:54 AM, wharton@physics.ucla.edu wrote:

>Here's some good news for near-term space development that I ran across:
>A small company unveiled plans today to launch the first private 
>spacecraft to leave Earth's orbit, on a mission to visit a nearby
>asteroid. A team of University of California, San Diego, students are 
>working on the design of the Near Earth Asteroid Prospector (NEAP), 
>which would be launched in 1999, says Jim Bensen, chair of Colorado-
>based SpaceDev. The company hopes to turn a profit on the sale of data 
>from the target asteroid, which will be chosen later and depends on the 
>exact launch date. 
>Bensen is betting that his company can build and launch the spacecraft 
>for under $50 million--a fraction of the cost of a typical NASA space 
>science mission--and offer the resulting data to government agencies for 
>less than a government mission would cost. NEAP would carry a camera, a 
>proton spectrometer to determine the composition of the asteroid's 
>surface, and a neutron spectrometer that could detect the presence of 
>The ultimate goal of the company, he adds, is to mine nearby asteroids 
>for precious metals and ancient comets for hydrogen and oxygen. These 
>elements could be ferried to a low-Earth orbit and turned into materials 
>and propellant for other missions. SpaceDev has raised nearly all of the 
>money needed to build the spacecraft from private investors, but Bensen 
>declined to identify them.
>(from www.sciencenow.org, 9/10/97)

Very good news indead if they can pull it off.