Mining for metals on an asteroid: Spacecraft could begin drilling on passing rocks within just TWO YEARS

Asteroids could be mined for useful ores and minerals as they hurtle past the Earth under plans by a U.S. company to launch its first rock-prospecting spacecraft by 2015.

Space age: This image, taken from Deep Space Industries website, imagines how the process of mining asteroids could look. The space start-up intends to begin prospecting asteroids as soon as 2015.

Deep Space Industries announced today that it intends to launch a fleet of unmanned ships to intercept small asteroids as they speed past our own planet, possibly finding metals such as platinum.

The company joins a host of other start-up firms which hope to soon exploit the untapped resources of near-Earth objects to help fuel our civilisation’s next phase of technological development.

‘Using low cost technologies, and combining the legacy of our space program with the innovation of today‚Äôs young high tech geniuses, we will do things that would have been impossible just a few years ago,’ said chairman Rick Tumlinson.

DSI hope to launch their first prospecting spacecraft, which they dub Firefly, in just two years time for missions lasting between two to six months.

The unmanned 55lb (25kg) craft will be built using low-cost cubesat components and make it into orbit by piggybacking on the launch of larger communications satellites.

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