Peter Diamandis’ $10 million X Prize bounty sparked a boom in commercial space tourism.
Other Xprizes -
* Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin raised $30 million to put a robot on the moon
* Bill and Melinda Gates are sponsoring a better device to detect tuberculosis
* Qualcomm’s Jacobs is helping turn the medical tricorder into reality.
The X Prize Foundation is a mini-industry, with 50 employees. It is holding competitions in education, global development, energy and the environment, life sciences and space and undersea exploration (see box, p. 76). Its board of trustees crackles with celebrities: director James Cameron; Huffington Post cofounder Arianna Huffington; inventors Dean Kamen and Kurzweil; Craig Venter, the entrepreneur and biologist who raced the U.S. government to decode the human genome; Indian billionaire Ratan Tata, who presides over the world’s fifth-largest steel empire; Larry Page; Tesla Auto’s Elon Musk.
Diamandis has taken a personal interest in several companies with an eye on the heavens: Zero Gravity Corp., which offers weightless flights at $5,000 a pop to tourists and researchers; Space Adventures, which books spaceflights; and Rocket Racing League, a (currently) virtual Nascar in the sky. His grandest scheme by far: mining precious and rare earth metals on asteroids, where trillions of dollars are just waiting to be made.
The idea isn’t new. Many wandering rocks get close to Earth; last November a 400-meter-wide example passed within a mere 201,000 miles of us. Then what? Some asteroids might be slowed and eased into orbit near Earth, perhaps with giant harpoons or rotating screws that burrow into the surface. Once secure, machines might conduct surface mining, cut, crush or vaporize rock.
Diamandis is not publicly providing specifics yet.
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