You've seen Armageddon a million times. The government convinces Bruce Willis and his rag-tag militia of oil men to fly to space and save Earth. There are a bunch of training scenes, Ben Affleck plays with animal crackers on Liv Tyler's stomach, the team walks to the spaceship in slow motion, a bunch of other stuff happens, and then (SPOILER ALERT) Willis sacrifices himself because his daughter really loves Ben Affleck and Affleck is all, "HARRY! HARRY! YOU CAN'T DO THIS TO ME! IT'S MY JOB!" And Wilis is all, "You'll take care of my little girl now" and then saves the world. Aerosmith plays. You cry. Fin.
Well, that could all totally happen now because there is a company—Deep Space Industries (really, that's what they call it)—that's planning to begin commercially mining asteroids.
DSI plan to use small satellites known as Fireflies to prospect near-Earth asteroids in 2015, and Dragonflies, which will launch in 2016 and take 3-5 years to capture samples from asteroids. They say that commercial operations will begin by 2020.
The idea isn't entirely original. NASA has a similar plan in the works.
Nasa is currently developing a mission called OSIRIS-Rex. Planned for launch in 2016, it will cost about $1bn and return between 60 grams and 2 kilograms of asteroidal material to Earth in 2023. DSI expects to be returning 20-45 kilograms (that's at least 10 times as much!) with each Dragonfly mission. It expects to provide a three-spacecraft Firefly fleet for $20m.
If they're successful, I call dibs on getting the first piece of the Agro Crag to put above my mantle. [Guardian]