A CRYPTOCURRENCY firm has taken over a firm backed by Silicone Valley billionaires with plans to mine asteroids for precious minerals.
ConsenSys is the creator of Ethereum, a computing platform best known for supporting a cryptocurrency called Ether which is similar to the better-known bitcoin.
It has bought Planetary Resources which was founded in 2012, with the help of wealthy backers including Google co-founder Larry Page and its chairman Eric Schmidt.
The firm has raised tens of millions of dollars but has reportedly begun to suffer funding problems, according to Space News.
The venture’s original mission was to identify and mine near-Earth asteroids for valuable resources, including platinum and gold that could be sent back to our planet.
Asteroids have also been proposed as sources of fuel for future space exploration.
They are known to have supplies of water which is made up of hydrogen and oxygen, two of the most commonly used elements in rocket fuel.
Having rocket fuel on an asteroid would mean space craft of the future having to carry less fuel when blasting off from Earth and so allow them to travel further.
Planetary Resources’ President and CEO Chris Lewicki previously NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as Flight Director of the Spirit & Opportunity Mars rovers and Phoenix Mars lander
He said he was “delighted to join ConsenSys in building atop our work to expand humanity’s economic sphere of influence into the Solar System” as part of the take-over deal.
Lewicki will be joined at ConsenSys by Brian Israel, a former State Department lawyer who worked on issues such as the Outer Space Treaty.
Israel said Planetary Resources could use ConsenSys’ blockchain technology for commerce in space, a domain that is not governed by terrestrial law.
Planetary Resources was hoping to launch Arkyd-301, its first prospecting mission in 2020 and launched satellites to demonstrate its technology before it ran into financial difficulties.