New York-based Etherum firm ConsenSys has announced that it has acquired asteroid mining company Planetary Resources.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on November 5, 2018

Chris Lewicki, CEO and President of Planetary Resources, and Brian Israel, the company’s General Counsel, have joined ConsenSys as part of the deal.

Lewicki previously worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as Flight Director of the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers before co-founding Planetary Resources.

Analysts have suggested asteroid mining could become hugely lucrative

Some reports have forecast asteroid mining will become a trillion dollar industry. Last year, Goldman Sachs wrote a note for clients arguing that mining asteroids for platinum was becoming increasingly cost-effective.

“Prospecting probes can likely be built for tens of millions of dollars each and Caltech has suggested an asteroid-grabbing spacecraft could cost $US2.6bn,” the report said.

Asteroid mining operations could also service satellites in orbit, removing the prohibitive cost of transporting materials back to earth.

“Over the course of nearly a decade, Planetary Resources has simultaneously pioneered technology, business, law and policy, and brought the promise of space resources irreversibly closer to humankind’s grasp,” said Lewicki.

“I am proud of our team’s extraordinary accomplishments, grateful to our visionary supporters, and delighted to join ConsenSys in building atop our work to expand humanity’s economic sphere of influence into the Solar System.”

Planetary Resources had faced funding setbacks

After securing initial funding from Google co-founder Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, the former Executive Chairman of Alphabet, Planetary Resources had met with declining fortunes in recent years.

In 2017, it missed out on an investment round and was forced to lay off some of its staff. Earlier this year, it auctioned off some equipment it had identified as easily replaceable and no longer necessary for its smaller team.

Still, ConsenSys founder Joe Lubin saw enormous potential in the ambitious operation and said the new acquisition “reflects our belief in the potential for Ethereum to help humanity craft new societal rule systems through automated trust and guaranteed execution.” He said the acquisition gave the company the ability to democratise and decentralise space endeavour.

The company has more than 50 ‘spokes’ working on various projects which utilise Ethereum. These include journalism startup Civil, financial management company Balance and prediction market platform Gnosis.

ConsenSys’s new space initiatives will operate out of the newly acquired company’s former facilities in Redmond, Washington, a small city just outside of Seattle.