Asteroid Mining Company Planetary resources acquired by Blockchain Firm


WASHINGTON – Planetary Resources Inc., once a high-level company backed by billionaires with asteroid aspirations, only to then suffer funding problems, was acquired by a blockchain company, companies announced on October 31st.

Planetary Resources stated in a statement that it was acquired by ConsenSys, Inc. in an "asset purchase transaction". The companies did not disclose specific terms of the agreement. Chris Lewicki, president and CEO of Planetary Resources, and Brian Israel, the company's legal advisor, will be joining ConsenSys as part of the agreement.

ConsenSys describes itself as a "blockchain venture production studio focused on construction and scaling tools, disruptive startups and business software products based on decentralized technology, in particular Ethereum". Ethereum is a decentralized computing platform, better known to support a cryptocurrency called Ether similar to the best known bitcoin. [Gallery: Planetary Resources’ Asteroid-Mining Plans]

ConsenSys was founded by Joseph Lubin, one of the co-developers of Ethereum, in 2015. He claimed to have over 1,100 employees on six continents. ConsenSys has more than three dozen "spokes" or companies working on various projects that use Ethereum, including the financial management company Balance, the Civil journalism platform and the Virtue Poker gaming company.

In a statement, Lubin said that experience in the planetary resource space would be bent to ConsenSys. "Bringing the capabilities of deep space into the ConsenSys ecosystem reflects our belief in the potential of Ethereum to help humanity create new systems of social rules through automatic trust and guaranteed execution," he said , referring to the "smart contracts" enabled by Ethereum. "It reflects our belief in democratizing and decentralizing space efforts to unite our species and unlock untapped human potential".

Lubin did not reveal how specifically planetary resources fit into his company except that he "shared our plans and how to join us on this journey in the coming months".

Planetary Resources announced for the first time its asteroid extraction plans in 2012, after three years in invisible mode. The original vision of the company foresaw the prospecting near the asteroids of the Earth for the ice of water that could be subsequently extracted and then sold as a propellant. "I think we will have deposits of propellants running over the decade," said Eric Anderson, co-founder and co-president of the company, in a 2012 interview.

Anderson, best known in the space industry as co-founder and president of space travel company Space Adventures, founded the company with Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize Foundation. The initial investors of the company saw a group of wealthy people, including Google co-founder Larry Page and President Eric Schmidt, Ross Perot Jr., and Charles Simonyi, the former Microsoft executive who flew to the station International Space twice as a customer of Space Adventures. Richard Branson later invested in the company, as well as the Luxembourg initiative.

The company has developed a series of cubes to serve as technology demonstrators for future asteroid seekers. The first, Arkyd-3, was lost in the failure of the Antares launch of October 2014. A second, Arkyd-3R, was released by the ISS in July 2015, followed by Arkyd-6 in January on an Indian polar satellite launch vehicle.

By the time Arkyd-6 was in orbit to demonstrate its half-wave infrared imager, the company was in financial trouble. The planetary resources implemented were industry sources said they were substantial layoffs at the start of this year when they were unable to close a round of financing.

Lewicki said in a March interview that the lead in that scheduled funding round was a nameless "big global mining company" that delayed an investment planned for the last year for budget reasons. "We just have to regulate everything and find the right timing and the right value proposition," he said.

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In the ConsenSys acquisition statement, Lewicki and Israel offered few details about the future of planetary resources. Israel, a former State Department attorney who has worked on issues such as the External Space Treaty, has suggested that the company could exploit ConsenSys' space trade technology.

"The Ethereum Intelligent Contracting Feature is a natural solution for private order and space commerce – the only domain of unordered human activity around territorial sovereignty – in which a wide range of actors from a growing number of countries must coordinate and negotiate, "Israel said.

"I am proud of our team's outstanding achievements, grateful to our visionary supporters, and happy to join ConsenSys in building on top of our work to expand the sphere of economic influence of mankind in the solar system," Lewicki said in declaration.

In a comment attached to the statement on the Planetary Resources website, one person asked if the ConsenSys acquisition would allow alternative "tokenised" investments into planetary resources using Ethereum. "This is a possibility that could be activated by the new company," Lewicki replied. "Stay tuned!"

This story was provided by SpaceNews, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space sector.

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