The destiny of Deep Space Industries is closely linked to that of Luxembourg in the space mining sector after Luxembourg partnered with the firm to begin asteroid mining.
Company co-founder Rick Tumlinson gave an exclusive interview with Thierry Labro from the Luxemburger Wort.
Where did you get the idea to mine minerals on asteroids?
From childhood, possibly. We must look at the context. Not only the cold war between the Americans and Soviets but also the boom in science fiction. Then there was Star Trek and Star Wars. If you look closely, all those who dream of going into space grew up around that time time: Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk … It’s as if mentally, something was set up at this time.
I read somewhere that you wanted to also “inspire”. Is there a project for that?
That would not be such a bad idea. During this time of war, terrorism, economic crises, to give a bit of hope to a new generation. If we can inspire, that’s good. I want to do it.
Is desire enough to succeed when governments have already spent fortunes without success?
You are right: government programmes were more expensive and less effective than expected!
You cite other millionaires of Silicon Valley with whom you form a crazy community. How did it start?
(Laughs) Yes, it is really this sense of community that drives us. It started at Princeton in 1997. We were together and made a toast to our future success! Ok, some wanted to go into space, others on the moon, others on Mars or gather stones on asteroids, but it was the same!
Even if the world did not see the outcome until 2013, when Deep Space Industries was born…
With our free entrepreneur culture, when you have an idea that you think will work, you have to take it to the max.You have to be aware of the risks and take them. Like the people who dreamed up the smartphone. It’s the same!
Going into space, picking up stones and bring them back, isn’t it a bit like crossing the ocean?
We are a little bit following on from Thomas Jefferson, who gathered a team for an expedition! We do not want to steal asteroids or even take power from the Moon! The goal is to extend our civilization in space. To provide opportunities for future generations.
Luxembourg’s government announced that you would come here to part build Prospector. Tell me about your schedule?
First, X Prospector, is a small experimental robot to show our skills.
To take to investors?
We must firstly show our skills. Since Prospector 1 will be used to observe the surface of an asteroid, to survey and to check that we can dig. If the surface is too hard we will have problems and if it is too crumbly, it will not be good either! Then we will send another robot, Harvest, to bring back a test sample.
And the schedule?
It is hoped Prospector will be launched in 2020.
How much will this venture cost?
If I talk about money, my associates will disembowel me! But, it will be ten to one hundred times cheaper than a government programme! The second robot will follow in 2025. It will probably be the opportunity to start making a little profit.
Provided that you get a return. Let’s put this in perspective, it’s crazy what you are proposing: going to an asteroid, land there, take samples and come back.
Obviously it’s new! But our governments have not worked for nothing! Technology has advanced on these issues! One thing I would say is that the rocket that must launch our robots will be entirely powered with water, using ice, water and steam. Comet 1 is at the forefront of technology, much more effective than all these mixtures that not only prepare but also condition and protect it from shock and heat.
With the new version of the Space Act promulgated by Barack Obama, you had no need to partner with a country. What is the interest in partnering with Luxembourg?
It is important to have partners who believe in our dreams! Space is not limited to a few countries or a few millionaires! And Luxembourg will never be suspected of something like other countries. Never have I seen a group of people motivated as Mr. Etienne (Schneider). So open and friendly! I felt that there was no bureaucracy, no questioning everything.
You know, when you are Luxembourgish, you take risks! No choice! The real science fiction would be to have a future without science fiction. Everything is progressing for the good of humanity.
Still, doesn’t it surprise you a little about Luxembourg?
(Laughs) I grew up in a military family in Britain. The BBC played only rock! We did not like that! So we listened to Radio Luxembourg! It was the only way to hear David Bowie, Led Zeppelin. I never thought that one day I would work with Luxembourg. But, daring to do something that could change the course of history of civilization, I find it beautiful!
SUBJECT: ASTRONOMY & SPACE (90%); PLANETS & ASTEROIDS (89%); ALLIANCES & PARTNERSHIPS (78%); ENTREPRENEURSHIP (78%); MINES & MINING (78%); INTERVIEWS (77%); COLD WAR (76%); WEALTHY PEOPLE (66%); TERRORISM (53%); ECONOMIC CRISIS (53%); MOBILE & CELLULAR TELEPHONES (50%)
PERSON: ELON MUSK (79%); JEFFREY P BEZOS (57%)
CITY: SILICON VALLEY, CA, USA (74%)
STATE: CALIFORNIA, USA (74%)
COUNTRY: UNITED STATES (92%)
LOAD-DATE: May 25, 2016
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