Company Plans to Use 'Firefly' Spaceships to Mine Asteroids for Minerals

Asteroids represent potential for "unprecedented prosperity" for humanity, CEO says.

A recently discovered comet is closer than it's ever been to Earth, and may look like this one as it moves through space.

A recently discovered comet is closer than it's ever been to Earth, and may look like this one as it moves through space.

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A company called Deep Space Industries announced Tuesday that within two years it may start sending spacecraft into the solar system with the goal of harvesting natural resources from asteroids.

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Known as asteroid mining, the company says the "riches of the solar system offer humanity both unprecedented prosperity and an improved environment." The company hopes to harvest water, iron, gold, platinum and other minerals.

The company isn't the first to consider asteroid mining. In April, Google CEO Larry Page and film director James Cameron announced a plan to begin mining asteroids by the end of the decade. Deep Space Industries, on the other hand, hopes to begin "prospecting" in 2015 and harvesting from asteroids within the next 10 years.

The tiny, 55-pound, unmanned prospecting ships, called "fireflies" would be sent to observe any asteroids that passed near earth, while larger "Dragonflies" would be sent out to bring back asteroid samples. Ultimately, the company plans to send larger robot spacecraft that could harvest and return valuable minerals to earth.

[ALSO: Ancient Meteorite Suggests Mars Had Lots Of Water]

"More than 900 new asteroids that pass near Earth are discovered every year," David Gump, the company's CEO, said in a statement. "They can be like the Iron Range of Minnesota was for the Detroit car industry last century."

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