Just as the US government retires the space shuttle, liberalizing space is creating a new industry.


The folks who brought you zero-gravity airplane flights and multimillion-dollar trips to the International Space Station have lined up some billionaire investors for their next space venture — but they're not quite ready to tell you all about it.

Instead, they're sending out a media alert for a Seattle news conference next week, when they promise to "unveil a new space venture with a mission to help ensure humanity's prosperity." The new venture, called Planetary Resources, has the stated aim of expanding Earth's resource base. That's led a couple of observers to speculate that Planetary Resources is being formed to go into the extraterrestrial mining business.

One of the venture's founders is Peter Diamandis, who has played a leading role in setting up multimillion-dollar X Prizes for private space travel and other technological feats. He also founded Zero G Corp., which turned weightless-airplane flights into a tourist attraction. The other co-founder/co-chairman is Eric Anderson, who is chairman of Space Adventures, the company that has arranged space station trips for a succession of millionaires and billionaires.

A former client of Anderson's, software billionaire (and two-time spaceflier) Charles Simonyi, is listed as an investor in Planetary Resources. Other investors and advisers on the list include Google's Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, plus fellow billionaires K. Ram Shriram and Ross Perot Jr. (son of the former presidential candidate), plus filmmaker James Cameron.