Industry leader 3D Systems has opened up a new investment wing to its operation, 3D Systems Ventures, and the division’s first order of business is mining asteroids for space minerals. On June 26, 3D Systems announced that it has become one of the core investors in Planetary Resources, a company that plans to assess and, potentially, excavate useful resources from nearby asteroids.

selfie 3D Systems 3D Printing

3D Systems will be assisting the space mining company in the development of parts for its ARKYD series of spacecraft. The ARKYD 100, the “first private telescope” will be used to test the viability of the company’s technology, but will also be open for the public to use for their own experimentation and to snap photos of themselves projected from the side of the telescope. These selfies, according to the ARKYD kickstarter that got it off the ground with over $1 million in funding, will have an existential effect on their subjects: “Seeing a picture of yourself or your loved ones above our planet can change our awareness of this fragile shell nourishing all life on Earth. There are no borders visible from space, and the ‘Space Selfie’ can provide a small taste of the ‘Overview Effect’ (The psychological phenomenon experienced by astronauts who spend time above the Earth and feel the imperative to protect our planet).” More importantly than the ennui and/or transcendance of selfhood caused by the selfies, the public will be able to control the telescope to take photos and determine the spin rate of asteroids, among other things, making it a fun tool for use in education.

Each subsequent generation of the ARKYD satellites, the ARKYD 200 and 300, will expand the company’s ability to search out, observe and analyse asteroids near Earth for resources necessary for space-travel, like iron, nickel and water. Water, aside from quenching thirst, can be broken up into its constituent parts, hydrogen and oxygen, to create any number of things useful for exploring out in space, such as hydrogen-based rocket fuel. 3D Systems’s role, besides funding Planetary Resources, is to design and manufacture small, affordable parts for these machines, with 3D Systems Chief Executive Officer Avi Reichental saying,

“We are excited to work very closely with Planetary Resources’ engineering team to use advanced 3D printing and manufacturing technologies to increase functionality while decreasing the cost of their ARKYD spacecraft. In success, we will create the smartphone of spacecraft and transform what has been an old-style, labour-intensive process, into something very scalable and affordable that will democratize access to space, the data collected from space and off-Earth resources for scientists and the public.  We are delighted to join the Planetary Resources team.”

assembly 3D Systems

The goal is to be able to produce these satellites on a large scale, as Planetary Resources Co-Founder and Co-Chairman (and possible former Bond villain), Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, explained, “3D Systems has a long history of inventing, advancing and democratizing manufacturing – and our vision of mass producing the ARKYD 100, 200 and 300 line will greatly benefit from their thinking and technology.” With any luck, you’ll be able to buy an ARKYD 100 for your classroom, institution, or even for personal use for the price of a small luxury sedan.  For more information about the space mining project, watch the video below or visit the Planetary Resources website:

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