Unless you’ve been trapped underground this week, you’ve probably heard that some billionaires are planning to mine some asteroids. Well, they are planning to launch a telescope in a few years, and then mine the some asteroids.  Probably. You know, in the future.  But Larry and Sergey are behind it, so there’s that.

This is exactly the kind of revolution the space industry has needed since the 1970s.   Crazy ideas of this scale need wide-eyed hopeful billionaires behind them to work.

If it works and they can manage to pull off mining asteroids in the next decade or so, then it’ll be one of the the biggest advancements in the history of mankind.

We should all be excited.  Hell, I’m ready to buy asteroid futures.

The co founder of the newly announced company, Planetary Resources, is Dr Peter Diamandis.  Peter is probably best known for the Ansari X PRIZE, and the X PRIZE foundation.

Several years ago Peter started a new X PRIZE challenge, the Google Lunar X PRIZE, where all you have to do to win 20 million dollars is land a privately funded spacecraft on the moon, travel 500 Meters, and send back some high definition video. Easy right?

It hasn’t been.

The hardest part about getting to the moon is the first couple hundred miles.  26 teams remain in the competition, slated to end in 2015, and are struggling for funding.  Most are probably not even close to being on the moon by the end of 2015.

I’m close to a number of the teams, and acquainted with most of them.  To say that this announcement makes many of them uneasy would be understating things just a little.

My first round of questions about the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) in light of this announcement are:

  • How does the announcement of this venture help the GLXP?
  • How does the announcement of this venture possibly harm the GLXP?
  • Do we still NEED the GLXP if people are going to create a commercial venture in space anyway?
  • The X PRIZE Foundation was modeled after a prize put on Raymond Orteig, who commissioned a $25,000 prize in the 1920s,  famously won by Charles Lindbergh. Dr. Diamandis doing a space company in the middle of running a space prize is a little like if Mr Orteig started an airline in 1925.  Would that have been okay back then, and is it now?
Is this the death knell for the Google Lunar X PRIZE or will this be the spark the prize has needed all along to work?