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The competition heats up: A private company, Deep Space Industries (DSI), has announced plans to send the first privately-built probe to an asteroid before the end of the decade.
Recently, Deep Space Industries and its partner, the government of Luxembourg, announced plans to build and fly Prospector-X™, an experimental mission to low-Earth orbit that will test key technologies needed for low-cost exploration spacecraft. This precursor mission is scheduled to launch in 2017. Then, before the end of this decade, Prospector-1 will travel beyond Earth’s orbit to begin the first space mining exploration mission.
Note that this funding is another example of the Luxembourg government’s effort to invest in commercial space, for profit.
If all goes as planned, the rest of this decade should be very exciting. We will have a private mission to the Moon, a private mission to an asteroid, and a private mission to Mars. All will cost pennies compared to what the government spends. All will be built and launched quickly, compared to how long the government takes. And all will be for profit, which is certainly not what the government is interested in.