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The slow death of Planetary Resources

Link here. The article tries to put a positive spin on the company’s decline, but the facts described tell a different story, with its failure to raise investment capital essentially forcing it to shut down, with its best people leaving for greener pastures.

[The fund-raising failure] forced a sharp reduction in Planetary Resources’ workforce. How sharp? Lewicki declined to say, but LinkedIn’s listings show that a number of employees have moved on to Blue Origin, Amazon and other companies.

Several former members of the team have started up a new engineering services company called Synchronous. Maggie Scholtz, a Planetary Resources veteran who is now Synchronous’ president of aerospace and space, will be one of the speakers at the NewSpace conference. The event gets under way on Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency Lake Washington in Renton, Wash. Other Synchronous partners include Chris Voorhees, who was Planetary Resources’ chief engineer until February; Peter Illsley, Planetary Resources’ former director of mechanical and thermal engineering; Brian Geddes, former director of software; and Rhae Adams, former director of mining and energy.

Planetary Resources had to let a robotic worker go as well. Arkyd-6A, the experimental Earth-observing satellite that was launched for the company in January, is now idle in low Earth orbit.

When this company made its splashy appearance in 2012, claiming it planned to do asteroid mining, I said hogwash. They weren’t an asteroid mining company, at best they were a cubesat-sized orbiting telescope company, testing technologies for looking at asteroids.

In the end, they weren’t even that. Arkyd-6A has taken one picture of the Earth, and is not competitive with numerous other Earth-observation companies that have already launched many superior and commercially profitable satellites.

I am not optimistic for the future of this company. The lesson it provides however is important. Companies that oversell themselves should be viewed with great skepticism.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

One comment

  • Localfluff

    I suppose they rode on the ARM wave as long as it lasted. LOP-G is ARM without the asteroid, so this is an illustration of the uselessness of LOP-G as a concept. Had ARM instead been a mission to one of the moons of Mars, it might have given them the opportunity to bring their own cubesat-lander there along with it to demonstrate some kind of prospecting for water on asteroid like bodies, happening by now already.

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