According to the company, the FireFly spacecraft will only weigh about 55 pounds and is being designed for journeys lasting between two and six months. The larger, 70lb DragonFlies, which are expected to bring back 60 to 150 pounds of asteroid samples, are being built for round-trip journeys of two to four years.
"My smartphone has more computing power than they had on the Apollo moon missions," said Tumlinson. "We can make amazing machines smaller, cheaper, and faster than ever before. Imagine a production line of FireFlies, cocked and loaded and ready to fly out to examine any object that gets near the Earth."
While the idea of prospecting for metals and other resources in space may sound like a sci-fi movie, Deep Space Industries actually already has competition in the asteroid-mining business. A company called Planetary Resources announced in April that it plans to plan mine Near-Earth Asteroids for raw materials such as water and precious metals.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is email@example.com.
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