Planetary Resources once aimed to be the leading provider of resources for people and products in space. It described itself as being the world’s first commercial deep space exploration program. The purpose of the program was to identify and unlock the water resources necessary for human expansion in space. The main goal of Planetary Resources was identifying, extracting, and refining resources from near-Earth asteroids. The program was going to collection extensive data during a series of missions in deep space visiting multiple near-Earth asteroids. Data collection was to include global hydration mapping and subsurface extraction demonstrations to determine the quantity of water and the value of the resources available. The information gathered will allow Planetary Resources to design, construct and deploy the first commercial mine in space.

The company’s first technology demonstration satellite, the Arkyd-3, launched from Cape Canaveral in 2015, and deployed from the International Space Station. Planetary Resources successfully lobbied towards the passage of the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (H.R. 2262) which recognizes the right of U.S. citizens to own asteroid resources they obtain and encourages the commercial exploration and utilization of resources from asteroids. The company announced a partnership with the Government of Luxembourg to advance the space resources industry in 2016. Luxembourg’s Chamber of Deputies passed a law recognizing the right to space-based resources in 2017. The company launched the Arkyd-6 containing a demonstration of technology designed to detect water resources in space and has completed the world’s first deep space  resource exploration plan to characterize hydrated resources on near-Earth asteroids in 2018.

So where is Planetary Resources today? The company just took an unusual turn on its path to asteroid mining. A blockchain company called ConsenSys, created by Ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin, bought Planetary Resources for an unspecified sum. Blockchain-based smart contracts represent a “natural solution” for commerce in space. ConsenSys will run its space strategy at Planetary Resources’ former Redmond, Washington location. The newly united companies haven’t outlined a roadmap at this stage. The acquisition is as much the result of financial necessity as anything else. The company has edged closer to its plans of asteroid mining by testing its technologies in space. Recently, it laid off employees after failing to secure an important funding round. ConsenSys’ takeover gives Planetary Resources a lifeline that should keep its plans intact, even if it’s now likely that the company will delay a key asteroid inspection mission past its original target of 2020.

ConsenSys Solutions describes its mission as bringing blockchain to business helping enterprises, governments, non-profits, and startups across the globe build, test, and deploy public and private blockchain solutions. They offer education, advisory, and development services, as well as opportunities for joint ventures and co-creation. They host events, launch hackathons, and offer mentorship and support to small organizations and teams building blockchain-based solutions to real-world problems. The acquisition results should be very interesting and hopefully put Planetary Resources back on track.