Blockchain “venture production studio” ConsenSys has announced its acquisition of Planetary Resources—a space startup once focused on mining precious materials from asteroids—in an announcement that could set a record for meaningless buzzwords. (Please email if you have found better.)
“Ethereum smart-contract functionality is a natural solution for private-ordering and commerce in space—the only domain of human activity not ordered around territorial sovereignty—in which a diverse range of actors from a growing number of countries must coordinate and transact,” said Brian Israel, head lawyer for Planetary Resources.
ConsenSys was started in 2014 by Joseph Lubin, a cofounder of Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency in circulation, and who recently wrote about the future of money for Quartz. ConsenSys, which has attracted many investment bankers, was recently was the biggest backer in Civil’s failed attempt to bring blockchain to journalism.
Planetary Resources was founded in 2010 as Arkyd Astronautics with a host of heavy hitters: Israel served in the Obama administration’s State Department office looking at the legal dimensions of outer space and CEO Chris Lewicki worked at NASA on the Mars rover. It was considered one of the hotter space startups at a time when Elon Musk’s Space X and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin were just starting to make noise. Google’s Eric Schmidt and Larry Page were among its investors.
“This isn’t the 24th century in Star Trek, and it’s not the fantasyland of Star Wars,” Lewicki told Quartz in 2016. “We’re going to view the process of developing resources and mining asteroids with a lot of the same business principles, a lot of the same financial instruments and with a lot of the same investment dynamic and risk tolerance that we see… drilling an oil well.”
Both Lewicki and Israel will join ConsenSys in what is being called an asset purchase, which likely reflects the fact that Planetary Resources failed to raise another round of funding earlier this year. What will they do there?
“Bringing deep-space capabilities into the ConsenSys ecosystem reflects our belief in the potential for Ethereum to help humanity craft new societal rule systems through automated trust and guaranteed execution,” Lubin said in the takeover statement. “And it reflects our belief in democratizing and decentralizing space endeavors to unite our species and unlock untapped human potential.”