A blockchain startup is hoping to get a cut of a potentially trillion-dollar industry, after it took over a space company set up to mine near-Earth asteroids.

ConsenSys announced its acquisition of Planetary Resources on Wednesday, 31 October, together with its intention of "democratising and decentralising space endeavours."

The space mining startup has had some high-profile backing since forming in 2009, including Google co-founder Larry Page, who was involved in a $21.1 million funding round in 2016.

"Over the course of nearly a decade, Planetary Resources has simultaneously pioneered technology, business, law and policy, and brought the promise of space resources irreversibly closer to humankind's grasp," said Chris Lewicki, a former Nasa worker who helped co-found Planetary Resources.

"I am proud of our team's extraordinary accomplishments, grateful to our visionary supporters, and delighted to join ConsenSys in building atop our work to expand humanity's economic sphere of influence into the Solar System."

Asteroid mining has the potential to become a trillion-dollar industry over the coming decades, according to experts who claim they could provide a near-infinite supply of resources for humanity.

Commercially viable asteroids include those containing minerals like gold, silver and platinum, which could be mined and transported back to Earth. 

In 2015, the US government recognised this potential by legalising asteroid mining and moving away from the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that banned it.

The acquisition of Planetary Resources by a blockchain startup involved with ethereum does not come as a surprise given the nature of space mining, according to Brian Israel, who has previously worked with the US government on the international legal dimensions of outer space.

"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 Israel, who now serves as Planetary Resources general counsel. 

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ConsenSys founder Joe Lubin echoed this sentiment, saying the space firm was in line with his company's belief "in the potential for ethereum to help humanity craft new societal rule systems through automated trust and guaranteed execution."

He added: "It reflects our belief in democratizing and decentralizing space endeavours to unite our species and unlock untapped human potential. We look forward to sharing our plans and how to join us on this journey in the months ahead.”

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