A NEW American space company has announced plans to mine near-Earth asteroids.
Deep Space Industries (DSI) intends to send a fleet of small prospecting spacecraft into the solar system in 2015.
In a decade or so, it hopes to be harvesting metals from the space rocks as well as sources of water and fuel for interplanetary missions.
The 55lb FireFly robots will undertake journeys of two to six months to search for asteroids.
To cut costs, the aim is to hitch rides into orbit with larger communication satellites.
The FireFlies will pave the way for a flotilla of larger spacecraft equipped to bring samples back to Earth.