A US firm has unveiled plans to send a fleet of spacecraft into the solar system to mine asteroids for metals and other materials.
"Using resources harvested in space is the only way to afford permanent space development," said David Gump, chief executive of Deep Space Industries.
He said that more than 900 new asteroids that pass near our planet are discovered each year.
"In this case, metals and fuel from asteroids can expand the in-space industries of this century. That is our strategy."
As a first step, the company plans to send "asteroid-prospecting spacecraft" into the solar system, with the first – 25kg FireFlies - to be launched in 2015 on journeys of two to six months.
They will be followed from 2016 by heavier DragonFlies that will go on two to four year missions and bring back samples.
"This is the first commercial campaign to explore the small asteroids that pass by Earth," said Deep Space chairman Rick Tumlinson.
"Using low-cost technologies and combining the legacy of our space programme with the innovation of today's young high tech geniuses, we will do things that would have been impossible just a few years ago."
If all goes according to plan, Deep Space Industries predicts that, in a decade, it will be harvesting metals and other building materials from space rocks for large platforms to replace communications satellites.
These would be followed by solar power stations beaming carbon-free energy back to Earth.
"We will only be visitors in space until we learn how to live off the land there," Mr Tumlinson said in a statement that also made a pitch for customers and sponsors.
"We are squarely focused on giving new generations an opportunity to change not only this world but all the worlds of tomorrow. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?"
Deep Space Industries is the second company to enter into the asteroid-mining business after Planetary Resources, which launched in April 2012 with the backing of top Google executives and film director James Cameron.