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Deep Space Industries takes mining to infinity and beyond; The benefit of employee benefits at Google

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Deep Space Industries has just unveiled a plan that aims to take the mining industry to infinity — and beyond. The company is seeking investors for a new project to mine asteroids.

No, this isn’t a sequel to “Armageddon” starring Bruce Willis and featuring an Aerosmith soundtrack. It’s real. And the company isn’t the first to suggest pulling nickel and oxygen out of debris from the void. The estimated value of asteroid mining can be astronomical — in the trillions.

But according to Stephen Covey, a Deep Space Industries board member, the company ultimately has even higher ambitions: “I forget who said it, but if the dinosaurs had a space program, they’d still be here.”

Deep Space’s board chairman Rick Tumlinson says the company’s 20-year plan starts with a fleet of unmanned spacecraft.

“Probably within the next two years, we’d like to launch what we call the fireflies. These are small probes with basically cameras on them. We’ll zoom these little suckers out there, they’ll take pictures of asteroids, help us characterize what they’re made of.”

In the long term, Deep Space aims to collect small samples from the asteroids and bring them back to earth. But the question remains: Who do those samples — and other resources in space — actually belong to?

“The universe belongs to everybody and anybody,” says Tumlinson. “We’re putting ourselves out there, but I tell you what, you are no more alive than when you’re at the edge. And we believe that’s the same thing for people and we believe that’s the same thing for cultures. And right above us — starting 100 miles up — is the edge, and it’s an infinite edge, which means we have the infinite possibility for an exciting future ahead of us.”

Google released its quarterly earnings report yesterday, which revealed that growing ad profits are making Google’s investors happy. But they aren’t the only ones.

Google employees have long been known as some of the happiest workers around. For the past four years running, Fortune has deemed Google the best company to work for in America.

But according to Farhad Manjoo, who recently wrote about Google’s company culture for Slate Magazine, Google is unusual, because “it cares about their happiness and it has been successful for long enough that it can do this without investors getting too worried about it.”

That’s because worrying about employees happiness in the long term has allowed Google to hold on to its workers in a very competitive environment.

Manjoo points to Google’s 5-month pregnancy leave policy as an example: “As a result, their rate of new mothers leaving Google, it actually went down 50 percent, and that in the end turned out to be cost effective for Google.”

And what’s cost effective for Google keeps investors happy.

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