Planetary Resources is building ships for asteroid mining, and even making long term plans for building orbital fuel depots that can break down water extracted from asteroids for the hydrogen.
I remember going to science museums when I was a child back in the 1980's, (yes I'm old) and seeing all these dioramas of what our moon colonies and space stations would look like. We were told this stuff was in the works, lots of people thought we would have a moon base by the beginning of the 21st century.
Our country was just coming off of two decades (60's and 70's) of increasing space exploration. Then in the 1990's we started cutting back on our focus on space exploration. There are several reasons for this but one of the main reasons is that the cold war ended. Don't get me wrong the collapse of communism in eastern Europe was a good thing, but it seems that most of our governments motivation in space exploration was just an attempt to one up Russia. Without that motivation our space exploration has floundered for the last two decades.
|I wasn't the only one disappointed, From XKCD.com|
This came to a head a couple of years ago when the Obama administration cut funding to NASA. Part of their explanation for this was that the government wanted to encourage private enterprise to take over space exploration. I remember being skeptical that this would happen and being rather disappointed in the decision.
I appears, however, that I may have been wrong. It remains to be seen if they will be able to get this venture off the ground, but with major companies like Google backing this and many former NASA engineers employed by the company it seems likely that they will make it happen.