United States Senate has passed a law legalizing space mining for private industry. The law “U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act” allows private companies to own resource they obtain from Outer Space.
While it may be some time until companies become able to practice this law, some, like Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources have already expressed the wish to do so. Under the bill, companies can not own asteroids but are owners of the resources extracted.
“A United States citizen engaged in commercial recovery of an asteroid resource or a space resource under this chapter shall be entitled to any asteroid resource or space resource obtained, including to possess, own, transport, use, and sell the asteroid resource or space resource obtained in accordance with applicable law, including the international obligations of the United States,” according to Planetary Resources.
“The Homestead Act of 1862 advocated for the search for gold and timber, and today, H.R. 2262 fuels a new economy that will open many avenues for the continual growth and prosperity of humanity,” said Planetary Resources President Chris Lewicki.
He added that he was proud to have support from Congress, and that “sensible legislation” has helped spur growth in new frontiers throughout history.
Earlier this year, Planetary Resources successfully tested a prospecting satellite called Arkyd 3.
So far the best known international law governing property rights in space is Outer Space Treaty from 1967. Until now, 104 countries are parties to the treaty, while another 26 have signed the treaty but have not completed ratification.
Outer Space Treaty prohibits any country to own the Moon or any other object in the outer space, claiming that they are the common heritage of mankind. However, the state that launches the object to a celestial body retains control and jurisdiction over that object.
Another important point in this treaty is forbidding states to place weapons of mass destruction in orbit, on the Moon or other celestial objects. This Treaty doesn’t prevent states from placing conventional weapons in orbit or on the Moon.
The bill will now be sent to the House of Representatives for approval, after which it will be sent to President Barack Obama.
Asteroids and other objects in outer space can have minerals and elements rarely found on Earth. Specific asteroids could hold hundreds of billions in resources.