Luxembourg is the first European country changing its laws to allow asteroid mining companies to keep what they harvest.
Luxembourg passed draft legislation this weekend intended to make the country the hub of the future space mining business. Most European countries don’t offer a similar level of legal protection for prospective miners, causing investors to flock to the tiny country.
The country has negotiated formal relationships with about 20 space companies and entrepreneurs, including asteroid mining companies Deep Space Industries (DSI) and Planetary Resources. Luxembourg is paying some of these companies to operate within its borders.
A recent wave of private companies has been encouraged by a rapidly changing legal environment to consider mining asteroids. DSI’s CEO previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation that his goal was to mine enough asteroids to provide “all the material and equipment needed to build cities in space” in the next 30 years.
DSI thinks it can sell air, building materials, water and propellant to other companies in space cheaper than launching them from Earth. It plans to launch a probe called Prospector-1 to an asteroid next year, which will rendezvous with a near-Earth asteroid by 2020 to assess its value for mineral mining. This survey could be followed up with the first commercial space mining mission.
Planetary Resources has launched a simple test vehicle into low Earth orbit and intends to mine asteroids.
The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill in November, later signed by President Barack Obama, that legalized asteroid mining and granted property rights in space to private companies. Under the new law, companies own the resources they extract from asteroids, such as platinum and water. Experts at think tanks routinely noted the lack of legal recognition of property rights in space as one of the major road blocks to the development of space-based industries.
Previously, the international Outer Space Treaty declared that no nation could own property in space. The wording of the treaty is vague enough that companies want to ensure that they will own the resources they mine from asteroids before investing. The bill Congress passed would make those property rights official, at least under U.S. law.
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