US Congress grants citizens rights to own asteroid-mined riches

US Congress grants citizens rights to own asteroid-mined riches

Artist rendition of a mining operation in space. (Screenshot via YouTube)

After months of deliberation, the U.S. Congress has unanimously passed a legislation that establishes legal rights for citizens to own resources in outer space, which would ease asteroid mining companies plans.

Until now, there was no legislature clarifying issues such as whether resources mined from celestial bodies could be sold on Earth, or what would happen if someone other than a base-owner needs or wants to land there —a key requirement for asteroid mining ventures such as Planetary Resources.

“Many years from now, we will view this pivotal moment in time as a major step toward humanity becoming a multiplanetary species,” Eric Anderson, co-founder and co-chairman of the Redmond-based company, said in a statement. “This legislation establishes the same supportive framework that created the great economies of history, and it will foster the sustained development of space.”

The ruling, known as H.R.2262 — SPACE Act of 2015, also extends the regulatory “learning period” for commercial spaceflight ventures through 2023, confirms that the International Space Station should stay in operation through 2024, and extends indemnification of commercial launches through 2025.

US Congress grants citizens rights to own asteroid-mined riches

Some asteroids are packed with minerals valued in the trillions of dollars.

U.S Congressman Bill Posey said the set of regulations serves as a “landmark for American leadership in space exploration.” This, as the country is recognizing basic legal protections in space, fully accepting asteroids and other space objects as potential sources of rare minerals and other materials that can improve the manufacture of a wide range of products on Earth, the Florida Republican representative added.

For non-U.S. citizens, the norm includes some important disclaimer as it clearly states that it does not assert “sovereignty or sovereign or exclusive rights or jurisdiction over, or the ownership of, any celestial body.”

Geologists believe asteroids are packed with iron ore, nickel and precious metals at much higher concentrations than those found on Earth, making up a market valued in the trillions of dollars.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign the language into law in coming weeks.