U.S. citizens can now legally own resources mined in space after President Barack Obama signed into law a debated bill that allows people to mine, sell and own any space material.
The ground-breaking rule is considered a major boost to asteroid mining as it encourages the commercial exploration and utilization of resources from asteroids obtained by U.S. firms.
“This is the single greatest recognition of property rights in history,” said Eric Anderson, co-founder and co-chairman of Planetary Resources, a company pioneering the space mining industry. “This legislation establishes the same supportive framework that created the great economies of history, and will encourage the sustained development of space,” he added.
“A hundred years from now, humanity will look at this period in time as the point in which we were able to establish a permanent foothold in space,” said Peter Diamandis, co-founder of the company. “In history, there has never been a more rapid rate progress than right now.”
Among the members of the U.S. Congress who lobbied the introduction of the revolutionary law, Florida senator Marco Rubio said the new regulation makes it easier for innovators to “return” the U.S. to suborbital space and further develop the domestic space industry. “Throughout our entire economy, we need to eliminate unnecessary regulations that cost too much and make it harder for American innovators to create jobs. This Bill is an important win for Florida’s space coast and the entire space exploration community,” he commented.
Fellow Congress lobbyist, Florida senator Bill Posey, described the bipartisan, bicameral legislation as a landmark for U.S. leadership in space exploration. “Recognizing basic legal protections in space will help pave the way for exciting future commercial space endeavours,” he said.
Hannah Kerner, executive director of the Space Frontier Foundation, said the newly signed law extends the American free-market values into space, “which is absolutely essential if we are going to succeed at creating an environment where commercial space businesses thrive.”
It remains unknown whether the unilateral move by the U.S. to claim space ownership is valid. According to the Outer Space Treaty, signed by the U.S., Russia, and a number of other countries, nations can’t own territory in space.
“Outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States,” the treaty says, adding that “outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”
The new law, however, does include a very important clause, as it clarifies that it does not grant “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.