Luxembourg is a country that has been pursuing an aggressive policy in space mining, doing everything to attract businesses willing to work on mining asteroids. Now, it has passed a new milestone, adopting a draft law regarding ownership of mined space resources.
The draft law, which will be in effect in early 2017, gives private companies ownership of the materials they mine from space. It is the first European country to give certainty to ownership, further cementing Luxembourg as Europe’s space mining hub.
The law sets the regulations that have to be passed in order for companies to engage in space mining. They will have to ask for authorization from the Luxembourg government, detailing each specific mission.
Now, this doesn’t give companies the right to claim territorial sovereignty of extraterrestrial bodies. The law merely clears who owns the resources once they arrive on the ground or are used in outer space. According to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy Etienne Schneider, “The legal framework we put in place is perfectly in line with the Outer Space Treaty. Our law does not suggest to either establish or imply in any way sovereignty over a territory or over a celestial body. Only the appropriation of space resources is addressed in the legal framework. Luxembourg’s new space legislation confirms the strong commitment to become a European hub for the exploration and use of space resources.”
This is in line with the country’s SpaceResources.lu initiative, which is concerned with fostering asteroid exploration and space mining. The country has also been enticing companies like Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources Inc to set up shop in Luxembourg. It’s government is set to be a major shareholder in the latter.
Space mining, while seeming to be a moonshot concept, is said to be the future of our interaction with space. The Earth’s resources are going to dry up, and we’ll need to take advantage of space in order to continue development.
Space mining is also set to be the way to move even deeper in space. Asteroids and other bodies carry water, which can be used to make the hydrogen fuel of our space vehicles.
Even more, the tech to do all this isn’t a long way off. In fact, it already exists. NASA is working on the Asteroid Redirect Mission, which will take parts of an asteroid closer to Earth for study. A study also concluded that we already have the technology for space mining, all we need is the initiative to make it work.