Private companies can now mine asteroids, after Barack Obama signed a major law that reverses decades of space law.
US citizens are now able to obtain their own asteroids and mine resources out of them, and will be able to own the materials they find there. Until now, space has largely been treated as publicly-owned, meaning that nobody could claim commercial ownership of anything that was out there.
The US government has now thrown out that understanding so that it can get rid of “unnecessary regulations” and make it easier for private American companies to explore space resources commercially. While people won’t actually be able to claim the rock or “celestial body” itself, they will be able to keep everything that they mine out of it.
It is hoped that the new rules will allow people to harvest the often vast amounts of expensive resources that are inside of the asteroids that fly near our planet. In July, a rock with a platinum core passed that was worth £3.5 trillion passed by Earth.
The new law is called the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. As well as giving the right to mine asteroids, it extends America’s commitment to the International Space Station and makes it easier for to run a private space startup company.
It also requires that US authorities specify the way that asteroid mining will be regulated and organised.
Planetary Resources, an American company that intends to make money by mining asteroids, said that the new law was the “single greatest recognition of property rights in history”, and that it “establishes the same supportive framework that created the great economies of history, and will encourage the sustained development of space”.
Much of the ownership of space is regulated by the “Outer Space Treaty”, a document that was signed by the US and Russia among other countries in the 1960s. As well as saying that the moon and other celestial objects are part of the “common heritage of mankind”, it says that exploration must be peaceful and bans countries from putting weapons on the moon and other celestial bodies.