Space mining is becoming a reality as the US senate passes a bill to allow companies to mine asteroids.
It comes just months after the US passed a bill defining mineral rights in space.
The Space Act of 2015 delineates the process for obtaining rights to extract resources from asteroids and ownership of those resources, and also gives the fledging space mining industry close to a decade without regulatory oversights.
Importantly, the bill reinforces that only companies or individuals, and not nation states, have rights to the materials obtained in outer space.
To date there are a number of companies pushing into the field, however the leaders are Google-backed Planetary Resources – which has already partnered with Virgin Galactic and Bechtel – and Deep Space Industries.
Earlier this month Sydney played host to the 3rd International Future Mining Conference, which focused heavily on space mining.
The conference showcased innovations and technological developments in the minerals industry, such as autonomous mining, emerging exploration technologies, new commodities for high-tech equipment, and asteroid capture.
The second Off-Earth Mining Forum was also held concurrently and saw speakers from space agencies NASA (US) and JAXA (Japan), as well as space mining companies Deep Space Industries and Shackleton Energy.
To get a deeper understanding of the how and why of space mining, click here to see an infographic on the new industry.