US signs asteroid property law

President Obama has signed an act recognising US citizens’ right to own and mine asteroids.

The US Commercial Space Launch Competiveness Act was signed into law today “recognises the right of U.S. citizens to own asteroid resources they obtain and encourages the commercial exploration and utilisation of resources from asteroids”.

Planetary Resources co-chairman Eric Anderson described the act as the “greatest recognition of property rights in history”.

“This legislation establishes the same supportive framework that created the great economies of history, and will encourage the sustained development of space.”

Chairman of fellow asteroid mining hopeful Deep Space Industries, Rick Tumlinson, said, “We are pleased to see the beginnings of legal clarity in the field of space resource utilisation.”

“This bill is a historic step forward and demonstrates that Congress can effectively and quickly pass legislation that is important to the country’s economic future. The hard-working legislators and their staff on Capitol Hill are to be commended.”

“With the enactment of this law, the industry has reached a regulatory tipping point that will facilitate the growth of a global space economy for the benefit all mankind,” Sagi Kfir, general counsel for Deep Space Industries, said.

“Furthermore, we strongly believe that the space resource utilisation provisions of this law may act as a great starting point to effectively catalyse and promote international discussions on this important topic.”

However, not everyone is as positive on the new Act.

Senior lecturer in international commercial law at the University of Kent, Gbenga Oduntan, called the signing “the most significant salvo that has been fired in the ideological battle over ownership of the cosmos”.

“It goes against a number of treaties and international customary law which already apply to the entire universe.

“The act represents a full-frontal attack on settled principles of space law which are based on two basic principles: the right of states to scientific exploration of outer space and its celestial bodies and the prevention of unilateral and unbriddled commercial exploitation of outer-space resources. These principles are found in agreements including the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and the Moon Agreement of 1979.”

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.

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