Senate Passes Space Mining Legislation
The US Senate has passed the Space Act of 2015, including its provisions for asteroid mining, which allow companies to have rights to resources they plan to extract from asteroids. Is it possible to stake a claim to an asteroid?
(Deep Space Industries asteroid mining concept)
The bill would make those property rights official, at least under U.S. law. Although companies can't own the asteroids themselves, the current version reads:
“A United States citizen engaged in commercial recovery of an asteroid resource or a space resource under this chapter shall be entitled to any asteroid resource or space resource obtained, including to possess, own, transport, use, and sell the asteroid resource or space resource obtained in accordance with applicable law, including the international obligations of the United States."
...the Senate made sure to cover its bases when it comes to the Outer Space Treaty, to hopefully avoid angering other countries.
It is the sense of Congress that by the enactment of this Act, the United States does not thereby assert sovereignty or sovereign or exclusive rights or jurisdiction over, or the ownership of, any celestial body.
However, this points to one of the problems with the bill, according to Michael Listner, lawyer and founder of the consulting firm Space Law and Policy Solutions. Because the U.S. can't own property in space, it can't really dole out rights to pieces of that property. "It would be like you asking me for a piece of pie, and me saying, go over to my neighbor's house and take a piece of their pie, and then come back and thank me for it," says Listner. He thinks there should have been more international discussions about space mining before a U.S. law was proposed.
In his excellent 1941 story Jurisdiction, Nat Schachner clearly described the process of staking a claim to an asteroid:
The law of filing on newly discovered asteroids was definite. Two steps were required. First, setting up the proper monuments on the asteroid. Second, filing the requisite affidavits in the Claims Office of Jurisdiction.
Four metal stakes were driven deep into the stone... Then a photograving of claim to title was etched deep within the area bounded by the stakes.
(Read more about asteroid claim law)
See also this article on Moon Mining And Space Lawyers.
Via Popular Science.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/7/2015)
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