New US space mining law to spark interplanetary gold rush
by Luc Olinga
Illustration of a water-rich asteroid – a new US law legalizes the extraction of minerals and other materials, including water, from asteroids and the moon
Flashing some interplanetary gold bling and sipping “space water” might sound far-fetched, but both could soon be reality, thanks to a new US law that legalizes cosmic mining.
In a first, President Barack Obama signed legislation at the end of November that allows commercial extraction of minerals and other materials, including water, from asteroids and the moon.
That could kick off an extraterrestrial gold rush, backed by a private aeronautics industry that is growing quickly and cutting the price of commercial space flight.
The US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 says that any materials American individuals or companies find on an asteroid or the moon is theirs to keep and do with as they please.
While the Space Act breaks with the concept that space should be shared by everyone on Earth for scientific research and exploration, it establishes the rights of investors to profit from their efforts, at least under US law.
Christopher Johnson, a lawyer at the Secure World Foundation, which focuses on the long-term sustainable use of outer space, said the law sets the basis for the next century of activity in space.
“Now it is permissible to interact with space. Exploring and using space’s resources has begun,” he said.
The US move conjured visions of the great opening of the United States’ Western frontier in the 19th century, which led to the California Gold Rush of 1849.