New US space mining law to spark interplanetary gold rush

December 8, 2015 by Luc Olinga
Illustration of a water-rich asteroid - a new US law legalizes the extraction of minerals and other materials, including water,
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 .

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.

But for the moment, the costs of pioneering the economic exploitation of space remain exorbitant and the risks high.

Large companies are still studying their options, but smaller startups are impatient to get going, like Planetary Resources, launched in 2012 by Google co-founder Larry Page.

Water particles have been detected on the surface of the Moon by three missions, including an Indian probe
Water particles have been detected on the surface of the Moon by three missions, including an Indian probe

"It has often been a question as to whether a commercial company will be able to go out and develop a resource," said Chris Lewicki, president of Planetary Resources, which bills itself as "The Asteroid Mining Company."

But now, the Space Act "allows us to give assurances to our customers and investors as we build a resource business in space," Lewicki told AFP.

"Since the passage of the law, we've been getting a lot of support messages and our current investors are very excited," he added.

Meagan Crawford, vice president at another ambitious asteroid miner, Deep Space Industries, said that with the law's passage investors are no longer fretting that they are wasting their money.

"This is absolutely a big win for us. We don't seem crazy any more. We don't have to work very hard to convince investors."

According to NASA research, of some 1,500 asteroids within easy reach from Earth, possibly 10 percent have valuable mineral resources.

Both companies see great possibilities in space: deposits of nickel, iron ore, gold and platinum that could support the space industry in the same way that the huge deposits of iron ore in the US upper midwest laid the foundations for the Detroit auto industry.

But their first target is water frozen in substantial deposits on relatively close asteroids.

The water's value, more than just to drink, is in providing hydrogen fuel for space vehicles. It could supply a refuelling station for the rockets, for instance, destined to explore Mars. And it could be used to refuel satellites in orbit.

The Arkyd Seris I satellite created by Planetary Resources, which was established in 2012 to mine asteroids
The Arkyd Seris I satellite created by Planetary Resources, which was established in 2012 to mine asteroids

Lewicki says an in-space fueling station could save hundreds of millions of dollars in water transport costs.

"If we can store that water there, we can refuel rockets, satellites—it will be a huge opportunity.

"You can refuel your rocket in orbit; that makes it easier to get it there, and cheaper."

The first space prospecting missions could be launched from 2017, the companies say, and extracting minerals could begin as early as 2020.

Deep Space Industries is planning the deployment of 25-32 kilogram (55-70 pound) mini-satellites to asteroids with good prospects to better assess their resources and bring back samples.

For its part Planetary Resources has already identified asteroids for exploitation using space telescopes place in orbit last year. It plans to launch a small exploration satellite early next year, Lewicki said.

The two companies estimate that the new space gold rush could need several billion dollars over the next 10-15 years.

For that, they need global support for their operations, and need to begin pressing other governments to adopt laws similar to the US Space Act that will recognize a company's rights to any mineral riches it can harvest.

Explore further: Who owns space? US asteroid-mining act is dangerous and potentially illegal

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47 comments

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AGreatWhopper
1.6 / 5 (7) Dec 08, 2015
Karma, exterminate this species before the vermin get off this rock!
Astronoom
2.5 / 5 (11) Dec 08, 2015
The US can't make a law to mine in space, they DON'T own space.

Again a good example that those cowboys aiming for total control, aswel on earth as space.
Its more then time that the US get a big ironball around there legs, to prevent a space war, because that what you gone get.
vlaaing peerd
3 / 5 (5) Dec 08, 2015
Not yet read the article yet, but what is the use of a unilateral agreement on space mining? Last time I checked there where some other countries on this planet too.
coolplace
3.3 / 5 (7) Dec 08, 2015
If space mining begins to look viable other countries able to participate will pass their own versions of our Space Act. For those not able to join, tough luck.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (9) Dec 08, 2015
but what is the use of a unilateral agreement on space mining?

It is applicable (and ONLY applicable) if US firm X sues US firm Y in case X took stuff that Y had already mined.

(What would constitute reliable proof or how 'police' is supposed to investigate something like this god only knows)
msadesign
2 / 5 (4) Dec 08, 2015
This only covers whatever is taken from the rock. It does not grant ownership. And it should be noted that other international agreements protect in situ assets.

It's far from a cowboy action.
Shootist
3.4 / 5 (5) Dec 08, 2015
New US space mining law to spark interplanetary gold rush


One can hope.
antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (6) Dec 08, 2015
New US space mining law to spark interplanetary gold rush

One can hope

You think that companies contemplating this were going: "Jeez, there's no law out there. So we're not going to go mining. But now that there's a US(!) law. So everything is good and we'll start investing!"

Naaa. Can't get that one to grok. Interplanetary gold rush is going to happen (or not) whether there's a law (or not).
mcascia
1 / 5 (3) Dec 08, 2015
I've always felt the moon should be off limits. It's part of our collective cultural histories over thousands of years and is literally a part of who we are. I would hate to look up and see drink Coke in blinking lights. That's the road we are on if businesses are allowed to do whatever they want. Which is the trajectory we are going on.
Mathew
1.7 / 5 (6) Dec 08, 2015
Funny that this law came out right after Secret Space Program whistleblower Corey Goode (AKA GoodETxSG) revealed the ICC's use of slave labor on Mars.

"... in the case of a space mining corporation that has imposed slave labor working conditions in past secret operations, the "free from harmful interference" clause suggests that international organizations such as the International Criminal Court would not have the power to directly intervene [until 2022]."

It appears that they are trying to save their behinds for when all of this stuff leaks out in a worldwide Disclosure event.

Corey has also disclosed that gold is no rarity in our solar system. For decades now, the ICC has been mining asteroids in the Asteroid Belt whose interiors are almost entirely made out of gold.
krundoloss
5 / 5 (4) Dec 08, 2015
Mcascia, more likely we will have logos superimposed on the moon from our augmented reality devices. No one will deface an entire planetary body. But no doubt as we are able to travel to other objects, there will be conflict and greed too. We can only hope that since space is so incredibly dangerous, people will be altruistic most of them time, like most sea-faring vessels are now. I am excited, because Finally there is a Reason to push the limits of space travel! No longer will Space travel be "because we can" or "because we wanted to see it we could", there will be a viable economic reason, and That will drive innovation much much faster.
johnsonse
2.2 / 5 (6) Dec 08, 2015
Yes, you can completely "own" the minerals and when you try to transport them back to earth you will be taxed into poverty!! Government will get you to mine it for them for free and then make you pay a "fair share," that is close to total confiscation....
Zzzzzzzz
3.7 / 5 (9) Dec 08, 2015
The US can't make a law to mine in space, they DON'T own space.

Again a good example that those cowboys aiming for total control, aswel on earth as space.
Its more then time that the US get a big ironball around there legs, to prevent a space war, because that what you gone get.

Read the damn article...... this law says nothing about the US "owning" "space". This law says that profits made by off-planet ventures have not violated US law.
Alex7
1 / 5 (2) Dec 08, 2015
How do you pay taxes on a mountain of platinum?

Do we keep it in space or drop it down to earth?

How do you bring it down to earth without creating a large crater?
Zzzzzzzz
2.6 / 5 (5) Dec 08, 2015
New US space mining law to spark interplanetary gold rush

One can hope

You think that companies contemplating this were going: "Jeez, there's no law out there. So we're not going to go mining. But now that there's a US(!) law. So everything is good and we'll start investing!"

Naaa. Can't get that one to grok. Interplanetary gold rush is going to happen (or not) whether there's a law (or not).

This law won't make the decision to go easier for those who want to go. It should make it easier to get funding though.
bschott
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 08, 2015
Funny that this law came out right after Secret Space Program whistleblower Corey Goode (AKA GoodETxSG) revealed the ICC's use of slave labor on Mars.

"... in the case of a space mining corporation that has imposed slave labor working conditions in past secret operations, the "free from harmful interference" clause suggests that international organizations such as the International Criminal Court would not have the power to directly intervene [until 2022]."

It appears that they are trying to save their behinds for when all of this stuff leaks out in a worldwide Disclosure event.

Corey has also disclosed that gold is no rarity in our solar system. For decades now, the ICC has been mining asteroids in the Asteroid Belt whose interiors are almost entirely made out of gold.


The implications above are staggering. Corey must really have his fingers on the pulse of the galactic union of miners and interplanetary labor. Hopefully this doesn't spark a war.
indio007
3 / 5 (4) Dec 08, 2015
The arrogance.....
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Dec 08, 2015
How do you bring it down to earth without creating a large crater?

You dump it in a shallow part of an ocean.

when you try to transport them back to earth you will be taxed into poverty!!

By whom? You could set up such a company anywhere (and bring down the stuff most anywhere, too, ...though I dare say some countries might be averse to having private companies bring in stuff over Earth that more or less constitute 'kinetic missiles' capable of wiping out whole cities without putting some sever limitations on size and trajectories)

chiliboots2000
3.4 / 5 (5) Dec 08, 2015
'Scientists' DO realize, of course, that the 'value' of gold is solely based upon its alleged 'rarity'?

Increasing its volume, here, decreases its 'value'. Or, do they imagine its 'value' originates some
other way?
shavera
5 / 5 (4) Dec 08, 2015
gold has other intrinsic values. It's remarkable as a conductor, since it is also fairly unreactive, and thus connects with less resistance. A lot of substances are grown on gold substrates I think (or maybe more would be if gold was cheaper). Gold as an industrial element would be interesting to see more of.
NIPSZX
3 / 5 (3) Dec 08, 2015
Everybody is already arguing throughout the comments on the how's and why's without even thinking about the first step. First, let's wait ten to twenty years for a company to get a spacecraft off of earth to even land on an asteroid and then worry about the other if's.
Kosmopolitisch
3 / 5 (4) Dec 08, 2015
Space is the final frontier. And unlike the Western frontier of America that hosted the gold rush, space is not a finite area of land mass. It is an open volume. And there is plenty of room for all Earth's inhabitants even divided down the lines of every divisive body-politic known to us. Nevertheless, there is still a need for rules, regulations and even law and order to keep us from stepping all over each other as we push outward. These laws will be superseded in time but they will serve a useful purpose until space is properly represented by all groups who possess the human capable to venture into space.
demonthese
1.7 / 5 (3) Dec 08, 2015
Quick question. Wouldn't bringing more mass to earth increase the gravitational attraction between us and the sun? Wouldn't this eventually cause the earths orbit to decay given enough mass is added?
Clownman
1 / 5 (3) Dec 08, 2015
I like carnivals as much as the next guy, but wouldn't want to spend all that much "gold" to go see a mime in space.
TruthinSpending
1 / 5 (2) Dec 08, 2015
Looking for gold on the moon? Everyone knows it is made of green cheese.
leetennant
1 / 5 (3) Dec 08, 2015
Not satisfied with destroying our own planet...
antigoracle
1 / 5 (2) Dec 08, 2015
Looking for gold on the moon? Everyone knows it is made of green cheese.

Uh huh. Wait till the Green Moon movement get word of this legislation.
Solon
1 / 5 (3) Dec 08, 2015
@Astronoom
"The US can't make a law to mine in space, they DON'T own space."

In a way they kind of do own space, as you are not going very far without a Star Tracker, and they control the market for such items.
Vietvet
5 / 5 (3) Dec 08, 2015
@Astronoom
"The US can't make a law to mine in space, they DON'T own space."

In a way they kind of do own space, as you are not going very far without a Star Tracker, and they control the market for such items.


BS
https://en.wikipe..._tracker
Dug
1 / 5 (2) Dec 08, 2015
First I would note that gold actually has no non-replaceable value or critical and or non-substitutable use. It is an entirely a discretionary resource. If you brought lots back the value of gold would fall below the cost of bringing it back. Since the current cost is controlled by syndicates like diamonds, they will simply lower the value to make it economically unattractive to bring back from space. Additionally we have 95% of all the gold ever mined. How much do we need of an essentially useless resource?

Secondly, our goal isn't to bring things back - as much is it is to get our genes successfully established elsewhere before we run out of critical resources here on Earth and or just simply destroy ourselves and the planet.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (5) Dec 08, 2015
Everybody is already arguing throughout the comments on the how's and why's without even thinking about the first step. First, let's wait ten to twenty years for a company to get a spacecraft off of earth to even land on an asteroid and then worry about the other if's.

Well - governments have already done that....
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (7) Dec 09, 2015
Not satisfied with destroying our own planet...

To be fair: we are destroying the habitability of our own planet (we're not destroying the planet). Asteroids/other planets aren't (human) habitable to begin with so that criterium doesn't apply.

If we find life elsewhere that'd change things, though.
Mark Thomas
2 / 5 (4) Dec 09, 2015
indio007 wrote, "The arrogance....."

I for one will take all "the arrogance" I can get to see us move forward in space, although I would call it courageous and entrepreneurial. After the U.S. proves it can be done, the rest of our mostly risk-adverse world will eventually jump in too. After all, this is what has happened in just about every other modern industry that exists.
Mark Thomas
1 / 5 (3) Dec 09, 2015
I suggest looking for water, not gold. To be able to fuel up in LEO and refuel in Mars orbit could save amazing amounts of money in manned exploration of Mars.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (3) Dec 09, 2015
I suggest looking for water, not gold. To be able to fuel up in LEO and refuel in Mars orbit could save amazing amounts of money in manned exploration of Mars.

I think the article already details that. Water being the new gold...
To everyone - The term "Gold" in the title is merely a euphemism..:-)
winthrom
3 / 5 (2) Dec 09, 2015
Guess I was still stuck back in the days when we ratified the UN space treaty that makes space off limits to private (or national) ownership.
Osiris1
not rated yet Dec 10, 2015
Time for ALL earth would be spacefaring nations to get together to form the first 'Starfleet'
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (5) Dec 10, 2015
Guess I was still stuck back in the days when we ratified the UN space treaty that makes space off limits to private (or national) ownership.

A law is only as good as the check that can be put on it. Many humans don't seem to care for laws that cannot be enforced (no matter whether the law is sensible or not).

In this the lawyers don't seem to realize how big space is, and that until someone comes up with a way to travel near instantly between widely spearated places in space no law is going to be applicable to anything out there.
LagomorphZero
1 / 5 (1) Dec 10, 2015
I am excited to get started building my space piracy corporation.
Solon
1 / 5 (1) Dec 10, 2015
@Astronoom
"The US can't make a law to mine in space, they DON'T own space."

In a way they kind of do own space, as you are not going very far without a Star Tracker, and they control the market for such items.


BS
https://en.wikipe..._tracker


You try and buy one then, let me know how you make out.
Vietvet
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 10, 2015
@Astronoom
"The US can't make a law to mine in space, they DON'T own space."

In a way they kind of do own space, as you are not going very far without a Star Tracker, and they control the market for such items.


BS
https://en.wikipe..._tracker


You try and buy one then, let me know how you make out.


Japan manufactures their own, has I'm sure so does Russia and China.
https://www.jstag..._57/_pdf
Solon
1 / 5 (1) Dec 11, 2015
@Vietvet
Japan manufactures their own, has I'm sure so does Russia and China.
https://www.jstag..._57/_pdf

You try and buy one then, let me know how you make out.
Vietvet
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 11, 2015
@Vietvet
Japan manufactures their own, has I'm sure so does Russia and China.
https://www.jstag..._57/_pdf

You try and buy one then, let me know how you make out.


I have no need for a Star Tracker but I'm sure if any of the existing private space companies
had a need for one they wouldn't have a problem.
http://www.ballae...page=104
MR166
not rated yet Dec 11, 2015
Who writes these articles Disney?

Gold is way too cheap to mine in space even if it were sitting in vast piles on the Moon.

People who do not understand even the basic tenants of Economics really get under my skin. You might just as well believe in perpetual motion.
Vietvet
5 / 5 (4) Dec 11, 2015
@Astronoom
"The US can't make a law to mine in space, they DON'T own space."

In a way they kind of do own space, as you are not going very far without a Star Tracker, and they control the market for such items.


You couldn't be more wrong.

http://spaceref.b...ket.html
Bob Osaka
1 / 5 (1) Dec 14, 2015
Talk about government over-reach.
Mark Thomas
1 / 5 (3) Dec 14, 2015
Whydening Gyre wrote: "To everyone - The term "Gold" in the title is merely a euphemism..:-)"

Are you sure? "Both companies see great possibilities in space: deposits of nickel, iron ore, gold and platinum that could support the space industry in the same way that the huge deposits of iron ore in the US upper midwest laid the foundations for the Detroit auto industry."

Maybe you want to double check my punctuation and grammar while you are at it, if you want to exalt form over substance. Thank you for leaving it to others who are better situated to address the substance of my comment, i.e., "To be able to fuel up in LEO and refuel in Mars orbit could save amazing amounts of money in manned exploration of Mars."

You probably could have put a comma or two in there. Maybe "crewed" is better than "manned"? LEO should probably be defined as "low Earth orbit," the first time around.

Is it possible the two sentences I wrote actually flow one to the other?

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