Luxembourg's ultimate offshore investment: space mining

February 3, 2016 by Veronique Poujol With Marlowe Hood In Paris
Luxembourg is the first country in Europe to stake out rights for the mining of so-called "near-Earth objects" such as
Luxembourg is the first country in Europe to stake out rights for the mining of so-called "near-Earth objects" such as asteroids, according to officials

Luxembourg positioned itself Wednesday to pioneer the potentially lucrative business of mining asteroids in space for precious metals such as gold, platinum and tungsten.

The government announced steps to create a for exploiting resources beyond Earth's atmosphere, and said it welcomed private investors and other nations.

With a well-established satellite industry, Luxembourg is the first country in Europe to stake out rights for the mining of so-called "near-Earth objects," according to officials.

In a similar move last November, President Barack Obama signed the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, giving US companies property rights over resources they retrieve.

"Luxembourg also wants to set up a regulatory and legal framework in preparation of the exploitation of space," Jean-Jacques Dordain, former head of the European Space Agency and an advisor to Luxembourg, told AFP.

"Our aim is to open access to a wealth of previously unexplored mineral resources on lifeless rocks hurtling through space, without damaging natural habitats," the nation's economy minister Etienne Schneider said in a statement.

A well-worn theme of science fiction, mineral extraction in space may be on the verge of become a reality.

An image obtained by NASA's Dawn spacecraft of the giant asteroid Vesta with its framing camera on July 9, 2011
An image obtained by NASA's Dawn spacecraft of the giant asteroid Vesta with its framing camera on July 9, 2011

Two US-based companies, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, have bet heavily on a future market for metals from space.

Both applauded the Luxembourg announcement, and were identified as potential partners.

Looking for precious elements on asteroids tens of million of kilometres (miles) from Earth makes more economic sense that may be apparent at first glance.

As our planet cooled during the early phase of its formation, most heavy substances—including metals—sank toward its core, making them inaccessible.

What did remain close to the surface has already been heavily mined, including an increasingly wide range of rare metals used in the electronics and defence industries.

Manufacturing in space

A large number of asteroids—which vary in size from a couple hundred kilometres across to a few metres—are clustered in an belt between Mars and Jupiter, and orbit the Sun in the same way as planets.

Indeed, they are thought to be the remnants of a planet that fractured into pieces, perhaps due to a collision.

As a result, the same minerals pulled by gravity towards the centre of Earth are more plentiful and accessible on these free-floating fragments.

NASA has identified some 1,500 asteroids that it has described as easily accessible.

Rapid advances in technology and robotics have brought a space-based, industrial-scale operation into the realm of feasibility, experts say.

Deep Space Industries envisions a four-step process: prospecting, harvesting, processing and manufacturing.

Tiny space probes would search for iron ore, rare-earth metals and silicates. Some would be brought back to Earth, while others would become raw material for manufacturing in space using 3D printers.

The probes would also look for water—normally abundant on asteroids—to be broken down into oxygen and hydrogen, and used to fuel satellites and rockets.

"Manufacturing habitats, machines and giant structures from space resources will open a new era in exploration and settlement of the solar system," without the additional expense of launching from Earth, the company noted on its website.

In January, the European Space Agency elaborated a vision for a multinational "research village" on the Moon, a project it said could replace the International Space Station.

The village could also be used as a base for mining, and as a stopover for probes heading deeper into space.

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967, signed by major industrial powers, stipulates that natural resources beyond Earth are part of mankind's "common heritage," raising questions as to whether efforts to privatise space mining violate its terms.

Explore further: One small step for mining's new frontier

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wduckss
1 / 5 (4) Feb 03, 2016
It's ugly, do not know the matter and make decisions. Every year the country increase by more than 50,000 tons of new cosmic materials. Increase in weight grows the pressure which raises the temperature of the Earth.
We see, that are the ice ages were all short, they are now absent.
The matter should be at Earth does not shall yield their.
All the wealth in the star burns. The limit on the cessation of stupidity must withdraw.
Tektrix
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 03, 2016
"The matter should be at Earth does not shall yield their."

Construction sentence to worse imagine hard it's!
PhotonX
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 03, 2016
Every year the country increase by more than 50,000 tons of new cosmic materials. Increase in weight grows the pressure which raises the temperature of the Earth.
Rubbish. Every year we lose twice as much mass from hydrogen and helium outgassing than we gain in meteoric infall. Even if we *were* gaining instead of losing that much mass, 50,000 tons is laughably insignificant compared to the total mass of Earth, and certainly isn't causing the planet to heat up.
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wduckss
1 / 5 (3) Feb 04, 2016
Every year the country increase by more than 50,000 tons of new cosmic materials. Increase in weight grows the pressure which raises the temperature of the Earth.
Rubbish. Every year we lose twice as much mass from hydrogen and helium outgassing than we gain in meteoric infall. Even if we *were* gaining instead of losing that much mass, 50,000 tons is laughably insignificant compared to the total mass of Earth, and certainly isn't causing the planet to heat up.
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At this knowledge, was related comment. Not important evidence important is empty talk. By listening to these stories today we are in big trouble and we will be even worse.
Since the last ice age Earth is heavier for 12,000 years x over 50,000 tons.
Squirrel
not rated yet Feb 04, 2016
No doubt France will make its claim and then Germany and we can have a good old fashioned European War about controlling resources but now in space. What happened to the EU--or has the Euro calamity and refugee crisis put in its place the nation state?

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