Senate Votes Unanimously to Legalize Mining in Space… Despite International Treaty Forbidding Owning Property on Planets and Asteroids

Monday, November 16, 2015
(photo: NASA)

The Senate must have decided the Earth has run out of places to pollute with mining.


Last week, the Senate passed a bill that would legalize mining in space and give mining companies the right to own whatever they remove (including such valuable space elements as platinum and water). A similar version of the bill has already been passed in the House and when they’re aligned, the bill will go to President Obama for his signature.


According to the bill, 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 bill also makes it illegal for mining companies to take ownership of any aliens it crosses paths with. It does this by defining “space resource” as an “abiotic resource in situ in outer space.”


However, there’s some question as to whether the United States is allowed to give companies permission to mine. The international Outer Space Treaty states unequivocally that no nation is allowed to take ownership of property in space.


One space law attorney believes that the U.S. is on shaky ground by giving any citizen or company permission to own space 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,” Michael Listner, lawyer and founder of the consulting firm Space Law and Policy Solutions, told Popular Science.


In its bill, the Senate appears to have fashioned some superficial cover for its possible violation of the international treaty by stating: “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.” Which seems to say that U.S. companies or individuals may not stake claim to an entire asteroid or planet, but it’s perfectly all right to chop them up and haul off pieces of them.


At least one potential space miner appeared to be enthused by the Senate’s approval of the bill. “Many years from now, we will view this pivotal moment in time as a major step toward humanity becoming a multi-planetary species,” Planetary Resources Co-Chairman Eric Anderson said in a press release, according to Popular Science. “This legislation establishes the same supportive framework that created the great economies of history, and it will foster the sustained development of space.”


Danger, Will Robinson!

-Steve Straehley, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

Senate Votes to Legalize Space Mining (by Sarah Fecht, Popular Science)

H.R.2262 - U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (U.S. House of Representatives)

Senate Votes To Legalize Asteroid Mining, Ban Alien Slavery (by Andrew Follett, Daily Caller)

House Passes Bill Giving Corporations Property Rights to Mining on Asteroids (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)

FAA Gives First Approval to Commercial Development on the Moon (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)


Patricia 8 years ago
The arrogance is appalling - Let's concentrate on the problems this planet has before we go off to pollute another.

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