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Under current laws, a US company that travels beyond Earth for resources is allowed to keep its haul, whereas a European company isn’t entitled to the profits. This has, many investors say, held back the development of asteroid mining amongst European corporations as a viable means of income.
In Luxembourg, a country not particularly renowned for its special activities, the government has drafted a bill that should come into effect early next year and will allow private companies to keep what they bring back from outer space. Government officials state that the bill doesn’t let everyone go into space and bring resources back, but it does allow companies to eliminate the uncertainty of ownership upon return. Corporations hoping to get start flying to asteroids and mining resources will have to follow all international laws and regulations and declare everything that is found. I guess it helps when the government invests a large chunk of money into space mining.
Whilst they might not have any Blue Origin’s or SpaceX’s, Luxembourg does have a history of pulling of deals to make money out of space. The Luxembourg government, in 1985, helped to fund Société Européenne des Satellites which was an early satellite provider. Skeptics were unsure of the demand and doubted it was a wise investment before SES made a 2 billion Euro turnover in 2015.
This wouldn’t necessarily change EU law and other countries across Europe couldn’t currently operate in the same way, but they might not have to. Most European corporations, especially the mining companies, already use Luxembourg as a hub in any case and could happily use the new Luxembourg laws to their advantage. It would seem that Luxembourg are fairly encouraged and optimistic about the prospect of space mining, as they have spoken to many private spaceflight companies and entrepreneurs from around the world, including, its believed, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources. They are thought to have been arranging deals and partnerships that could spur on the movement, although even the most aggressive missions under current planning won’t come into action until 2020.
Where could we go?
When a company looks at a mission to mine an asteroid, they need to weigh up all the possible risks and rewards. If the asteroid is further away, it will cost more to bring the resources back and might make the voyage less profitable. Some of the current targets:
4660 Nereus – a fairly small comet but it passes by Earth quite frequently and could be just a short journey at some point in the near future.
2008 EV5 – This Near Earth Object is about 400m in diameter and has been in the news lately as NASA have said they want to take a part of it and put it into orbit around our own moon to study further.
4034 Vishnu – A 400m wide asteroid that has a similar cycle around the Sun as ourselves.
3628 Božněmcová – Named after a famous Czech writer, this asteroid has long been known to scientists
What differences exist between Asteroids, Comets, Meteoroids, Meteors and Meteorites?
Asteroid: An asteroid is a small, usually inactive, rocky body going around the Sun. Sizes, shapes and orbits can all vary drastically, as can composition.
Comet: A comet is a small object whose ices can vaporize in sunlight forming an atmosphere (coma) of dust and gas. These are of great interest to scientist as the water can be used to create fuel.
Meteoroid: A meteoroid is the result of a small breakaway part from a comet or asteroid orbiting the Sun.
Meteor: The light phenomenon which results when a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere and vaporizes; often referred to as s shooting star.
Meteorite: A meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth’s fiery atmosphere and crash lands upon the surface. It is rare for anything bigger than a grain of sand to make it through.