After a very valuable asteroid passed by the Earth this July, carrying with it several tons of platinum worth an estimated $5.4 trillion, space companies wept as they saw it fly away with having not even tried to take advantage of the moment to mine it for its valuable resources.
This could all change in the future, however.
Congress has made it legal for American space companies to mine spatial objects without any kind of regulation for at least the next 8 years, which means that if a company is willing to put forth the money to send a full-equipped rocket to a spatial body to mine it for its valuable resources, what they bring back to Earth in the next 8 years will be free of regulations.
Dubbed the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, the new measures make it possible for a commercial entity to claim and keep anything mined from outer space, as long as it’s not organic. Organic materials are off-limits, because the U.S. government would want strict research performed on any type of life-supporting spatial bodies before anyone else got there to taint the evidence.
With all of the valuable space rocks just floating above our heads, it seems stupid not to harvest them. Our Earth is only capable of providing so much of these valuable resources to us and some day these resources will run out, so bringing them in from space would eliminate the problem of not having enough of these resources.
On the other hand, it would also just make rich companies richer. How does that really benefit the general population? – Well that’s a touchy subject, but at least it means more precious metals for the resources that we consume often here on Earth, such as gold and platinum for electronics or catalytic converters, etc.
With the new laws moving in, will companies take advantage of the opportunity to get rich?
Well it all depends on whether or not the resources are worth it. A lot of research and development will have to go into making equipment capable of mining space rocks, and then all the money necessary for permits to launch rockets into space, manpower to manage this equipment, and then the time required to get it back to Earth, means some pricy business for any entrepreneurs interested in space mining. These prices may hold companies back since it's really risky business.
One thing to keep in mind is that, say for instance, a ton of companies from other countries started racing to spatial bodies to make some bank; how would we regulate which spatial bodies belonged to whom, and who’s to say there wouldn’t be some form of fighting over territory?
There are a lot of premature things to consider before anyone could make any moves since it involves money, and it may take more than the non-regulated 8 years to get there.