July 11, 2014 – When Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, two private initiatives hoping to mine asteroids, finally arrive at their first celestial destination they will have an act of the U.S. Congress to watch their backs. The bill introduced by two members of Congress, Derek Kilmer, a Democrat from the State of Washington and Bill Posey, a Republican from Florida, asserts that resources obtained from asteroids are the property of those undertaking the exploitation of the resource.
Entitled, the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act of 2014, it is designed to allow organizations to ignore provisions sanctioned by the United Nations in 1966 under Resolution 2222 of the General Assembly that forbids any Earth nation from claiming sovereignty over any celestial body.
The Bill states its purpose to “facilitate the commercial exploration and utilization of asteroid resource to meet national needs,” and to “discourage government barriers to the development of economically viable, safe, and stable industries for the exploration and utilization of asteroid resources in outer space in manners consistent with the existing international obligations of the United States.”
It further ensures that any resources obtained from an asteroid will be deemed to be owned by the organization that arrived at the celestial body first with full recognition of its property rights. That organization would have the right to bring legal action against a third party making a similar claim and the U.S. courts would serve as arbiter.
What’s missing from the Bill? What if Planetary Resources, Deep Space Industries, and NASA were to compete with enterprises from other countries that also made claims to asteroid resources? Who would arbitrate such counter claims?
What else is missing? In rendezvousing with an asteroid what would happen if one of these organizations were to discover evidence of life? After all asteroids largely made from water ice would be considered valuable space resources for fuel, water and oxygen production. So what would happen if one of the watery asteroids harbored life? Will the discovering enterprise own that life? There appears to be nothing in Resolution 2222 that governs the rights of that alien life in the event we stumble upon it while chopping up its home.