Luxembourg announced plans to lead the way of asteroid mining in a statement made in Jan. 3. The country wants to access minerals such as gold, platinum and tungsten in the hopes of encouraging economic growth and opening new horizons in space exploration.
Luxembourg is expected to work with US companies Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, Société Européenne des Satellites (SES) and financiers to accomplish this feat. If the country successfully mines minerals from the 13,000 asteroids near the Earth, it will become a major player in space resources.
“We will support the long-term economic development of new, innovative activities in the space and satellite industries as a key high-tech sector for Luxembourg,” said Luxembourg’s deputy Prime Minister Étienne Schneider. ”At first, our aim is to carry out research in this area, which at a later stage, can lead to more concrete activities in space.”
The deputy prime minister has been trying to convince the US companies to settle in Luxembourg since 2013 after visiting NASA’s research centre. Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, both of which have been competing to be the first to scrape up precious metal in space, have approved the country’s announcement.
The former director general of the European Space Agency (ESA), Jean-Jacques Dordain, has also welcomed Luxembourg’s intent. He thought the plan proves that Europeans are capable of innovation and equipped to take risks.
The exact budget that would be allocated for the project has not been announced. Dordain notes that there could be a market worth trillions in the end that will overshadow the billions spent.
The Outer Space Treaty in 1967 pointed out that space is a public property and should not be subjected to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, so no one can own asteroids. However, US President Barack Obama signed the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act in November 2015, which will enable US companies to have the property rights over any space resources they find from asteroids.