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Metalaw and SETI

Is Asteroid Mining Even -- Legal? No.

24 Apr 2012, 17:33 UTC
Is Asteroid Mining Even -- Legal?  No.
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In a few hours, a new company called Planetary Resources will unveil a much-anticipated venture to mine asteroids for precious metals and other resources. Sounds rather Buck Rogers, and most if not all of the press coverage has focused on whether space mining would be feasible either technologically or financially. (Another company called Moon Express has announced plans for similar mining on the Moon.) So far as I can tell, nowhere in the press coverage (or in this just-released feasibility study by Cal Tech) is the legality of such a venture addressed. Are extraterrestrial resources just there for the taking, by those who can get to them first and bring them back to Earth?This is not an insignificant question, because at first blush the answer would appear to be a resounding “no.” And the neglect of this question in the current excitement over these ventures is a little puzzling, given that just a few weeks ago a legislative proposal to create a Wild West-style land rush in outer space received a lot of attention. The legal questions presented by both stories are the same. International law makes no distinction between extraterrestrial resources, whether they be on the Moon, Mars or ...

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