back to article US Congress grants leftpondians the right to own asteroid booty

Asteroid mining operation Planetary Resources is as pleased as punch with those members of the US Congress who've backed "historic legislation" H.R.2262 – aka the "SPACE Act of 2015". The act "recognizes the right of US citizens to own asteroid resources they obtain as property and encourages the commercial exploration and …

  1. M man

    errr....does this not revoke all US ownership of EARTH

    Not Extra-Terestial(off earth) but celestial(in space)

    EG inclusive off earth.

    1. Naselus

      Re: errr....does this not revoke all US ownership of EARTH

      No, it only means that the US isn't asserting ownership of Earth through this particular Act. It can still assert it through an overwhelming military-industrial complex.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: errr....does this not revoke all US ownership of EARTH

      Well.. if you on the right side of the pond can grab some extra-terrestrial turf, guess what..? You can control to a pretty big extent what happens down here. Gravity and big rocks will be your friend and those at the bottom of the gravity well will know it.

  2. Your alien overlord - fear me

    "Disclaimer of extraterrestrial sovereignty" - damn right

    1. nematoad Silver badge
      Happy

      "...the United States does not thereby assert sovereignty or sovereign or exclusive rights or jurisdiction over, or the ownership of, any celestial body."

      Pity.

      I would love to see them try and duly get their head handed to them on a plate.

      Still, never mind. I'm sure that the mega-corps are lawyering up to see how far they can push things.

      Popcorn time!

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Um, what's the point of offering ownership rights if it's not got sovereignty?

        1. Filippo

          Same question here. How can they offer ownership if they don't have sovereignty? I mean, ownership is basically not theirs to give.

          1. Fink-Nottle

            > How can they offer ownership if they don't have sovereignty?

            The space-age equivalent of few smallpox infected blankets will take care of that problem.

        2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Rather more to the point is, if they *did* ever acquire sovereignty then what is wrong with existing laws that US citizens could not already buy and sell stuff "up there" with the same legal framework as applies "down here".

          Or perhaps Congress reckons there's nothing left to perfect in Reality and has decided out of sheer boredom to start perfecting the Hypothetical.

        3. Steven Roper

          "Um, what's the point of offering ownership rights if it's not got sovereignty?"

          My thought is it's along the line of an exclusive-importation rights deal. Suppose MegaMining Corp lays claim to Apophis, and goes out there with some mining equipment, and then ChinaMiner Corp sends their own guys and gear out there, MegaMining Corp is the only one allowed to sell material mined from Apophis, or any item manufactured from said material, in the USA. Such a law would then make it not worthwhile for ChinaMiner to go and mine Apophis since they wouldn't be allowed to sell anything made from the ore in the USA.

          So while neither corporation "owns" Apophis per se, only MegaMining could expect to get any ROI from going out there since they have exclusive importation rights.

          Although it would be interesting to see how they'd police and enforce sourcing, given the difficulties we have now of preventing things like conflict diamonds and warlord-funding tantalum from leaking into the world market.

          1. Grikath

            "Such a law would then make it not worthwhile for ChinaMiner to go and mine Apophis since they wouldn't be allowed to sell anything made from the ore in the USA."

            Only in Unicorn Fairyland maybe. In Reality, ChinaMiner wouldn't care less about the US of A , given that whatever Unobtanium it produces that makes the effort of going out to space worthwile, already has a market: the Rest of the World.

            The US of A would be welcome to their slag, though. Ballistically if they get too uppity about it.

          2. Cuddles Silver badge

            "My thought is it's along the line of an exclusive-importation rights deal"

            I don't think so. As far as I can see, it's simply that there was previously no law covering ownership of material in space, so if you went and mined something and brought it back to Earth you wouldn't necessarily legally own it. It's the same on Earth - you can't just wander around digging stuff up and saying it's yours, things like oil and minerals are governed by licenses, treaties and so on. All this law is doing is explicitly applying the same to space - if you go and dig stuff up in space, that stuff is yours. The bit about sovereignty is just saying that while the stuff you've dug up will be recognised as yours, that doesn't mean the USA considers the place you dug it up from to be theirs.

            Essentially, the law simply says exactly what everyone would have assumed to be the case anyway. But the thing about law is that you can't just assume anything, at some point someone needs to have actually written it down.

            1. Ken 16 Silver badge

              So drop your space rocks on the US?

              If I (or a Chinese/Russian state owned firm, more likely since I don't have a space programme yet) get to an asteroid and want it's contents, then I need to drop it on the continental US and have a US subsidiary wearing really hard hats mine it there? I suppose depending on which part of the US it falls on the law may become irrelevant.

    2. Old Handle

      Presumably it mainly becomes relevant if someone brings gold whatever from an asteroid back to the US and then a second party contests that they don't actually own it for whatever reason.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tranquility Base

    I'm going to go dig it up and bring it back to Cleveland for display.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Tranquility Base

      You could drop on the empty space left by the Redcar Steel Works. Might be a good tourist attraction and offer some menial work instead of dole for half a dozen people.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Oi! Who nicked the Sun?"

    Dyson Sphere. Insert coins to open a gap to illuminate your location.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: "Oi! Who nicked the Sun?"

      Dyson Spheres are impossible. Gravity would tear it apart. Even Dyson Rings border on the impossible, being only unimaginably infeasible.

  5. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    Coat

    Better hope there are no northerners working for Planetary Resources

    Their children will panic after hearing about arkid being launched into space.

  6. Mage Silver badge

    the United States does not thereby assert sovereignty

    Yet.

    Stupid arrogance.

  7. chivo243 Silver badge
    Coat

    "SPACE Act of 2015"

    reading between the lines? Get off my planet you greedy kids, go muck up some other neighborhood, I think there are some vacant houses down the road.

    1. Dazed and Confused

      Re: "SPACE Act of 2015"

      On the other hand it's probably only by telling business that they can make money out there that anyone is really going to make the effort to haul arse of this bloody lump of rock. Waiting for Gubberment agencies to do it again doesn't seem to be working.

      1. Preston Munchensonton
        Pirate

        Re: "SPACE Act of 2015"

        On the other hand it's probably only by telling business that they can make money out there that anyone is really going to make the effort to haul arse of this bloody lump of rock.

        So, capitalists have been waiting for government approval to pursue something that said can't regulate? That makes about as much sense as trying to fly up to an asteroid to plunder its booty, matey. Argh.

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        @Dazed and Confused -- Re: "SPACE Act of 2015"

        I wonder if they left an "out" in that act. If they don't assert sovereignty "out there", can they tax the proceeds from any off-planet operation? Take it a step further, colonize Mars. Can any revenue or activity on Mars be taxed? And the US Government (make that "all" governments) think the tax havens in the Caribbean give them fits... and they're here on Earth.

        1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

          Re: @Dazed and Confused -- "SPACE Act of 2015"

          Well, I believe the US govt already taxes income earned by US citizens abroad, so perfectly consistent to tax income earned on Mars or an asteroid.

          And as Congress has decided that they can grant the rights to mine territory outside the USA, presumably they have no problem with my local parish council granting me the rights to mine granite from Mount Rushmore?

          1. Wzrd1

            Re: @Dazed and Confused -- "SPACE Act of 2015"

            Well, Mount Rushmore already has a sovereign claim on it, a Native American nation holds the mountain as holy, so a white chap decided to carve white mens faces on the holy mountain.

            As for US taxation of income broad, from the Infernal Revenue Service website: "If you are a U.S. citizen or a resident alien of the United States and you live abroad, you are taxed on your worldwide income. However, you may qualify to exclude from income up to an amount of your foreign earnings that is adjusted annually for inflation ($92,900 for 2011, $95,100 for 2012, $97,600 for 2013, $99,200 for 2014 and $100,800 for 2015). In addition, you can exclude or deduct certain foreign housing amounts."

            1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

              Re: @Dazed and Confused -- "SPACE Act of 2015"

              As for US taxation of income abroad, ... you can exclude or deduct certain foreign housing amounts."

              There's the loophole - housing costs on Mars are going to be astronomical!

  8. fishman

    Crap

    There goes the neighborhood.

  9. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Headmaster

    I have rarely heard of anything quite as US-centric and cargo cultish

    Make the legislation and interplanetary flowers will bloom? And will the Space Navy defend the right of US citizens to select the space trajectories that they damn well please if tsarist soviet russian space police overtakes a colonists' cargo ship on the high spaces?

    Also

    "Throughout history, governments have spurred growth in new frontiers by instituting sensible legislation"

    Like, trade barriers, letters of patent, blocades, tariffs and duties and a bit of genocide of the natives on the side. Yeah, we get it, the pleasuring of political animals is de rigeur, but can we keep it low-key?

    1. John Savard Silver badge

      Re: I have rarely heard of anything quite as US-centric and cargo cultish

      Letters patent are usually quite inoffensive, although indeed in the past they've been used to grant monopolies not related to inventions, such as the Hudson's Bay Company monopoly on the fur trade. However, I was wondering if perhaps you were really thinking of something else: perhaps letters of marque?

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Pirate

      Re: I have rarely heard of anything quite as US-centric and cargo cultish

      "Sensible legislation" is that the same as a "letter of marque"?

      Icon.... well... because ------------------------>

  10. Daedalus Silver badge

    Whoa there, Trigger!

    The bill (not an Act yet) has only just been approved with an amendment by the Senate. The House will have to reconsider the amended Bill and the Pres will then have to sign it. The clue is "H.R.", the prefix for a House of Representatives Bill.

  11. Chris G Silver badge

    Of course

    This is after full and detailed consultation and discussion woth all other potentially interested parties.

    Isn't it?

  12. John Savard Silver badge

    Treaties Are the Supreme Law

    of the United States, outranking even the Constitution - the Constitution says so.

    One wonders if these Congressmen have forgotten about the Moon Treaty. Of course, though, I know perfectly well they haven't; the concluding paragraph gives it away, if nothing else.

    Space advocates do have a case that treating outer space like Antarctica forever will prevent it becoming a place put to the service of humanity, though; and unilateralism by the U.S. may indeed be the only way to make progress in today's political climate. So there is another side to this story.

    1. Wzrd1

      Re: Treaties Are the Supreme Law

      No ratified treaties are second in power to the Constitution, the Constitution says so. The Constitution isn't law, it's a Constitution and may only be changed by the amendment process.

      As for the moon and space treaty, I suspect that whoever arrives with metric tons of platinum, gold and rare earth metals shan't be turned away.

  13. Youngone Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Outraged?

    I was all prepared to come over all angry about this, but it seems quite reasonably worded to me.

    They're not going to assert any sovereignty over solar system bodies, or prevent US entities from exploiting them.

    I guess the test will be if non US entities decide to try some asteroid mining. Will the US be ok with that?

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Outraged?

      "We came in peace for all mankind."

      If the USA achieved their utmost pinnacle, that might have been it right there.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Outraged?

      There are plenty of asteroids to go around, why should the US care if China starts mining a few? There is only one Moon and one Antarctica, thus why international treaties are needed to establish a way to share.

    3. Red Bren
      Alien

      Re: Outraged?

      "I was all prepared to come over all angry about this, but it seems quite reasonably worded to me."

      Same here, all it seems to be saying is, "if you find it, mine it and bring it back, it's yours." which seems fair enough. However a couple of things still worry me.

      Are we going to see the extraterrestrial equivalent of patent trolling where some paper-only shell company in Delaware claims the mineral rights on some obscure boulder and unleashes the legal hounds once someone else actually makes a return on some real investment?

      How far will the U.S. government go to protect its citizens rights to exploit extraterrestrial resources? Who does the arbitration in disputes between U.S. and other nations' mining companies over mineral rights? Is it all going to go a bit Wild West?

      In space no one can hear you scream for your lawyer...

  14. Christoph Silver badge

    "promote the right of United States citizens to engage in commercial exploration for and commercial recovery of space resources free from harmful interference"

    So it's quite OK to claim jump non US citizens?

    And if they are asserting the right to prevent interference (presumably by armed force), how is that different from asserting sovereignty?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ Christoph

      Simple - in the same way that enhanced interrogation is not torture ... because the lawyers say so.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Future Space Marine

    "In good news for those non-US readers...."

    ...and US readers as it may reduce our chances of getting into any celestial police actions.

    Okay, probably not then...

  16. Bob Dole (tm)
    Thumb Up

    Completely meaningless...

    This is completely meaningless except in one thing: It meant that the US Congress wasn't screwing something else up.

    So, kudos to the group that managed to get this to the floor and prevent those idiots from voting on something that might mean something.

  17. Six_Degrees

    "This off-planet economy will forever change our lives for the better here on Earth."

    ...or at least until an amateur space-miner shepards an asteroid into near-Earth orbit, and drops it.

    "Oops..."

  18. Chozo

    Jettison Scrap and Salvage Co

    How weird... I was watching the old TV series "Salvage 1" on Youtube last night.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuW9bsp3Z2w

  19. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Hmmm, this could ultimately lead to a blockade on key trade routes...

    Best send in a couple of Jedi. If you can't find any Jedi, then I guess Liam Neeson and that Scots twerp will suffice.

  20. Autonomous Cowbird
    FAIL

    Looking for a Needle in a Haystack

    What extremely expensive material is it that they expect to find on asteroids? Most asteroids are made of rock or nickel-iron. Even if the rock contains some precious metals such as gold or platinum, its likely to be in the same sort quantities found on Earth, i.e. a few grams per ton. How do they expect to separate out the precious minerals. On Earth mineral separation processes require crushers and lots of water to divide the higher density materials from the dross. Not much water in deep space and differences in density are irrelevant in the absence of gravity.

    1. John G Imrie

      Re: Looking for a Needle in a Haystack

      How about using a centrifuge, not sure what a lack of gravity would do to that.

  21. Caff

    "Disclaimer of extraterrestrial sovereignty":

    My dreams of Space Piracy live on!!

    1. Chozo
      Paris Hilton

      Re: My dreams of Space Piracy live on!!

      Leather Goddesses of Phobos feature heavily in mine :)

  22. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Pirate

    "Has anybody *not* armed their spaceship?"

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LR9N3NOutaQ

  23. Eclectic Man

    I read the proposal as not banning other, non USA, organisations form mining the same celestial resources as USA corporations. Two or more could mine the same NEO in the brief window of opportunity that it lies within a reasonable distance from Earth.

    The unanswered question is how governments on earth will resolve conflicts in space.

    (I'm sure there's a relevant 'Red Dwarf' sketch, but I just can't think of it at the moment.)

  24. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    I can just make out the legend "Clarkes 11E Cordovan" on the side of the satellite.

  25. R Callan

    So, if this is follow up on The Homestead Act of 1862 does this permit USians to again murder and steal from the rightful owners (whoever they may be) because the USian government says they can? That was the result of The Homestead Act of 1862 just ask native Americans.

  26. John Tserkezis

    How will the Trans Pacific Partnership affect my plans to create a Johnotopia, where I can can play super loud music and annoy all my neighbours on the asteroid?

  27. jinx3y

    It seems to me that the point was missed...instead of focusing on who has sovereignty over what in space, the real story is about who can claim ownership of whatever rock just hit the ground at whatever location. it is not always the case that if it lands in your yard its yours...where and when will the fighting begin then?

    Sure, the topic or legislation seems to imply prospecting rights about space stuff, but if I read it right, it seems to cover "material" and that could imply what is already on the ground as well as in space. So just what did the company find that made them want to lobby this piece of legislation through? what does this mean for those companies or corporations that already have in their possession, a piece of rock from "out of this world"?

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