With the help from Google founder, Larry Page, Luxembourg will plan to go into space and mine minerals from asteroids. The US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 states that any materials that any American individuals or companies find on an asteroid or the moon is solely theirs to keep and do with as they please.
Luxemburger Wort, one of the country’s newspapers, reported that Etienne Schneider, Luxembourg’s deputy prime minister and minister of the economy, said the government would work with one of the world’s largest satellite operators — SES, which he helped set up a decade ago — and two US companies to help make it happen.
The two US private companies are Planetary Resources, in which Page from Google is an investor, and Deep Space Industries, which is working on sending tourists into space. But it has taken over two years to get these private companies on board, as Luxembourg’s Schneider first started working on the project in secret after visiting NASA’s research centre in August 2013.
Last November, US President Barack Obama signed legislation that allows commercial extraction of minerals and other materials, including water, from asteroids and the moon.
The US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 says that any materials American individuals or companies find on an asteroid or the moon is theirs to keep and do with as they please.
While the Space Act breaks with the concept that space should be shared by everyone for scientific research and exploration, it establishes the rights of investors to profit from their efforts, at least under US law.
“I am convinced there is great scientific and economic potential in Luxembourg’s vision,” Jean-Jacques Dordain, the ex-director-general of the European Space Agency, told the Financial Times in another report. “We know how to get to asteroids, how to drill into them and how to get samples back to Earth.”
But while the technology seems to be there and ready to be used for space mining, the cost of the project requires Luxembourg to seek out rich, private investors.
For example, it is estimated to cost NASA $1 billion just to bring back 60 grams of asteroid mineral from the OSIRIS-REx mission.
Dordain told the FT he reckoned that the Luxembourg project would cost “tens of billions of dollars” but that the payoff could be enormous. “At the end,” he said, “there could be a market worth trillions.”
Asteroids might not look like much on the outside, but they’re packed full of rare and precious materials.
Underneath the surface of some asteroids is a treasure trove of a type of mineral, called platinum, that is rare on Earth but extremely lucrative — 1,000 cubic centimeters of platinum is worth close to $1 million.
One of these platinum-loaded asteroids flew by Earth on July 19.
And this particular one, called asteroid 2011 UW-158, is thought to harbor $300 billion to $5.4 trillion worth of platinum and other precious metals and materials. Astronomers can estimate this by studying the object’s size as well as its general composition with instruments called spectrometers that measure the intensity of light from an object.
Asteroid mining could be an extremely useful business for agencies like NASA, which hopes to capture an asteroid and bring it in orbit around the moon soon enough for future astronauts to visit it and collect samples by as early as 2025.
NASA says the materials frozen in asteroids could “be used in developing the space structures and in generating the rocket fuel that will be required to explore and colonize our solar system in the twenty-first century.”