A bill introduced Thursday by two members of the House Science Committee seeks to promote commercial asteroid ventures, including securing property rights for resources extracted from asteroids by American companies.
The American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act of 2014, HR 5063, was introduced Thursday by Reps. Bill Posey (R-FL) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), members of the House Science Committee. The relatively short bill (about four and a half pages in the copy provided by Posey’s office late Thursday, since the bill is not yet posted on Congress.gov) would direct the president, through the FAA and other agencies, to “facilitate the commercial exploration and utilization of asteroid resources to meet national needs,” “discourage government barriers” to asteroid resources ventures, and promote the right of American companies involved in those activities to both explore and utilize asteroids as well as transfer and sell them.
Perhaps most importantly, the bill provides property rights to resources extracted by those companies: “Any resources obtained in outer space from an asteroid are the property of the entity that obtained such resources, which shall be entitled to all property rights thereto, consistent with applicable provisions of Federal law.” The bill does not extend those property rights beyond the resources a company extracted, such as a claim of property on the asteroid, or of an asteroid itself. The bill also provides for freedom from harmful interference, noting that “any assertion of superior right to execute specific commercial asteroid resource utilization activities in outer space shall prevail if it is found to be first in time,” at least among companies subject to US law.
“Asteroids are excellent potential sources of highly valuable resources and minerals,” said Posey in a press release announcing the bill. “Our legislation will help promote private exploration and protect commercial rights as these endeavors move forward.”
“We may be many years away from successfully mining an asteroid, but the research to turn this from science fiction into reality is being done today,” said Kilmer in the same release. “Businesses in Washington state and elsewhere are investing in this opportunity, but in order to grow and create more jobs they need greater certainty.” That’s a reference to Planetary Resources, a company headquartered in the Seattle area (although not in Kilmer’s district) that has long-term plans to mine asteroids.
Getting the bill passed, though, is no certain feat. Besides drumming up support for the bill in both the House and the Senate, the bill’s advocates have to deal with a tight legislative schedule the rest of this year: the House is scheduled to be in session for only ten weeks for the rest of the calendar year.