This week, Congress passed the final version of the Commercial Space Bill, which will give limited property rights for resources extracted from asteroids.
Called the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, the legislation also includes other pro-business measures, such as the guaranteed operation of the International Space Station until at least 2024.
But arguably the most critical of the new rules is the option to own asteroid resources. Asteroids are rich in many of the materials that could soon run out on Earth.
Gold, cobalt, nickel, silver and iron are among the many substances present on asteroids, so having ownership over them could be like winning the jackpot once the technology has been developed to enable extraction. At the moment, we don't have the equipment to be able to get hold of the resources, so for the time being we're limited to what's available on our own planet.
“The researchers, entrepreneurs and manufacturers that make up our commercial space industry are driving innovation that helps grow our economy and furthers Nasa’s research and human exploration priorities in space,” said subcommittee ranking member Gary Peters.
I am pleased we were able to come together with our colleagues in the House to craft a final bipartisan bill that promotes new research, creates jobs and encourages the next major advancements in space exploration.
But we shouldn't get too excited over here in the UK – it's only US businesses and citizens that the new rule applies to. We'll just have to wait for our turn to conquer outer space.