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If No One Owns the Moon, Can Anyone Make Money Up There?

Back in April, Luxembourg’s crown prince, his spouse and govt officers paid a discuss with to Planetary Resources, hanging on white robes, gloves, wispy caps and child blue bootees — a distinctly unroyal outfit often referred to as a “bunny suit” — to take a detailed have a look at the place the corporate is assembling small satellites.

In June, Mr. Schneider returned to the United States to host a symposium with a roomful of bankers and project capitalists, a shiny demonstration that non-public house funding has reached a tipping level of credibility.

A Goldman Sachs file about leading edge house companies that got here out in the spring perceived to agree. “Space mining could be more realistic than perceived,” the file stated. “While the psychological barrier to mining asteroids is high, the actual financial and technological barriers are far lower.”

At the Manhattan presentation, Mr. Schneider readily said that the perception of asteroid mining seems like science fiction and that he steadily will get quizzical questions on why Luxembourg is spending cash chasing this.

Mr. Schneider recalled that throughout a discuss with to Silicon Valley in 2012, he met S. Pete Worden, then the director of the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., who instructed that Luxembourg glance into asteroid mining.

“At the time, I listened to him and wondered what this guy might have smoked,” Mr. Schneider stated.


The Grand Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg, 3rd and fourth from proper, on a excursion of Planetary Resources in Washington State. The corporate seeks to mine asteroids, Luxembourg has invested $28 million.

Jean-Christophe Verhaegen/Service Information et Presse

But extra discussions and analysis satisfied Mr. Schneider this was once a promising chance.

For Planetary Resources, the first wave of construction is to culminate in a doughnut-shape spacecraft heading on a prospecting undertaking to a near-Earth asteroid in 2020.

Sometime after that, the corporate hopes to mine in earnest — for reputedly mundane water ice. But water, along with doubtlessly offering one thing to drink for astronauts, may also be cut up into hydrogen and oxygen. Both can be utilized as rocket propellent; the oxygen, after all, additionally can give air to respire.

As a trade, Planetary Resources is having a bet that through the time it extracts water from an asteroid, there might be a buyer like NASA fascinated by purchasing water, hydrogen and oxygen.

Eventually, the corporate objectives to extract platinum, recently value greater than $900 an oz, and different treasured metals.

To make those interests more straightforward, Luxembourg handed an area legislation that took impact this summer season. Planetary Resources has arrange its European place of business there. Moves like this one are partly motivating policymakers in the United States to commit extra consideration to American rules that recently govern industrial house actions.

Revising Space Law

Ambiguities in the Outer Space Treaty recently create uncertainty over whether or not somebody can take advantage of such trade ventures. Article II particularly states, “Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”

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