Chris Lewicki, president of Planetary Resources claims that private companies will be mining asteroids by the year 2025.
Planetary Resources aims to become the first company to transform asteroid water into rocket fuel and start creating spatial refueling stations in the next ten years. But its ultimate goal is to finally start harvesting precious metals from the space rocks.
Even if it sounds like science-fiction, the process of extracting water from asteroids is actually already known by science. Chris Lewicki argues that the technology isn’t extremely expensive or hard to implement.
The Space Act of 2015, passed by the US congress on November 18 brings Chris Lewicki’s goals one step closer to becoming reality. The new law gives permission to any company to mine wherever they want in the Universe, also having the right to own and sell the outcome.
However, the Space Act is highly critiqued all over the world since it infringes several international treaties. The most important of those are the Outer Space Treaty, signed in 1967 and the Moon Agreement signed in 1979. These acts stated two basic principles on which the law of space was lying – the right of scientific exploration of the space and its bodies of all the states and the prevention of unbridled and unilateral commercial exploitation of space resources.
Some of those opposing the Space Act are arguing that it throws the vast territory of space to the philosophy of the Wild West, which stated that the one who dares, wins.
On the other side, the supporters of the US Space Act salute the new law, claiming that the space belongs to everybody, not only to the governments, so everybody should enjoy its benefits accordingly.
The American lawmakers deny that the US Space Act violates any international law, arguing that based on the US law, everybody has the right to extract and use resources from any celestial body.
However, the Space Act might lead to the destruction of the space as we know it today. If the asteroid-mining will be an unregulated market, it is obvious that different companies from different places will want a piece of that pie. This will one day lead to conflict over resources.
Besides that, the moment we start contaminating asteroids with microbes coming from Earth, it will make it a lot harder to find alien life out there, in the Universe. Not to say that mining in space will pollute the surroundings of the Earth the same way it did on our planet.