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posted by cmn32480 on Saturday February 06 2016, @06:44AM   Printer-friendly
from the we-will-convert-your-wealth-to-earth-dollars dept.

Luxembourg has announced that it will invest in the fledgling asteroid mining industry:

The government of Luxembourg announced Wednesday that the country will be investing in the as-yet-unrealized industry of asteroid mining. The tiny European country will be funding research into the extraction of minerals from objects in space, working on legal and regulatory frameworks to govern such activities and, potentially, directly investing in companies active in the field. The nation's ministry of the economy says in a statement that the measures are meant "to position Luxembourg as a European hub in the exploration and use of space resources."

It's a futuristic move, but not a wholly startling one. Luxembourg is already home to SES, a satellite operator, and has previously moved to boost its international high-tech profile.

[...] Luxembourg hopes to address [the legality of space mining] too, with a formal legal framework of its own — possibly constructed with international input — to ensure that those who harvest minerals can be confident that they'll own what they bring home. "The aim is to stimulate economic growth on Earth and offer new horizons in space exploration," Luxembourg's ministry of the economy writes.

TechCrunch reports:

This announcement comes shortly after the United States took a huge step forward in making commercial space mining legal. President Obama signed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA) in November, which stated that U.S. companies are entitled to maintain property rights of resources they've obtained from outer space. [...] CSLCA explicitly outlined private sector rights which were only implicitly stated in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which is the prevailing international law on these matters. Now that CSLCA has been passed in the U.S., it reduces regulatory risk for domestic companies investing millions of dollars into the technology required to properly mine space resources. With today's announcement Luxembourg is on its way to become the second country to lay the groundwork required to make space mining a reality.


Original Submission

Related Stories

The U.S. Geological Survey is Beginning to Take a Serious Look at Asteroid Mining 22 comments

The US Geological Survey Is Getting Serious About Space Resources and Mining

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is starting to earnestly evaluate space resources for future mining. Since its establishment in the 1870s, the USGS has focused pretty much solely on Earth. But now it's also investigating what benefits may or may not exist in tapping extraterrestrial water, minerals and metals.

[...] This past June, several USGS experts took part in a Space Resources Roundtable held at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. "The space-resources community will benefit greatly from working together with the USGS to assess the location and value of minerals, energy and water on the moon, Mars and asteroids," said Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Center for Space Resources at the Colorado School of Mines. [...] It's also worth noting that the new director of the USGS, Jim Reilly, is a geoscientist and former NASA astronaut. During his 13-year NASA career, Reilly flew on three space shuttle missions, conducted five spacewalks and racked up a total of more than 856 hours in orbit.

[...] [Laszlo Kestay, a research geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona,] pointed to the USGS' participation in space-resource workshops. In addition, there's the 2017 "Feasibility Study for the Quantitative Assessment of Mineral Resources in Asteroids" led by Kestay, which found that the water and metal resources of near-Earth asteroids are sufficient to support humanity should it become a fully spacefaring species. "At this point, we have done enough work to feel confident that the methods the USGS uses to assess mineral, energy and water resources on Earth can be used to assess space resources with minimal modification," Kestay said. "We have also done enough preliminary work to identify some areas where humanity's lack of knowledge will result in exceedingly large uncertainties in assessments undertaken today."

Also at Forbes.

Related: Luxembourg Announces Investment in Asteroid Mining
Asteroid Mining Could Begin in 10-20 Years
Chinese Researchers Propose Asteroid Mining Plan, Including a Heat Shield


Original Submission

Chinese Researchers Propose Asteroid Mining Plan, Including a Heat Shield 16 comments

China's Plan to Seize a Near-Earth Asteroid Sounds Surprisingly Feasible

For centuries, humans have extracted minerals from the Earth with reckless abandon, but it's only a matter of time before our desire for gold, platinum, iron, tungsten, and other useful ores will exceed our planet's ability to provide them. But what if we could look beyond Earth for the raw materials we need to power the engines of industry? We'll spare you the disingenuous prattle about how this sounds like a sci-fi movie, because the fact of the matter is asteroid mining is right over the horizon, and a group of Chinese scientists is already trying to figure out how to snag a near-Earth asteroid out of space to harvest all its goodies on Earth.

"Sounds like science-fiction, but I believe it can be realized," Li Mingtao, Ph.D., a researcher at the National Space Science Center under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, tells Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua. Li and his colleagues introduced their plan at a competition in Shenzhen in which participants proposed innovative future technologies.

Their plan, which involves a constellation of satellites in an orbit around the sun that would search for asteroids, wrap a massive bag around an asteroid, and ferry it back to Earth, has significant engineering obstacles. Even once they get a spacecraft to intercept an asteroid and envelop it in some kind of strong material, they'll still have to get it here. That's where a giant, unfolding heat shield comes in, to keep the asteroid from burning up upon reentry. It may sound crazy, but it's just one of many equally ambitious ideas floating around in the asteroid mining field. And as far as asteroid mining schemes go, it sounds pretty reasonable.

So far, Li and his team have been working with the Qian Xuesen Laboratory of Space Technology, under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, to identify a suitable target, reports Xinhua. This will likely be a near-Earth asteroid about 30 feet in diameter. Even a small asteroid would be hard to wrangle, but it could still potentially contain billions of dollars worth of precious metals.

I'm envisioning two ways of getting asteroid chunks down to Earth without burning them up: either a controlled landing of a small portion (tens or hundreds of tons) of minerals using a BFR or other reusable rocket, or diverting a heat-shielded asteroid (or small chunk of one) into Earth orbit and then controlling its descent. Possibly into a desert instead of an ocean.

Related: Luxembourg Announces Investment in Asteroid Mining
NASA Asteroid Mission -- Metals "Worth" Ten Thousand Quadrillion Dollars
Asteroid Mining Could Begin in 10-20 Years
"Mission Success" for Arkyd-6 Asteroid Prospecting Demonstration Spacecraft (Planetary Resources has since run dry on funding)


Original Submission

Luxembourg Still Interested in Asteroid Mining 67 comments

Luxembourg expands its space resources vision

Étienne Schneider, deputy prime minister of Luxembourg, frequently tells the story of how he got interested in building a space resources industry in the country. His efforts to diversify the country's economy several years ago led to a meeting with Pete Worden, at the time the director of NASA's Ames Research Center and a proponent of many far-reaching space concepts. During an Oct. 22 panel discussion at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Washington, he recalled Worden advocating for commercial space: "Why shouldn't you go for space mining activities?"

"When he explained all this to me, I thought two things," Schneider said. "First of all, what did the guy smoke before coming into the office? And second, how do I get him out of here?"

He eventually bought into Worden's vision, starting a space resources initiative that attracted companies to the country while enacting a space resources law like that in the United States. By the beginning of 2019, though, it looked like it might all be a bad trip. The two major startups in that industry, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, had been acquired by other companies with no interest in space resources. Worse, the Planetary Resources deal wiped out an investment of 12 million euros Luxembourg made in the startup.

Schneider is undaunted by those setbacks as he continues work to make Luxembourg a hotbed of entrepreneurial space, a scope that has expanded beyond, but has not abandoned, space resources. During the IAC, the country's year-old space agency signed an agreement with NASA to explore potential cooperation, building on an agreement Luxembourg signed with the U.S. Commerce Department in May. Just before the conference, Luxembourg announced it would partner with the European Space Agency on a space resources center in the country.

The article includes an interview with Schneider.

Previously: Luxembourg Announces Investment in Asteroid Mining

Related:


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  • (Score: 2) by legont on Saturday February 06 2016, @07:11AM

    by legont (4179) on Saturday February 06 2016, @07:11AM (#299758)

    I thought that what could be kept up there is more interesting. Did they ever define at which point a rock up there becomes my private space station?

    --
    "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
    • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06 2016, @09:57AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06 2016, @09:57AM (#299770)

      Did they ever define at which point a rock up there becomes my private space station?

      It becomes your private space station after you've carved it into the shape of your genitalia.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Covalent on Saturday February 06 2016, @01:34PM

      by Covalent (43) on Saturday February 06 2016, @01:34PM (#299797) Journal

      I came here to say the same thing. To me, the best thing to do with an asteroid is to turn it into a spaceship. The cost of lifting all of that mess from earth is exorbitant, the hollowing out a big iron ball seems immensely cheaper. Plus, radiation is probably going to be one of the biggest problems with interplanetary travel. Thick iron walls are going to do a pretty good job of protecting our astronauts from that.

      --
      You can't rationally argue somebody out of a position they didn't rationally get into.
    • (Score: 2) by Gravis on Saturday February 06 2016, @07:18PM

      by Gravis (4596) on Saturday February 06 2016, @07:18PM (#299887)

      Did they ever define at which point a rock up there becomes my private space station?

      like everything else in life, it's only yours if you can defend it by some means. this may be legal, logical or physical defense but unless you defend it, it's anyone's who wants it.

      • (Score: 2) by legont on Saturday February 06 2016, @11:32PM

        by legont (4179) on Saturday February 06 2016, @11:32PM (#299968)

        Yeah, I know this theory, but it always looked extremely psychopathic to me. If one to truly believe it, there are some profitable low risk strategies available such as sabotage. Society would not be able to function if individuals start to challenge or even question it's ability to defend itself. I don't believe individuals are scared to death toward acceptance either. It's probably cooperation that makes it all work, not enforcement, even logical.

        Anyway, my question was if they set up a framework for owning objects in space because bringing them down sounds like a very limited opportunity.

        --
        "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Gravis on Sunday February 07 2016, @12:44AM

          by Gravis (4596) on Sunday February 07 2016, @12:44AM (#299998)

          Yeah, I know this theory, but it always looked extremely psychopathic to me.

          it's all about perspective. on island ABC, the ABC government may say company XYZ owns a river which is the only source of fresh water on the island. however, if company XYZ decides to cut off the water supply to the people on the island and charge an ton of cash to get any water, people are going to turn on the company XYZ and their government. what right does a company/government have to prevent people from using a natural resource? why is the company/government entitled to it and not the people? it's an extreme example but it shows my point.

          Anyway, my question was if they set up a [legal] framework for owning objects in space

          well you should have asked that. anyway, that could only work if everyone agrees to enforcing such claims internationally which is exceptionally difficult even for things that happen on Earth. honestly, it will require both owner and trespasser to be from the same country before you see any meaningful enforcement.

          bringing them down sounds like a very limited opportunity.

          it's not limited if you are looking for scarce elements because there is a huge amount of asteroids just floating around in the solar system. there are asteroids with large cores of various precious metals. the big problem is the actual retrieval.

          • (Score: 2) by legont on Sunday February 07 2016, @02:11AM

            by legont (4179) on Sunday February 07 2016, @02:11AM (#300007)

            I'm not going into a capitalism vs. anarchism discussion for obvious reasons. Back to bringing the precious metals down, it looks, well, stupid. They are much safer up there and could be used for say a hard base for a monetary system. In fact I'd trust a satellite full of gold much more than a secret GLD vault not many have seen. I really see no point in retrieving. The only thing needed is to convince people that things are there and that somebody owns them. You can say that it is unclear until that body brings the stuff back and into the right legal space at that. Well, it's sad. It's probably cheaper to actually get nukes up there to defend that gold than to bring it down.

            That's why I think a successful effort will be related to a way to own commodities in space and legislation about "bringing them down" will die with the clowns introduced it.

            --
            "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
            • (Score: 2) by Gravis on Sunday February 07 2016, @03:39AM

              by Gravis (4596) on Sunday February 07 2016, @03:39AM (#300029)

              Back to bringing the precious metals down, it looks, well, stupid.

              why would it be stupid to bring back asteroids with large amounts of copper, aluminum, gold, silver, tantalum, etc? we use these metals for things we make which currently we are ripping the planet apart just to get.

              They are much safer up there and could be used for say a hard base for a monetary system.

              now that's retarded because you aren't even using the material. you might as well just have a fiat currency than elements in space that you cannot claim. besides, the solar system has lots of asteroids with elemental deposits. why would you base a currency on something that could instantly be worth half as much as the day before?

              • (Score: 2) by legont on Sunday February 07 2016, @04:52AM

                by legont (4179) on Sunday February 07 2016, @04:52AM (#300054)

                Because all that materials are worth more in space. But even if not, bringing down industrial commodities such as copper or aluminium will cost more than getting them on earth. For the "precious", we don't need that much except for monetary reasons. Regardless, it'll be much cheaper and environmentally friendly to produce from them whatever in space. I do realize that laws could be adopted that would make bringing stuff down more attractive, but that is evil (as opposed to plain stupid it looks like now). That's why it is interesting to think about when a rock in space becomes a property. Just claiming one seems not smart. Even if raw commodities are taken out it is not smart. If an iphone is manufactured from them in space, I'd say it is a property. We need to define a border between those two extremes. Grabbing raw commodities is asking for trouble.

                I agree with you about monetary commodities being potentially galore in space. I just suspect they assume companies want to get rich by bringing gold down, which is not smart at all regardless of availability.

                --
                "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
                • (Score: 2) by Gravis on Sunday February 07 2016, @10:18AM

                  by Gravis (4596) on Sunday February 07 2016, @10:18AM (#300139)

                  bringing down industrial commodities such as copper or aluminium will cost more than getting them on earth.

                  1. if we had a clean source of large amounts of Rare Earth Elements with minimal amounts of human intervention, it would cost much less in the same way that farming costs less because one farmer can be 20000x more effective than a farmer from 150 years ago.
                  2. we are ruining the ecosystem just getting REEs, so cost is relative. people are murdered and maimed in countries for the rights to mine things like tantalum, so cost is relative.
                  3. this could be a stepping stone toward having a post-scarcity economy. all the land and resources on Earth have been claimed by the greedy and power hungry, so the ability to be self-sufficient without empowering assholes is extremely valuable, especially in the long run.

                  I just suspect they assume companies want to get rich by bringing gold down

                  fuck those retards. let them waste their time.

                  • (Score: 2) by legont on Monday February 08 2016, @01:23AM

                    by legont (4179) on Monday February 08 2016, @01:23AM (#300388)

                    Even assuming you are correct, I am not so sure about scarcity argument either. First of all much of the scarcity seems artificial. Say your example with rare earth. We had this a few years back and a Goldman Sachs darling Molycorp went to $75 a share or so. Sure they own the biggest rare earth mine right between SF and Vegas.
                    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_Pass_rare_earth_mine [wikipedia.org]
                    Last time I checked it was 4 cents. Perhaps it's too environmentally dirty? Well, they own one of the biggest Soviet mines in Estonia where nobody gives a poo about environment, wages are dirt cheap and it does not look healthy either.
                    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sillam%C3%A4e [wikipedia.org] Perhaps we want to fix that before we start bringing more down. Just a thought.

                    Lets take another hypothetical example. Say we find a way to cheaply import hydrocarbons from Titan. This would enable us to prolong oil epoch perhaps indefinitely. Do we really want it? The only solution would be to prohibit some imports and allow for others, but with cheap gas? Forgetaboutit.
                    That's another reason it'd be much better to basically say - nothing down from space - build over there. And it probably does not even need a prohibition - we just should not subsidize bringing raw materials from space. Subsidizing manufacturing up there would be nice though. And we should start with right laws. Not that I like or even respect them, but because we work like that for now)

                    --
                    "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
                    • (Score: 2) by Gravis on Monday February 08 2016, @02:20PM

                      by Gravis (4596) on Monday February 08 2016, @02:20PM (#300595)

                      I am not so sure about scarcity argument

                      the only time i mentioned scarcity was when i was talking about a post-scarcity economy.

                      Post-scarcity is a theoretical economy in which most goods can be produced in great abundance with minimal human labor needed, so that they become available to all very cheaply or even freely.

                       
                      right now, a lot of human labor goes into mining, the environment gets trashed in the process and people are exploited to boot. if asteroid mining can get the material without any of that, why would you object?

  • (Score: 5, Funny) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Saturday February 06 2016, @12:15PM

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Saturday February 06 2016, @12:15PM (#299783)

    Luxemburg laying claim to an asteroid would double its landmass.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by AnonymousCowardNoMore on Saturday February 06 2016, @01:56PM

      by AnonymousCowardNoMore (5416) on Saturday February 06 2016, @01:56PM (#299801)

      Actually, they just don't want anyone else to set up a tax haven there first, which would destroy their entire economy.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06 2016, @08:34PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06 2016, @08:34PM (#299906)

      I doubled mine by eating a lot of burgers

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Gravis on Saturday February 06 2016, @07:37PM

    by Gravis (4596) on Saturday February 06 2016, @07:37PM (#299891)

    mining asteroids is a really good thing.

    1. if we can perfect it, we can stop ripping our planet apart for resources
      • rare resources won't be rare anymore
      • we don't have to warlords for to get their minerals
    2. harvesting resources outside the Earth's gravity could be instrumental for interplanetary travel/colonization/terraforming
    3. grabbing asteroids will be required to use as a shield for interstellar travel.
    4. now crazy people can kill millions without all that horrible radioactive fallout! :P