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April 6 2013

Who Has the Right to Mine an Asteroid?


Suddenly, the idea of asteroid mining is everywhere. As a recent feature here in Popular Mechanics noted, asteroid mining has gone from a "someday" idea to a business plan for more than one company. As a professor who's been writing, teaching, and practicing space law since the 1980s, I say, why not? Asteroids are valuable, they're out there, and they are free for the taking.

Or are they?

Asteroids are certainly available, and they're valuable. More than 750,000 asteroids measure at least 1 kilometer across, and millions of smaller objects are scattered throughout the solar system, mostly in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Even a comparatively small asteroid is potentially quite valuable, both on Earth and in space.

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