The trillion dollar outer space land grab: Experts warn of massive conflicts looming over space mining rights (Daily Mail/Reuters – August 21, 2017)

Can anyone claim the red planet or natural resources on asteroids? Business leaders and legal experts say the question has become more than philosophical as a growing number of firms, often backed by capital and technology from Silicon Valley, have set their sights on the resources of outer space asteroids and Mars.

In order to avoid conflicts between competing companies and countries over outer space resources, more work needs to be done on Earth to determine who owns commodities taken from celestial bodies, analysts said.

‘There is a huge debate on whether companies can simply travel to space and extract its resources,’ said Barry Kellman, a law professor who studies space governance at DePaul University in Chicago. ‘There is no way to answer the question until someone does it,’ Kellman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

U.S.-based Planetary Resources, a firm backed by Google founder Larry Page and Virgin Group’s Richard Branson, expects to be mining asteroids for water in the next 10 to 15 years. The company will launch its first robotic probe mission to scout asteroids for resource deposits in 2020, said Planetary Resources’ Chief Executive Chris Lewicki.

‘If you obtain a resource and bring it with you, it becomes your property,’ Lewicki said, citing recently passed space laws in the U.S. and Luxembourg that offer a legal framework to ensure that private operators can be confident about their rights over resources they extract in space.

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