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Government Space Science

The Great Meteor Grab 152

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-may-not-own-rocks-in-space dept.
RocketAcademy writes "New regulations by the Federal government define asteroidal material to be an antiquity, like arrowheads and pottery, rather than a mineral — and, therefore, not subject to U.S. mining law or eligible for mining claims. At the moment, these regulations only apply to asteroidal materials that have fallen to Earth as meteorites. However, they create a precedent that could adversely affect the plans of companies such as Planetary Resources, who intend to mine asteroids in space."
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The Great Meteor Grab

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  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday October 12, 2012 @05:12PM (#41635927)

    Talk about worrying about the wrong problems. Why worry about how this is regulated before anyone can even come close to doing it?

    First come up with a way to mine an asteroid, then you can worry about the legal semantics.

    • by SomePgmr (2021234) on Friday October 12, 2012 @05:22PM (#41636089) Homepage

      I guess the other side of that is, "Why come up with a way to mine an asteroid if the legal semantics won't allow you to mine it anyway?"

      I agree that it's probably not a huge issue that can't be ironed* out, though.

      * Yeah, I did that. Deal with it.

      • by Xylaan (795464) on Friday October 12, 2012 @05:35PM (#41636309)
        From the article, however, the regulations that are being discussed are for meteorites on federal lands. From the article:

        Courts have long established that meteorites belong to the owner of the surface estate. Therefore, meteorites found on public lands are part of the BLM’s surface estate, belong to the federal government, and must be managed as natural resources in accordance with the FLPMA of 1976."

        In this case, I'm thinking that claiming that these changes will somehow apply to asteroids in space is a very long stretch. Especially since they don't apply to the significant volume of privately owned land in this country, let alone the rest of the world.

        • by Sentrion (964745)

          No, but when the US starts planting flags on more heavenly bodies, they may be able to define them as "Federal Land", subject to BLM regulation.

          • More likely it will be private enterprise, and will flag it as corporate property. Which is fine. No regulations needed.

          • by slew (2918) on Friday October 12, 2012 @06:42PM (#41637233)

            No, but when the US starts planting flags on more heavenly bodies, they may be able to define them as "Federal Land", subject to BLM regulation.

            Not likely, the US is a signator to the Outer Space Treaty [wikipedia.org]...

            Article II
            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.

            • by Sean (422) on Friday October 12, 2012 @06:52PM (#41637345)

              That will be ignored as soon as the capability to occupy celestial bodies exists.

              • by mysidia (191772)

                That will be ignored as soon as the capability to occupy celestial bodies exists.

                In the US, probably not, treaties are the supreme law of the land, as indicated in the constitution. A signed treaty is tantamount to a constitutional amendment, and authorizes the legislature to enforce the treaty, but not to "ignore it"

                Even laws passed by congress cannot override the text of a treaty,

                Because the courts have a policy of interpreting any law passed by congress in a manner so that it complies with the sign

                • by gl4ss (559668)

                  That will be ignored as soon as the capability to occupy celestial bodies exists.

                  In the US, probably not, treaties are the supreme law of the land, as indicated in the constitution.
                  A signed treaty is tantamount to a constitutional amendment, and authorizes the legislature to enforce the treaty,
                  but not to "ignore it"

                  Even laws passed by congress cannot override the text of a treaty,

                  Because the courts have a policy of interpreting any law passed by congress in a manner so that it complies with the signed treaties,
                  or declaring the conflicting law null and void.

                  It would be necessary for the treaty to be officially rescinded first.

                  you're joking, right? you are aware that the president of USA can override anything and everything he wishes, including making mockery of the constitution, declaring wars which are not wars, re-defining POW status and just carrying out executions without notice.

                  the outer space treaty is just a feelgood paper.

                  • by Shadowmist (57488)

                    you're joking, right? you are aware that the president of USA can override anything and everything he wishes, including making mockery of the constitution, declaring wars which are not wars, re-defining POW status and just carrying out executions without notice.

                    the outer space treaty is just a feelgood paper.

                    Technically you are absolutely right. However in the real world, playing global (or space) cowboy has it's repercussions, And since we won't be alone out in space, assuming that the USA has the unfettered ability to act like an ass is parochial, naieve, and dangerously misguided thinking.

              • That will be modified as soon as the capability and the superiour firepower to occupy and defend celestial bodies exists.

                • by sg_oneill (159032)

                  Once we uncover the Shadow Battlecrabs buried under the mars surface, Our new "advisors" will see that the superior firepower becomes available.

                  The Vorlons might have something to say about this however!

              • by youn (1516637)

                Or if newt gingrich gets elected :p

              • by Mashdar (876825)
                All we have to do is wait until the meteor is radial to three miles off shore!
              • There will never be a point to hoarding asteroids, since they're an essentially infinite resource.
                • by Anguirel (58085)

                  There might be a point to "hoarding" specific asteroids that are in more useful locations -- for example, in earth orbit. That's like saying there's no point to hoarding because there's an abundance of them in the Earth's core. Accessibility, composition, and so on will dictate that some claims are more valuable than others, without regard to overall theoretical availability.

            • by skegg (666571)

              Not likely, the US is a signator to the Outer Space Treaty

              Suddenly, a mighty roar of laughter erupted from hundreds of boardrooms across hundreds of cities.

            • Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation

              Yeah, until it's practical to start doing it...
        • Yes, it does seem to be the case. In any case, anyone with the ability to mine asteroids at this point in time is very unlikely to be concerned with Federal law anyway
      • by Desler (1608317)

        Because this ruling has to do with meteorites on US government land not asteroids?

      • by Beerdood (1451859)
        I highly doubt that the U.S. or any entity can claim jurisdiction on the asteroid belt and any materials, or mining techniques there. Even if they did, this doesn't seem like something that can be enforced. Maybe with tariffs on goods coming from the asteroids? Even if there was, I'm sure there's plenty of other people willing to buy the goods if they don't like the U.S. rules
        • by tsotha (720379) on Friday October 12, 2012 @10:56PM (#41638953)
          Lately Congress seems to recognize no limits to its jurisdiction. If they can extradite people for violating US drug laws in other countries, extradite British bankers who never set foot in the US for violating US banking laws, arrest Canadians for running poker websites, and tax expats for ten years after citizenship is renounced, there really isn't any place in the universe in which US law doesn't apply. Assuming they have the muscle to enforce it, I guess. As an American I have no idea why other countries put up with this nonsense, but there it is.
      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        Because the laws of nations are transient and the laws of physics aren't?

        But on the subject of laws I'm not sure what any relevant treaties might say. Seems likely that if somehow this ruling applied to space*, you could find another jurisdiction outside the U.S. to host your asteroid-mining company.

        * Legally or not, it makes sense to me that there's a big difference. Meteorites are rare and precious things of immense value to science. If/when we can feasible reach the asteroids readily enough to mine th

      • by Shavano (2541114)

        I guess the other side of that is, "Why come up with a way to mine an asteroid if the legal semantics won't allow you to mine it anyway?"

        I agree that it's probably not a huge issue that can't be ironed* out, though.

        * Yeah, I did that. Deal with it.

        Asteroids in space are outside any legal jurisdiction.

    • Regulating it in advance would provide a stable legal background for off-world resource exploitation. Currently, besides technological problems, the biggest hurdle the space mining industry is facing is the unclear/poorly defined legal standing of outer space, and even more importantly, the resources extracted, namely whether they inherit the "common domain of mankind" status of outer space, which would make it impossible to turn a profit, since all nations could potentially demand an equal share.

    • by Githaron (2462596)
      Why worry about US mining laws when no country has claim on the rocks in space?
      • Why worry about US mining laws when no country has claim on the rocks in space?

        Because if you don't have legal title to your property, you can't defend it in court when someone else tries to take it away.

        • by Githaron (2462596)
          Which country has jurisdiction over space? There is no court to here your plight. There will probably not be one for a long time.
          • Exactly, it is Space, the final frontier...

            Getting tarred and feathered in a spacesuit is gonna suck.

        • by mark-t (151149)

          No... but if somebody tries to take it away from you, you can try and go and try to take it away from them right back. It doesn't belong to anybody, that's the point.

          As long as you can resolve the dispute without resorting to any form of violence against the other party (which would be a violation of human rights, which are assumed to not be subject to national borders), there's no problem.

          • No... but if somebody tries to take it away from you, you can try and go and try to take it away from them right back. It doesn't belong to anybody, that's the point.

            As long as you can resolve the dispute without resorting to any form of violence against the other party (which would be a violation of human rights, which are assumed to not be subject to national borders), there's no problem.

            And if they don't like it, they can come up to space themselves and stop you... Oh snap! Forgot! No launch systems capable of reaching space, unless the person dropping the rebar chooses to sell them to you, or you can get close enough to their launch site with your weapons while it's raining rebar. Whose dumb idea was that again?

            Maybe the can contact Energia, and not get outbid by a space tourist this time...

    • by epyT-R (613989)

      yeah really, and not only that, but they're putting up roadblocks to doing what we absolutely must do at some point if we want to retain our lifestyle. fucking hippies..

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Fuck your lifestyle

    • First come up with a way to mine an asteroid, then you can worry about the legal semantics.

      It's notoriously difficult to get investors to put billions of dollars into developing something unless you can show you have the legal right to do it.

      Look at the history of the Law of the Sea or mining in Antarctica.

    • Why worry about future problems? Because the current problem (absence of any manned deep space vehicle and absence of any serious plans to create one) seems to be insurmountable.

      All the geeky news stories about deep space projects are just a little sad. We love to fantasize about doing fancy things, but we can't face the basic problems that need to be solved before we can do them.

    • "Talk about worrying about the wrong problems. Why worry about how this is regulated before anyone can even come close to doing it?"

      It's completely pointless anyway. If you're not "over" the United States, their laws do not and cannot apply, by International law. At all. So wait for the Earth to turn for a couple of hours, and mine away.

      It's not even "worrying about the wrong problems". It's a non-problem.

  • by davidwr (791652) on Friday October 12, 2012 @05:14PM (#41635949) Homepage Journal

    The well-funded asteroid-miners will be able to buy the politicians and get the rules changed before they launch and call it a cost of doing business.

    The not as well funded ones... well, it wouldn't be the first time lack of excess capital to pay lawyers or lobbyists stopped a project before it started.

    Besides, if only the US has this law, then companies will just launch under other nations' flags and sell the minerals to countries that don't have a problem with mining asteroids.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by timeOday (582209)
      Poorly-funded space asteroid miners? Like a miner 49'er with a rented mule and a pickaxe, right? But in space?

      As usual there is nothing here beyond an angst-ridden blog post about how some law might someday be (mis) applied. (Next up: Will Shariah Law take over the UN!??? Oops, we already did that one today.)

      I am more interested in how this applied in the case of large meteors that leave large deposits of valuable minerals in the earth's crust [cosmosmagazine.com]. These are not little objects you can walk away with,

  • Quickly! Grab it all, so that we may form swords and shields out of it!

  • by Nebulo (29412) on Friday October 12, 2012 @05:18PM (#41636017)

    The article makes a huge logical leap: that US laws governing items on federal lands somehow apply to items that are not on federal lands (for example, the asteroid belt). This is akin to saying that US antiquity laws would prevent a US citizen from prospecting for fossils in, say, Canada. What a load of baloney. The author is trying to conflate and confuse two issues (mining in space and prospecting on US federal lands) which are utterly unrelated.

    Nebulo

    • In the future, watch Asian, European, and so on, mining companies mine tons of minerals from outer space, and everyone in the world use it to build stuff, except he U.S. who isn't allowed to due to their law!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Earth laws don't apply in space and neither does eminent domain.
    So earth laws can f'off, I want my Orion spacecraft traveling to Alpha Centauri.

    • by aicrules (819392)
      maybe they could regular the "import" part of it...but you're right. F U if you think you can lay jurisdictional claim to the entire universe.
      • by Desler (1608317)

        No one is making any such claim of jurisdiction. You fell for a trollbait story submission. This was about meteorites on Earth not mining asteroids.

      • You dont understand, they dont lay claim to the universe, they lay claim to YOU
  • I just built an autonomous spaceship and 3 asteroid mining robots. Wish they would give us a heads up every once in a while.

  • by 0racle (667029) on Friday October 12, 2012 @05:22PM (#41636095)
    I doubt it's a problem. An Asteroid is not a Meteorite.

    "A meteorite is a natural object originating in outer space that survives impact with the Earth's surface" - Wikipedia - Meteorite [wikipedia.org]

    So unless someone plans on mining an asteroid by slamming it into the planet, they probably don't have to deal with laws pertaining to meteorites. There is also the fact that US law does not extend to the Asteroid Belt.
    • I doubt it's a problem. An Asteroid is not a Meteorite. "A meteorite is a natural object originating in outer space that survives impact with the Earth's surface" - Wikipedia - Meteorite So unless someone plans on mining an asteroid by slamming it into the planet, they probably don't have to deal with laws pertaining to meteorites. There is also the fact that US law does not extend to the Asteroid Belt.

      Unless you plan to use the mined material on the Moon, you are eventually going to take it down on Ea

      • by Desler (1608317)

        No, it wouldn't apply. You're being absurd.

      • I doubt it's a problem. An Asteroid is not a Meteorite.

        "A meteorite is a natural object originating in outer space that survives impact with the Earth's surface" - Wikipedia - Meteorite

        So unless someone plans on mining an asteroid by slamming it into the planet, they probably don't have to deal with laws pertaining to meteorites. There is also the fact that US law does not extend to the Asteroid Belt.

        Unless you plan to use the mined material on the Moon, you are eventually going to take it down on Earth, and maybe inside the US. Then the federal laws would apply and your rocks/metals would fit the definition of "surviving impact with the Earth's surface", wouldn't they?

        If people do start asteroid mining the amount of materials available on Earth could increase tremendously providing a massive boost to the economies which permit the import and use of these materials.

        If the USA declines to participate then they will be putting themselves into the new third world group of nations as virtually every other nation on earth grows and prospers beyond the dreams of avarice.

      • by tsotha (720379)
        I would think the material you mined would be far more valuable for building things in orbit. Even tailings and slag would be valuable as reaction mass.
      • by perpenso (1613749)

        I doubt it's a problem. An Asteroid is not a Meteorite. "A meteorite is a natural object originating in outer space that survives impact with the Earth's surface" - Wikipedia - Meteorite So unless someone plans on mining an asteroid by slamming it into the planet, they probably don't have to deal with laws pertaining to meteorites. There is also the fact that US law does not extend to the Asteroid Belt.

        Unless you plan to use the mined material on the Moon, you are eventually going to take it down on Earth, and maybe inside the US. Then the federal laws would apply and your rocks/metals would fit the definition of "surviving impact with the Earth's surface", wouldn't they?

        A controlled landing is not an impact. Back to the dictionary for a second round:
        "impact - the striking of one thing against another; forceful contact; collision"

    • There is also the fact that US law does not extend to the Asteroid Belt.

      For now, yes. But who knows where Assange will seek asylum next?

    • Unless the materials mined in space magically disappear, will they not have survived their impact with the Earth's surface when their spaceship lands?

      And once you try to bring them into the US, US laws apply... think CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) i.e., you might be able to legally catch a three pecker wood toad in BoraBora but if its protected under CITES, you face legal consequences if you're caught bringing it into the US. And, I think they'd notice an arriving spaces

      • Unless the materials mined in space magically disappear, will they not have survived their impact with the Earth's surface when their spaceship lands?

        By definition controlled landings are not impacts.

        • by BlueStrat (756137)

          Unless the materials mined in space magically disappear, will they not have survived their impact with the Earth's surface when their spaceship lands?

          By definition controlled landings are not impacts.

          A "landing" is nothing more than a controlled impact.

          You're also not factoring in that the legal/judicial system doesn't always follow normal logic in it's interpretations and decisions. If they wanted the law to include the refined products brought to Earth they probably would just get a court to agree or have Congress add a rider to some essential bill to re

  • by GodInHell (258915) on Friday October 12, 2012 @05:26PM (#41636137) Homepage
    The attached articles are talking about regulations for metorites found on the surface of federal land. Last time I checked (1) asteroids aren't metorites until they fall out of the sky[1]; (2) asteroids in space aren't found on the surface of federal lands; and (3) the U.S. Gov't has no jurisdiction out where thar be asteroids.

    Total fail.

    1. "A meteorite is a natural object originating in outer space that survives impact with the Earth's surface." Wiki source [wikipedia.org].
    • by GodInHell (258915) on Friday October 12, 2012 @05:29PM (#41636191) Homepage
      Specifically: the "precedent" here is actually very old that valuable minerals found on the unburdened (i.e. not covered in dirt) parts of land belong to the owner of that property. These regulations are just clarifying that /yes/ meteorites are valuable minerals - when found on the surface of federal lands they belong to the federal government and you can't just take them because you want to. Also, you cannot just go into public lands and take a fencepost because you think it'd make a nice addition to your yard.
      • by Daetrin (576516)
        "Also, you cannot just go into public lands and take a fencepost because you think it'd make a nice addition to your yard."

        Wait, what?!? Damnit! What kind of legal precedent does that set in regards to my plan to go harvest space fenceposts?
      • These regulations are just clarifying that /yes/ meteorites are valuable minerals

        On the contrary, the regulations specifically state that meteorites are not minerals but "antiquities." That's the whole point.

      • by jfengel (409917)

        Over large swaths of land, the US government has leased the right to dig up whatever minerals they find there. It doesn't apply to fenceposts, but it does apply to rocks.

        The ruling here is that the meteorites aren't included in that. Yes, they're minerals, but for this purpose they're also part of the national heritage. So we're going to treat them in the same category as other heritage items, i.e. ancient artifacts. These aren't artifacts, but they're saying they're going to treat them according to the rul

  • Meteorites are worth a nice piece of change. This is nothing but a way to collect revenue from commercial collectors. Probably defined as anyone who auctions one on ebay.
  • Who was planing to mine an asteroid... in US jurisdiction? Asteroids are sort of outside the US border I would say...
    And let's not talk about the fact that we don't even have the ability to send a man to the moon like we did decades ago (or even supersonic commercial flights like we also did decades ago), and TFS is worried about what all those miners we are going to send to the asteroids are going to do???
    And I thought we couldn't go lower than another bitcoin post...

    • by mark-t (151149)

      ...And let's not talk about the fact that we don't even have the incentive to send a man to the moon like we did decades ago

      ftfy.

  • This is nothing but some paranoid right-wing fucktard upset that the government is acting in the public interesting regarding land that the public owns. Nothing to see here.

  • Damn, I better stake my claim before it's too late. Move over Dennis Hope [wikipedia.org], there's a new real estate mogul on the market. Asteroids for sale here, only $500 each!
    • Lol, you have no idea how much they are worth. I bought a tiny 1in piece by half an inch, shaved from a large specimen, nearly $100. An actual verifiable asteroid meteorite. Like the one found of Vesta, would be alot more.

      • by Beerdood (1451859)
        Well... I was attempting to make more of a (failed) humorous point about the ridiculousness of the premise that "Mining asteroids could present legal trouble in the United States!". If there's any chance that corporations won't mine asteroids (or at least run into legal trouble) because they're - then it's probably an equally likely (and ridiculous) that anyone attempting to land on the moon and establish a moon base would have to buy the property from Dennis Hope, or one of the millions of people he's so
  • by Max Threshold (540114) on Friday October 12, 2012 @05:53PM (#41636593)
    "If asteroidal materials that have fallen to Earth are not minerals, it stands to reason that asteroidal materials in space are not minerals, either."

    Only as far as it stands to reason that the US can claim jurisdiction in space.

  • The United States has sovereignty over asteroids now?

  • by mbone (558574)

    Why is a federal reg which allows for meteorite collection on public land bad for asteroid mining? This favors, in a small way, the exploitation of extraterrestrial resources, and so I would view it as a positive (if very weak) precedent.

    Note, BTW, that asteroid are not public land under the Outer Space Treaty.

    • by slew (2918)

      This is totally off topic, but under the Outer Space Treaty, mining is not a prohibited activity, but if you read closer, you don't get to escape all jurisdiction by simply going into space. You are still under the jurisdiction of the place where you launched from.

      Article VIII

      A State Party to the Treaty on whose registry an object launched into outer space is carried shall retain jurisdiction and control over such object, and over any personnel thereof, while in outer space or on a celestial body.

      • by mbone (558574)

        Yes, I know that, but the US (or anyone else) does not get to claim extraterrestrial bodies, so they are not (US) public land.

        Now, I would not be surprised if some future law or Executive Order came about where we would treat asteroids as if they were public lands, but it isn't in place yet. And, I would look for a new treaty move along that time, to clear these matters up.

        Also, note that Article 8 talks about "on a celestial body," but is silent about what happens _inside_ a celestial body. If you want to

  • Everything here on earth fell from up there at one time or another. If 'everything' here on earth is now off limits then there could be no mining of anything, anywhere. Problem solved, or created, all depending on your position in the debate.
  • You own what you produce or mine, not the natural resource. That will help reduce speculation that's so rampant in today's real estate market.

  • The best way to make a successful business these days is to get stuck in and BE SUCCESSFUL long before the legislation catches up with you.

    The recent Banking-and-Finance Charlie Foxtrot proves that if you make ENOUGH money The Government will drop their pants to support you no matter what you do (ie no matter how immoral and unethical your actions may have been).

    If you WAIT for the legislation first, said laws will have been funded by lobbyists of EXISTING INTERESTS supporting their own outdated business models.
  • a US law applying to material in Space. OFFS!

  • Speed limits on public roads are going to set a precedent when we develop teleportation, and may set this technology back decades.

    And don't forget about the import tariffs when I start making gold using nucleosynthesis from hydrogen in air that make have drifted over from China!

  • That's the title of the actual Space.com post. It details how the US Bureau of Land Management has released a notice of how it will regulate the collection of meteorites on public lands. That's it.

    It has nothing to do with asteroid mining. Any inference of how this would map to any asteroid mining is a wild-ass ... inference.

    When people are able to mine asteroids, any "governing body" in a planetary gravity well is not going to be able to enforce early 21st century administrative law on entities that can

  • But the US of A does not own space. So anything there is up for grabs. USA may have laws and restrictions on what happens to meteorites brought back to their country but there are other countries who would welcome the minerals.
  • I suggest that you go see the upcoming film Atlas Shrugged. It also features the government as the big bad boogieman who is going to take away all your shiny toys. And it's being released just in time for Halloween, so all the libertarian weenies can sit around the camp fire and tell scary stories about how the black helicopters are going to come and take away all the guns and penises.

    Meanwhile, over here in the real world, 14000 people are at risk of fungal meningitis, 186 have been diagnosed, and 14 or m

  • I look forward to our Post Terran Minerals Corporation overlords. I can't wait to play Descent in real life. The machines do not need us, especially in space.

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