The Asteroid-Mining Race Begins

A bill regulating U.S. mining of asteroids may seem premature, but it's a good chance to start thinking about establishing global norms for space.
There's gold in them thar rocks. Maybe.

If "Titanic" director James Cameron were to dig up a giant gold nugget on an asteroid, would it be his to take back to Earth and sell? U.S. and international law are just a bit unclear on this point, and as a result two members of Congress have introduced legislation -- the Asteroids Act -- that the House plans to hold hearings on this week. For a Congress often criticized for not being farsighted enough, this might be thinking too far ahead. Still, the rapid development of the U.S. private space industry, and the potential for unwelcome conflicts with rival nations such as China and Russia, make this legislation more than science fiction.

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