Can You Stake A Claim To An Asteroid?

Planetary Resources. which announced its ambitious plan to search for, and then start mining, a suitable asteroid (see Arkyd Spacecraft To Hunt Asteroid Platinum, Water), may have run into a legal snag.

Can a private company stake a claim to an asteroid, and then mine it?


(Eros - 22 miles long, $trillions of dollars?)

"We as a U.S. company certainly have the right to go an asteroid and make use of its resources," Planetary Resources co-founder Eric Anderson told Discovery News.

"It is a stated goal of the U.S. government to enable and promote commercial activities and economic activity in space," he said.

However, article 2 of the 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treaty states that "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."

Bigelow Aerospace attorney Michael Gold states:

"The UN treaty in essence forbids private ownership of celestial property. According to the treaty, you could not arrive on the moon or an asteroid and claim it for ownership, at least as a country. Things get a little more confusing when you talk about ownership by a company, but I think most lawyers would tell you that they are one in the same and that whether it's a corporation or a nation you cannot, according to the treaty, claim private celestial property,"

And here I thought that science fiction writers settled this whole issue generations ago. In his excellent 1941 story Jurisdiction, Nat Schachner clearly described the process of staking a claim to an asteroid:

The law of filing on newly discovered asteroids was definite. Two steps were required. First, setting up the proper monuments on the asteroid. Second, filing the requisite affidavits in the Claims Office of Jurisdiction. Four metal stakes were driven deep into the stone... Then a photograving of claim to title was etched deep within the area bounded by the stakes. (Read more about asteroid claim law)

See also this highly relevant article on Moon Mining And Space Lawyers.

Via Discovery.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/28/2012)

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