Luxembourg's New Law Lets Space Miners Keep Their Plunder

WIRED | 7/26/2017 | Sarah Scoles
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When Etienne Schneider became Luxembourg's minister of the economy in 2012, one of his first trips abroad was to NASA’s Ames Research Center. It might have seemed strange for the tiny state's money man to solicit meetings with cosmic researchers, but Luxembourg is always on the lookout for its next big investment. So when the center’s director, Pete Worden, began to talk about space mining—extracting water, ore, precious metals, alien time capsules, and whatever else from the likes of asteroids—Schneider listened.

“I thought this was all science fiction,” says Schneider. But Worden convinced him there was a whole cosmic economy to build, one that could extend from the moon to Mars. That same year, two guys founded a space prospecting company called Planetary Resources. And in January 2013, another, named Deep Space Industries—headquartered inside NASA's Ames campus—was born. Soon, Schneider saw the same future they did. “The question was not if that all would happen, but when,” he says. “And there I saw a huge opportunity for Luxembourg.”

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That’s why, on August 1, Luxembourg plans to adopt a new law that gives empyrean mining companies the rights to whatever they pull from asteroids—making itself an attractive place for those companies to settle and distribute their harvested riches.

Here are two things you should know about Luxembourg: One, its population is less than Milwaukee’s. Two, its per-capita GDP is second-highest in the world, according to currently available World Bank figures. In other words, the Grand Duchy is small, but the Grand Duchy is mighty.

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That’s not an accident. “Luxembourg is such a small country that we always have to reinvent ourselves and take on a certain risk to succeed,” says Schneider. Back in the 1980s, the government gave SES—Europe's first private satellite operator—the legal and budgetary boost it needed to grow into a dominant satcom...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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