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Luxembourg wants to become a world leader in asteroid mining

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In what sounds like the early exposition of a sci-fi disaster movie, the government of Luxembourg has announced its intentions to become a world leader in the emerging industry of asteroid mining. 

Announced in unspectacular fashion (there were no rockets or anything), the Space Resources initiative will focus on the "development of a legal and regulatory framework confirming certainty about the future ownership of minerals extracted in space from Near Earth Objects (NEO’s) such as asteroids".

The small European nation isn't boldly going where no mining operation has gone before without some specialist guidance: they're set to be advised by the former Director General of the European Space Agency Jean-Jacques Dordain.

"This initiative is a clear demonstration that Europeans are innovative and able to take risks when the stakes are high," said Dordain. "While futuristic, the project is based on solid grounds, i.e. technical prowess that already exists in Europe and around the world."

Europe took a giant leap toward making mining asteroids possible when the European Space Station landed its Rosetta spacecraft on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Luxembourg isn't proposing it will single-handedly manufacture the craft and technical infrastructure to build on this legacy and land spaceships on asteroids - but rather they hope to specialise in creating the complex legal framework to attract private groups proposing to engage in space mining. 

The US recently took steps to help clarify who can "own" an asteroid when President Obama signed the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act in November 2015. With Luxembourg set to push through its own similar legal work, it will be up groups such as Deep Space Industries to work out where they then base their operations. 

But why bother?

It's going to be very expensive to mine asteroids. Astronomical, you could say. But the payoff for the first company to legally "claim" an asteroid is potentially huge. 

Check out Asterank - a website that lists the values of some of those NEO's most likely to be mined. Nab the right space rock, and you could be sitting on a $334 billion fortune - and for the likes of Luxembourg, a huge chunk of potential tax profit.

The race for the rocks is on.

(Image: NASA)

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