Luxembourg is pioneering a new frontier: asteroid mining.
The tiny European nation announced last week that it will invest in research and development related to space mining and also directly in space mining companies, the Guardian reported.
“Our aim is to open access to a wealth of previously unexplored mineral resources, on lifeless rocks hurtling through space, without damaging natural habitats,” said Étienne Schneider, Luxembourg’s deputy prime minister.
Scientists have discovered 13,715 near-Earth objects, including asteroids. While most are made of rock, some contain metals such as platinum, nickel and iron. They also contain water, which could be used to make rocket fuel.
Two U.S. firms, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, are racing to become the first to commercially mine asteroids. Planetary Resources is backed by some Google executives and Virgin’s Richard Branson.
Nobody has mined an asteroid yet, but last year, the U.S. passed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, which allows American companies to harvest, own and trade resources from outer space.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of near-Earth objects scientists have discovered. They have found 13,715.