WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, the House of Representatives passed legislation recognizing property rights in resources extracted from asteroids, and non-interference rights to asteroid mining operations. H.R. 1508, the Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act, was subsumed into HR 2262, the SPACE Act of 2015, without amendment. The SPACE Act passed the House by a vote of 284-133.

“Recognizing effective space property rights now is essential to driving investment in the technologies and businesses that will open the space frontier,” said Berin Szoka, President of TechFreedom. “This legislation is a good start but this cause is too important to rush. Had the House held hearings on HR 1508, it would have produced a better bill that would have protected property rights in all space resources, not only those extracted from asteroids, and that would have avoided any potential conflict with international law. The Senate should indeed pass space property rights legislation, but only after carefully reconsidering the approach taken in the House bill.”

“International law doesn’t bar space property rights; understood properly, it actually requires them,” explained James Dunstan, Principal at Mobius Legal Group and a TechFreedom adjunct fellow. “The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 protects the right to explore and use space, free of interference. The U.S. and U.S.S.R. established the principle that, once moved, space resources may be owned. Congress needs to codify both principles and provide effective enforcement tools. But any legislation must balance these rights against other rights created by the Treaty, including to ‘free access to all areas of celestial bodies.’ Failing to balance these rights adequately could create overly expansive ‘bright line’ zones that could amount to land grabs strictly prohibited by the Treaty.”

Szoka and Dunstan proposed eight amendments to HR 1508 in a letter sent to the bill’s sponsors earlier this week. They can be reached for comment at media@techfreedom.org. Both are long-time space lawyers; Dunstan has practiced space law for over thirty years. See more of their work on space property rights, including:

  • “Space Property Rights, the Next Frontier in Bipartisan Legislation?,” a statement from TechFreedom
  • “Space Property Rights: It’s Time, and Here’s Where to Start,” an op-ed by Berin Szoka in Space News
  • “How the U.S. Can Lead the Way to Extraterrestrial Land Deals,” an op-ed by Berin Szoka and James Dunstan in Wired
  • “Space Law: Is Asteroid Mining Legal?,” an op-ed by Berin Szoka and James Dunstan in Wired