REDMOND, Wash. -- Asteroid mining companies touted a proposed federal law Wednesday that establishes property rights for outer space.
H.R. 2262, or the Space Act of 2015, was passed by both Congressional houses Tuesday and awaits the president's approval.
The law states any resource taken from an asteroid becomes the property of the company that mined it, an extension of existing outer space law.
"Using this as the foundation, we can describe how our country is going to support this industry," said Chris Lewicki, president of Planetary Resources. "That can be a model for similar laws throughout the world."
However, legal questions over other country's property rights remain, as does the skepticism of whether the practice of asteroid mining is actually possible.
Redmond's Planetary Resources is one of at least two American companies proposing to mine asteroids for vital resources like water, which can then be used for envisioned space communities.
"If humans are going to be around another 1,000 years or 1 million years," said Lewicki, "we've got to move beyond planet Earth and become masters of our environment."
Planetary Resources has a prototype satellite in space right now called Akryd 3, and another is scheduled for next year.
"We anticipate being able to go out to an asteroid before the end of the decade," added Lewicki, "and find the first water resource in the solar system."
Planetary Resources is backed by several large investors, including Virgin's Richard Branson and Google's Eric Schmidt and Larry Page.