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Luxembourg to boldly go where nobody has ever gone: the initiative to conquer celestial resources in deep space

Artist's concept from the 1970s of asteroid mining. Courtesy of Wikipedia
Artist’s concept from the 1970s of asteroid mining. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Luxembourg may be one of the tiniest nations on Earth, but it’s ambitions to go where no one ever went, notably into deep space, are truly out of this world. Already amongst the top-ten space-faring nations worldwide, Luxembourg on 3 June 2016 announced that the Grand-Duchy is resolutely forging ahead with its visionary initiative planning the imminent exploration, use and commercialization of resources from Near Earth Objects (NEO’s), such as asteroids.

At a press conference hosted by Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, Deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider (who is also the Minister of Economy), and attended by internationally renowned experts Jean-Jacques Dordain, former Director General of ESA, and Dr. Simon ‘Pete’ Worden, the former Director of NASA’s Ames Research Center, it was announced that:

Amongst the key actions to be undertaken is the establishment of an appropriate legal and regulatory framework for space resource utilization activities to provide private companies and investors with a secure legal environment. In full respect of its international obligations, Luxembourg will strive to promote an attractive and internationally recognized legal regulatory framework supporting investments and growth opportunities for private ventures targeting the utilization of space resources.

Luxembourg initially announced its initiative in February 2016. The announcement was met with huge public as well as media interest. The Financial Times headline on 3 February 2016 read, “The Grand Duchy of asteroid mining;” an editorial dated 5 February 2016 read, “Asteroid mining is not science fiction;” and on 5 May 2016, the Financial Times reported that, “Luxembourg boldly goes into asteroid mining.” All in all, more than 1000 articles about the initiative can be traced worldwide. Latest examples include: the Wall Street Journal on 3 June 2016 reported that, “Luxembourg Sets Aside Funds for Asteroid-Mining Push,” while Reuters added that, “Luxembourg sets aside 200 million euros to fund space mining ventures.” Space News exclaimed, “Luxembourg invests to become the Silicon Valley of space resource mining”.

The objectives of the initiative fit neatly into the Luxembourg government’s well publicized objectives in the space sector. First, to contribute to the generation of new economic value in Luxembourg. Second, to consolidate and valorize the existing competencies in the domain of media and telecommunications. Third, to contribute to the reinforcement of the competitive position of local industry and public research organizations in the space sector.

Deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider stated at the 3 June 2016 press conference that:

Luxembourg is willing to engage with other countries in cooperation agreements to build an international coalition for the promotion of the use of space resources. In the meantime, Luxembourg aims to become the first European country to set out his own formal legal framework which ensures that private operators working in space can be confident about their rights to the resources they extract, i.e. rare minerals from asteroids.




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