BRUSSELS Luxembourg, the tiny European Union state nestled between France, Germany and Belgium, has a big new goal - it wants to be a center for space mining.
Primarily known for its fund management and private banking industry, the duchy is promoting a law that would make it the first in Europe to give legal clarity to the commercial exploitation of asteroids.
Such mining is at least a decade away, if not more. But Luxembourg's move is expected to draw the interest from pioneers in the field such as U.S. operators Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries.
"In the long-term, space resources could lead to a thriving new space economy and human expansion into the solar system," Etienne Schneider, Luxembourg's economy minister told a press conference.
In November, the United States passed a similar law which cleared U.S. companies to own what they mine from asteroids and other celestial bodies.
Extracting resources from celestial bodies is a volatile and contentious issue, with international treaties calling for exploration to be carried out for the benefit of all countries.
But advocates say mining in space would not only help to provide diminishing resources for earth, but also aid with the exploration of distant planets.
"Exploring space requires use of space resources, because you have to bring every kilo of water, fuel and food from Earth, you will not get very far," said Jean-Jacques Dordain, former director general of the European Space Agency, who will serve as an adviser on the issue to Luxembourg.
The legal framework is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
In the meantime, it is not Luxembourg's first reach for space. It is home to SES one of the world's largest operators of communication satellites.
(editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek/Jeremy Gaunt)