Economic and Technical Prospects of Mining on Celestial Bodies
This chapter explores the increasing economic and technical feasibility of the commercial exploitation of mineral resources on celestial bodies, especially from Near Earth Asteroids, and considers the financial commitments required for such activities, recognising that the principal obstacle to such commitments being made is the legal uncertainty over such activities. It is conceivable that in the near future, the depletion of terrestrial resources and the continuing technological innovation in spacecraft design, propulsion systems and robotic mining equipment would provide the financial incentives for the technical obstacles and associated costs to be overcome. When that reality eventuates, a commercial mining venture in outer space will have to confront the legal issues based on the present body of international and domestic space law. Fundamentally, this is because the enormous financial commitments that would be needed to invest in the technological advances required for such ventures cannot be done in an environment of legal uncertainty.