In a contentious hearing on Wednesday, the Republican controlled House Science Committee approved a measure that would give companies rights to materials they mine from asteroids over complaints from Democrats that the measure was unconstitutional and drawn up to benefit a single company.
The Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act of 2015 was approved by a party line vote of 18-15. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA). Identical legislation has been introduced in the Senate.
Posey said the measure would give companies the right to own and sell materials they mine from asteroids. The measure does not allow a company to own asteroids, nor does it apply to the moon or other planets, he said.
Democrats called the measure unconstitutional, saying it clashed with the nation’s obligations under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that banned ownership of extraterrestrial resources. They cited an expert who testified to that effect at a hearing last year.