And just like that, American asteroid mining efforts are legal. President Obama has signed the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA) into law following Congress' approval, letting companies keep whatever resources they collect beyond Earth. As you might imagine, hopeful mining outfits like Planetary Resources are relieved. While the odds weren't that high that the government would confiscate their minerals as soon as they landed, the Act removes any ambiguity.
The bill may be a double-edged sword, though. As mentioned earlier, the CSLCA also shelters space companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX from regulatory oversight until October 1st, 2023. It's intended to help these young firms get private spaceflight going as quickly as possible, but it also raises the possibility that safety and other important considerations will take a back seat. Still, what's done is done -- we'll just have to see if commercial space companies can grow both quickly and responsibly when there's no one looking over their shoulders.
[Image credit: Denise Watt/NASA Johnson, Flickr]