Asteroids are quickly moving from a speculative resource to potentially economically valuable deposits of a variety of mineral resources. There is a potential for a large scale disruptive innovation within the fundamental resource base, and at the same time policy does little to ensure that asteroid resource exploitation is socially and economically valuable. Existing international policies were put into place to prevent militarization of space and related basic risks, and the first national policies focusing on basic ownership rights are only now being put into place.

We identify five major technology, policy, and social issues that must be addressed: surveying duties, technology development, mining and ownership right, and profitability or market demand. We use analysis of existing proposals and relevant historical cases from other resource rushes to evaluate regulatory concepts and determine who (international, national, or private agents) should exercise these policies. The goal is to use history and anticipatory governance to ensure the social and economic value of space resource extraction activities.

Developing technologies to support the exploitation of space mineral resources would be best supported through intellectual property right support as well as public/private contests in light of the overlap of interests between public and private space systems developers. Surveying programs should share location data as a public service, but be allowed to maintain the characterization data as intellectual property to help substantiate a licensed claim or to be bought and sold. Ownership policies should mimic the actual licensing mechanisms seen with orbital allocation to mineral resources, and a claim system should encourage further risk mitigation, exploitation, and surveying done by private agents to strengthen and sustain a claim. Finally, infrastructure development for market creation and transportation of mineral resources from space to surface is fundamentally an applied research issue, and should be handled by private agents because the public and private benefits of these projects has yet to be determined.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Space mining--Government policy; Space mining--Moral and ethical aspects; Space mining--Economic aspects

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Science, Technology and Public Policy (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Public Policy (CLA)


Eric Hittinger

Advisor/Committee Member

Thomas Cornell

Advisor/Committee Member

Kean Wu


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at TN291.3 .H46 2016


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