The United States Congress recently passed a bill that would allow space mining companies to pursue space ventures that are independent of NASA and the U.S. military.

Now, the bill is headed to the White House, awaiting the signature of Pres. Barack Obama.

Known as the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 or SPACE Act of 2015, the new bill would ensure that space mining companies could legally own the resources that they get from asteroids. It addresses the regulation of the commercial space industry as well as the continuation of the International Space Station.

"Commercial space exploration presents important new opportunities for us all," said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science, Space, and Competitiveness who co-authored the bill.

The senator said the government must continue to provide a framework in which the people can innovate and develop private commercial, scientific, and cultural enterprises that can extend even to space.

Along with Cruz, U.S. Rep. Bill Posey of Rockledge, Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida and Patty Murray of Washington, and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida had also worked on the bill.

"We've seen a rapid increase in the numbers of space companies, and they're developing new technologies every single day, in a race to the stars," said Posey, emphasizing that it was important to encourage the growth in space industry.

For the first time in more than ten years, the new bill will renovate existing rules that govern the still-maturing space industry.

Section 1 of the bill centers on the space industry's safety regulations. Space companies will be given a "learning period" of eight years, beginning Oct. 1, 2023, before any recommendations for regulation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is given. Asteroid mining companies now have rights over space resources, but not property rights. The use of the International Space Station for American astronauts will also be extended up to 2024.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, who sponsored the bill, said that the SPACE Act of 2015 will unite the legislation, and that in effect, the next generation of pioneers will learn, experiment and succeed without the constraints of premature regulatory action.

Photo : NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | Flickr

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