US President Barack Obama has signed the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA) into law to enable American private companies to exploit space resources.
With this law in place, the US has become the first country to recognise private sector mining rights over water and minerals resources to be exploited from the Moon.
The latest development follows recent approval of legislation by US Congress to enable companies to own resources that are extracted from asteroids.
The Space Act of 2015 will allow private companies to mine asteroids for materials such as water and platinum that are rare in space. However, it does not allow the firms to own the asteroid itself.
US Congressman Bill Posey said: "This bipartisan, bicameral legislation is a landmark for American leadership in space exploration.
"Asteroids and other objects in space are excellent potential sources of rare minerals and other resources that can be used to manufacture a wide range of products here on Earth and to support future space exploration missions.
"Americans willing to invest in space mining operations need legal certainty that they can keep the fruits of their labour, and this bill provides that certainty."
Companies involved in Asteroid mining such as Planetary Resources and commercial space company Moon Express are set to benefit from Obama's decision.
Moon Express co-founder and executive chairman Naveen Jain said: "The Moon is our sister planet that has an incredible amount of natural resources, including helium-3 that can provide clean and limitless fusion energy for the entire world."
Planetary Resources co-founder and co-chairman Eric Anderson said: "This legislation establishes the same supportive framework that created the great economies of history, and will encourage the sustained development of space."
Planetary Resources Global Engagement vice-president Peter Marquez said: "Our nation's continued leadership and prosperity in space is enabled by this new law. Planetary Resources is grateful for the leadership shown by Congress in crafting this legislation and for President Obama signing HR 2262 into law."
Image: The 'Space Act of 2015' will allow companies to mine asteroids for materials such as platinum. Photo: courtesy of Planetary Resources.