This radar image of near-Earth asteroid 1999 JD6 was collected by NASA scientists on July 25, 2015. The image show the rotation of the asteroid, which made its closest approach on July 24 at 9:55 p.m. PDT (12:55 a.m. EDT on July 25) at a distance of about 4.5 million miles or about 19 times the distance from Earth to the moon. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/NRAO

Luxembourg is pioneering a new frontier: asteroid mining.

The tiny European nation announced last week that it will invest in research and development related to space mining and also directly in space mining companies, the Guardian reported.

“Our aim is to open access to a wealth of previously unexplored mineral resources, on lifeless rocks hurtling through space, without damaging natural habitats,” said Étienne Schneider, Luxembourg’s deputy prime minister.

Scientists have discovered 13,715 near-Earth objects, including asteroids. While most are made of rock, some contain metals such as platinum, nickel and iron. They also contain water, which could be used to make rocket fuel.

Two U.S. firms, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, are racing to become the first to commercially mine asteroids. Planetary Resources is backed by some Google executives and Virgin’s Richard Branson.

Nobody has mined an asteroid yet, but last year, the U.S. passed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, which allows American companies to harvest, own and trade resources from outer space.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of near-Earth objects scientists have discovered. They have found 13,715.

Jennifer Gollan

Jennifer Gollan is an award-winning reporter for Reveal. Her investigation When Abusers Keep Their Guns, which exposed how perpetrators often kill their intimate partners with guns they possess unlawfully, spurred sweeping provisions in federal law that greatly expanded the power of local and state police and prosecutors to crack down on abusers with illegal firearms. The project won a 2022 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.

Gollan also has reported on topics ranging from oil companies that dodge accountability for workers’ deaths to shoddy tire manufacturing practices that kill motorists. Her series on rampant exploitation and abuse of caregivers in the burgeoning elder care-home industry, Caregivers and Takers, prompted a congressional hearing and a statewide enforcement sweep in California to recover workers’ wages. Another investigation – focused on how Navy shipbuilders received billions in public money even after their workers were killed or injured on the job – led to tightened federal oversight of contractors’ safety violations.

Gollan’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Associated Press, The Guardian US and Politico Magazine, as well as on PBS NewsHour and Al Jazeera English’s “Fault Lines” program. Her honors include a national Emmy Award, a Hillman Prize for web journalism, two Sigma Delta Chi Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, a National Headliner Award, a Gracie Award and two Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing awards. Gollan is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.