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 a reporter for Reveal, covering labor and corporate accountability.

An Emmy Award winner, Gollan has reported on topics ranging from oil companies that dodge accountability for workers’ deaths to lax manufacturing practices that contributed to deadly tire blowouts.

Gollan uncovered rampant exploitation and abuse of caregivers in the burgeoning elder care-home industry. The series, Caregivers and Takers, detailed how operators enriched themselves while paying workers about $2 an hour to work around the clock. The stories prompted a congressional hearing, plans for prosecutions and new state legislation. 

Gollan exposed how Navy shipbuilders received billions in public money even after their workers were killed or injured. In response to her reporting, Congress passed a new federal law, the Government Accountability Office produced a report and the Pentagon began scrutinizing the safety records of more defense contractors.

Gollan’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Associated Press, The Guardian U.S., Politico Magazine and PBS NewsHour.

Her honors include a national Emmy Award, a Hillman Prize for web journalism, two Sigma Delta Chi Awards, a National Headliner Award, a Gracie Award and two Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing Awards. She has been a finalist for an ONA Online Journalism Award, an IRE Award and two Gerald Loeb Awards. Gollan is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.