Believe it or not, there’s a treaty, dating back to 1967, called the Outer Space Treaty (OST). It is a pact that designates outer space as “the province of all mankind,” and the nearly 100 countries who signed it all agreed to not colonize a celestial body or use it for military operations.

The idea is that no one country should be able to lay claim to say, a planet. That was easy to say 50 years ago, because space exploration has come a very long way further than we expected it to. As has corporate greed.

It turns out that what the Outer Space Treaty should have said, is that no single country should be able to benefit exclusively from outer space or its bounty. Because, as of now, asteroid mining is testing the limits of the treaty. Or, America is testing the bounds of it anyway.

California’s Deep Space Industries, and Washington’s Planetary Resources are very much at work in the fields of resources extraction from asteroids. They have full-on mining operations planned for the 2020s.

one company, Deep Space Industries, says extracting water from asteroids is of particular interest, because water can be electrically converted into hydrogen and oxygen — both of which can be used as fuels. Fuels tend to be ridiculously expensive to transport from earth to space, so, manufacturing fuels up in space would be swell. Many asteroids are also ripe for the picking of iron, for example.

But many countries, like Brazil, Russia, and Belgium are rightfully asking why America thinks it has rights to these outer space asteroids. It’s a fair question really, so now what? It would appear no one knows the answer.