Luxembourg says law legalizing mining asteroids will be completed by 2017
Luxembourg is the first country in Europe to stake out rights for the mining of so-called "near-Earth objects" such as asteroids, according to officials (AFP Photo/)

One of Europe's smallest states, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, cast its eyes to the cosmos on Friday, announcing it would draw up a law to facilitate mining on asteroids.

Extracting precious metals, rare minerals and other valuable commodities on passing asteroids is a staple of science fiction, but Luxembourg says incentives are urgently needed to turn this dream into fact.

"Comprehensive legislation" will be drawn up with the help of space law experts, the economy ministry said in a statement.

Expected to take effect in 2017, it is billed as providing a legal framework that will spur investment in exploiting resources in Near Earth Objects (NEOs) -- the scientific term for asteroids as well as comets.

"(It) will guarantee operators the right to resources harvested in outer space in accordance with international law," the ministry said.

"Space resources-dedicated licences will be issued under the new law, and government supervision of the activities of operators and regulating their rights and obligations will be ensured by Luxembourg in accordance with the Outer Space Treaty."

Luxembourg already has a successful industry for satellite services as well as its highly lucrative banking sector.