The future arrived on Capitol Hill this week with the House voting on Thursday to spur commercial space flight and protect claims made by companies that venture into space for mining interests.
Democrats immediately denounced the measure as a giveaway
to corporate interests.
The Space Resource Exploration and Utilization (SPACE) Act of 2015 passed 284-133 after skirmishes that included the defeat of a Democratic amendment addressing space tourism safety as well as government guarantees for space industry insurance, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Fifty Democrats ultimately joined with Republicans to pass the bill, which House Republican leaders praised as a critical step forward into the next frontier.
"This bill will encourage the private sector to launch rockets, take risks, and shoot for the heavens," said Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
The bill includes a 10-year exemption from passenger safety regulations for commercial space flights — a setback for congressional Democrats who wanted the Federal Aviation Administration to begin setting and imposing space travel safety rules sooner.
The science committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, said
the bill is "fundamentally unbalanced" and "heavily skewed toward industry's desires."
The White House likewise had objected
in advance of Thursday's vote that some provisions would not give the government enough regulatory power over private space activities.
The legislation also ensures that space mining companies can keep what they extract from asteroids, The Washington Post reports
"This is how we know commercial space exploration is serious," writes Brian Fung of the Post. "The opportunity here is so vast that businesses are demanding federal protections for huge, floating objects they haven't even surveyed yet."
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.