Want to own a piece of an asteroid? Easy. Just build a spaceship capable of getting to it, extracting the bits you want, and bringing them back to Earth.

According to a bill passed by the U.S. Senate this week, you will legally own anything you can get your robotic paws on. (It passed through the House of Representatives back in May).

The law clears the way for private companies that are eyeing potentially valuable space-minerals.

It sounds like science fiction, but commercial asteroid mining may not be as far of as you might think. Companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic are all potentially interested in getting in on the game. Planetary Resources, Inc. literally calls itself “the asteroid mining company.”

“This off-planet economy will forever change our lives for the better here on Earth,” said Chris Lewicki, president of Planetary Resources, in a news release praising the bill’s passing.

The bill provides for rights to mineral and water resources for anyone who can get at them. Rights only extend to “abiotic” material, so no, you wouldn’t own any aliens you might come across.

What if said aliens had their own claims to the asteroid resources? Well, that likely is still the realm of science fiction, and the bill doesn’t get into it.

Hopefully, we don’t piss off any intelligent alien life with this colonial, take-what-you-can-grab attitude. If we do, we could be in a world of trouble.

The legislation now moves to the White House where President Barack Obama can sign it into law, veto it outright, or just pretend to forget about it via the ol’ pocket veto.

Photos via ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA