"Any nation can pull out of that treaty with a year's warning, so I think it would be wrong or misplaced to either criticize or slow-roll development efforts, such as what Planetary Resources is proposing, due to the treaty if for no other reason than the United States can pull out at any time and therefore not be bound by the treaty," Gold said.
Legal justification to mine asteroids likely would follow technical capability, he added.
"It is my belief that in the end, capability will trump law," Gold said.
Planetary Resources will have decades to work out any legal kinks. The company, based in Bellevue, Wash., is developing a line of low-cost observatories that would be put into orbit around Earth and sold to commercial, educational and research entities for a variety of purposes including remote studies of near-Earth asteroids.
Ultimately, Planetary Resources will send a prospecting spacecraft to a targeted asteroid to inventory its contents and test extraction techniques.
"We have a long view. We're not expecting this company to be an overnight financial homerun," Anderson said.