It might have seemed strange for the tiny state's money man to solicit meetings with cosmic researchers, but Luxembourg is always on the lookout for its next big investment. So when the center's director, Pete Worden, began to talk about space mining—extracting water, ore, precious metals, alien time capsules, and whatever else from the likes of asteroids—Schneider listened.
"I thought this was all science fiction," says Schneider. But Worden convinced him there was a whole cosmic economy to build, one that could extend from the moon to Mars. That same year, two guys founded a space prospecting company called Planetary Resources. And in January 2013, another, named Deep Space Industries—headquartered inside NASA's Ames campus—was born. Soon, Schneider saw the same future they did. "The question was not if that all would happen, but when," he says. "And there I saw a huge opportunity for Luxembourg."