On April 6th, US President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order on “Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources.”
In the shortest possible description, it sets out his aides to gather international support to allow for the entirety of outer space, and the Moon to fall under US jurisdiction, of sorts.
The executive order has 5 sections:
- Space Policy Directive-1 of December 11, 2017 provides that, under US patronage, “commercial partners” will be able to take part in an “innovative and sustainable program” for Washington to “lead the return of humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations.”
Notably, this sort of space exploration of the Moon, Mars and other Celestial bodies would require cooperation with commercial entities (corporations) to recover and use resources, including water and minerals from space.
An issue here, according to the order, is that some commercial entities have been discouraged from working towards extracting resources from space because of uncertainty regarding the right to do so.
The 1979 Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies isn’t signed by the US, but rather by only 18 countries.
The 1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies is signed by the US and 108 other countries.
But difference between the two creates difficulties to private interests from extracting resources from space.
And the important is this: The US should have right of way to extract resources, be it as a government, or by its corporations. Unlike what Russia and China, for example, say – that space is a common domain for every country, for the US that isn’t the case.
“Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law. Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view it as a global commons. Accordingly, it shall be the policy of the United States to encourage international support for the public and private recovery and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law.”
- The Moon Agreement isn’t legally applicable according to the US. “The Secretary of State shall object to any attempt by any other state or international organization to treat the Moon Agreement as reflecting or otherwise expressing customary international law.”
Basically, the US should be responsible of “what happens to the Moon” and that’s final.
- Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources.
The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Transportation, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the head of any other executive department or agency the Secretary of State determines to be appropriate will all have to procure international support for the above-mentioned corporations extracting resources from space, and it being under the direct supervision of the US and nobody else.
“In carrying out this section, the Secretary of State shall seek to negotiate joint statements and bilateral and multilateral arrangements with foreign states regarding safe and sustainable operations for the public and private recovery and use of space resources.”
Sections 4 and 5 are regarding frequent reports on the efforts of popularizing the agenda, and just general provisions, that US global hegemony can’t be undermined by its space hegemony, more or less.
Of course, after the US Space Force was established, there’s even a way to carry out the necessary actions against those who are unwilling to adhere to the status quo.
This is, of course, not something new, the fact that space is not a “global commons” but rather “the most attractive jurisdiction in the world for private-sector investment and innovation in outer space.” This was said back in 2017 by US National Space Council executive director Scott Pace.
“It bears repeating: Outer space is not a ‘global commons,’ not the ‘common heritage of mankind,’ not ‘res communis,’ nor is it a public good,” Scott Pace, the executive director of the US National Space Council, said in a speech last week (pdf). “These concepts are not part of the Outer Space Treaty, and the United States has consistently taken the position that these ideas do not describe the legal status of outer space.”
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