The US sees a clear path to the use of moon and asteroid resources.
Trump Signs Executive Order to Support Moon Mining, Tap Asteroid Resources
(April 6, 2020) — The water ice and other lunar resources that will help the United States establish a long-term human presence on the moon are there for the taking, the White House believes.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order today (April 6) establishing US policy on the exploitation of off-Earth resources. That policy stresses that the current regulatory regime — notably, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty — allows the use of such resources.
This view has long held sway in US government circles. For example, the United States, like the other major spacefaring nations, has not signed the 1979 Moon Treaty, which stipulates that non-scientific use of space resources be governed by an international regulatory framework. And in 2015, Congress passed a law explicitly allowing American companies and citizens to use moon and asteroid resources.
The new executive order makes things even more official, stressing that the United States does not view space as a “global commons” and sees a clear path to off-Earth mining, without the need for further international treaty-level agreements.
The executive order, called “Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources,” has been in the works for about a year, a senior administration official said during a teleconference with reporters today.
The order was prompted, at least in part, by a desire to clarify the United States’ position as it negotiates with international partners to help advance NASA’s Artemis program for crewed lunar exploration, the official added. (Engagement with international partners remains important, the official said.)
Artemis aims to land two astronauts on the moon in 2024 and to establish a sustainable human presence on and around Earth’s nearest neighbor by 2028. Lunar resources, especially the water ice thought to be plentiful on the permanently shadowed floors of polar craters, are key to Artemis’ grand ambitions, NASA officials have said.
The moon is not the final destination for these ambitions, by the way. Artemis is designed to help NASA and its partners learn how to support astronauts in deep space for long stretches, lessons that will be key to putting boots on Mars, which NASA wants to do in the 2030s.
“As America prepares to return humans to the moon and journey on to Mars, this executive order establishes US policy toward the recovery and use of space resources, such as water and certain minerals, in order to encourage the commercial development of space,” Scott Pace, deputy assistant to the president and executive secretary of the US National Space Council, said in a statement today.
President Trump has shown considerable interest in shaping US space policy. In December 2017, for example, he signed Space Policy Directive-1, which laid the groundwork for the Artemis campaign.
Two other directives have aimed to streamline commercial space regulation and the protocols for space traffic control. And Space Policy Directive-4, which the president signed in February 2019, called for the creation of the Space Force, the first new US military branch since the Air Force was stood up in 1947.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
Russian Space Agency Says Trump Paving Way to Seize Other Planets
MOSCOW (April 2, 2020) — The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, accused Donald Trump on Tuesday of creating a basis to take over other planets by signing an executive order outlining US policy on commercial mining in space.
The executive order, which Roscosmos said damaged the scope for international cooperation in space, was signed on Monday.
It said the United States would 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”.
It said US citizens should have the right to engage in such activity and that “outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view it as a global commons”.
Roscosmos said the order put the United States at odds with the notion of space belonging to all humanity.
“Attempts to expropriate outer space and aggressive plans to actually seize territories of other planets hardly set the countries (on course for) fruitful cooperation,” its statement said.
Relations between Russia and the United States are at post-Cold War lows, but cooperation on space has continued despite an array of differences over everything from Ukraine to accusations of election meddling.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “any kind of attempt to privatise space in one form or another — and I find it difficult to say now whether this can be seen as an attempt to privatise space — would be unacceptable”.
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