White House signals support for a new global Moon Treaty

Katie Ramirez
April 9, 2020

This very new executive order officiates these things stressing out that the United States does not view outer space as a "global commons" and that it sees a clear path of off-earth mining even without the need for further worldwide treaty-level agreements.

Owning, and using, celestial bodies for gain has always been a debate that has been subject to "politics, economics, and public opinion", Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz, former editor-in-chief of the Journal of Space Law, told BBC, adding global agreements, even when signed, are hard to enforce and offer "no guarantees". The objective of Tuesday's order is to clarify "uncertainty regarding the right to recover and use space resources". During 2015, Congress passed a law to allow American citizens and companies to explicitly use the moon and asteroid resources.

To that end, the US will "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", the executive order reads.

Why it matters: The executive order affirms NASA's hopes to one day mine the Moon for water, which can then be converted into rocket fuel, and establish a long-term presence on the lunar surface sometime after its Artemis mission in 2024.

Artemis' final destination is not actually the moon but to go way up to Mars later on in the 2030s! NASA, though, will have strong competition from Elon Musk's SpaceX.

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As it stands, there is very little in the way of official legal status for materials harvested on the Moon. Which authorities on Earth are going to arbitrate disagreements?

The global community has struggled for decades to formalize rules regarding the collection and use of resources in space and on the Moon.

The plan leverages commercial space operators via programs such as NASA´s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) to bring scientific packages and cargo to the lunar surface as well as to the Lunar Gateway.

This new executive order is called the "Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources", which has been in works for about a year reported by a senior administration officer previously during a teleconference with reporters.

"American industry and like-minded industries will benefit from the creation of stable worldwide practices that will allow private citizens, businesses, and the economy to benefit from expanding the economic area of human activity beyond the country", states in order.

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