For decades, the international community has been working to develop formal rules on the collection and use of space and lunar resources,media reported. While the United States and all spacefaring nations have refused to support the best-known attempt, the 1979 Moon Treaty, a new round of the lunar race prompted the White House to announce its willingness to reach a new international agreement on the subject.
In an executive order issued today, the Trump administration said the future policy will be to encourage the international community to support the public and private sectors in restoring and utilizing the resources of outer space.
The order does not impose anything, just a policy statement, so this is only the first step. But it shows that the United States wants to take a step forward in a new framework for the use of space resources.
Once off the surface of the earth, the question of which laws apply is a complex one; even if it is not, many of the laws and rules on this subject were developed or conceived in a very different space age and in various forms of the Cold War. The new rules are clearly necessary in view of the current boom in space and the imminent colonization of near-Earth objects such as the Moon and potential asteroids.
As things stand, there is little formal law on materials harvested on the moon, staying on the moon, sharing with other countries, and so on. Which authority will arbitrate the differences that may arise in the future? How can one prevent the lunar surface from being damaged by commercial mining activities, allowing large weathering layers to blow into orbit?
Yet it is clear that this is a rather difficult issue, and the United States is planning to open up. To achieve this goal, the United States will “seek to negotiate with foreign countries on joint statements, bilateral and multilateral arrangements for the safe and sustainable functioning of the public and private sectors in the recovery and use of space resources,” the executive order reads.