Space – the final frontier…..well it’s very much the current frontier at the moment with the far flung thought of mining asteriods now a legal debate. What was previously only in the realm of space-faring games is now a very real financial boom industry. On the 18th of November 2015 the U.S congress passed the Space Act of 2015. Now this still requires the signature of President Obama but here’s the breakdown of what this means.
The act will allow private enterprise such as “Space Dragon” and DSI (Deep Space Industries) to make innovations and expeditions without regulatory oversight for an 8 year period. What’s interesting here is that this basically allows companies to reach out and begin the process of mining and claiming resources from asteroids in a fashion not dissimilar to, “Finders, Keepers”.
Now this isn’t neccessarily a bad thing, because such industry doesn’t exist yet and it certainly would be a huge step forward in developing all space related industries (which I actually firmly believe we NEED to do in order to solve the problems we are facing by over extending this planet). There’s job creation in nearly all existing manufacturing industries, human resources, administration, I.T, and all the other positions associated with opening new departments in massive multi-billion dollar Coporations. The vocal supporters argue that the US Space Act is a bold statement that finally sets private spaceflight free from the heavy regulation of the US government. So where’s the problem?
It begins once more and more countries, individual states and private enterprise actually begin to have the capability to move into this market. And because all these entities are seeing the financial opportunities here, the problem is actually here and now. The biggest issue is that space exploration is being touted as a universal activity and therefore requires international regulation. The act represents a full-frontal attack on settled agreements of space law which are based on two basic principles: the right of states to scientific exploration of outer space and its celestial bodies and the prevention of unilateral and unbridled commercial exploitation of outer-space resources. These principles are found in agreements including the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and the Moon Agreement of 1979.
As the numbers of bodies that have the capability to not only get to space, but to exploit it, grows, the interest in having access to celestial resources will grow as well. Not only does the issue of who “owns” what come into play, but the larger exploration and scientific concern of potential contamination of celestial bodies with microbes from Earth, and the ramifications that could have. Now that’s a big statement I know, but the potential ruination of the chances of finding alien life, or worse, contamination of existing alien life is a moral issue we need to be aware of.
So like all big planetary issues, there are great positives and excitement for this new frontier and also some very big potential impacts that we as a nation need to consider as a unified group. The hope of this article is not to just highlight these two sides of the coin, but to promote interest and awareness of the topic so that WE (the planetary inhabitants of Earth), can make informed and unified decisions as a collective to ensure our way forward through the stars. The Romans had this all correctly figured out in their legal maxim: “What concerns all must be decided upon by all.”
We started with a small step for man, we followed with a giant leap for mankind – it’s now time to make sure we land on our space faring feet from that leap. While we’re not there yet, developments towards actual space mining may begin to occur within a decade.