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The Legal Implications of Lunar Mining in the New Space Race

In the midst of the new space race, lunar mining has raised important legal questions. According to international space laws, no single nation can assert sovereignty over celestial bodies like the moon. In order to further its outer space goals, NASA is now turning to private companies for assistance.

Michael Usowski, a senior defense intelligence analyst for space and counterspace at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), emphasized the need for continued investment and for the United States to set the pace in order to maintain its lead in outer space exploration.

Credit: DepositPhotos

The initial space race, which culminated in the United Nations 1966 treaty, established that nations cannot claim property rights in space. However, officials now express concerns that China may disregard these laws and norms as it pursues its own space goals.

John Huth, chief of the office of space and counterspace at the DIA, highlighted China’s actions in the South China Sea, where it built islands and claimed exclusion zones around them. This behavior raises concerns about China’s adherence to international space laws.

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Lawmakers recognize the need for updated space laws to ensure fairness and to address the changing landscape of space exploration and potential conflicts. Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota stressed the necessity of new rules, as space is not only available for mining but is also becoming a domain for warfare.

Credit: DepositPhotos

The increasing advancement of space programs has led to questions regarding who has the right to explore and mine the moon’s resources. Usowski acknowledges the lack of clarity in current laws regarding mineral extraction from celestial bodies.

While the United States and other countries have been passing their own laws to allow for further exploration, there is room for improvement and the development of best practices in this area.

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In 2015, the United States passed a law allowing private companies to explore outer space resources, while President Donald Trump’s 2020 executive order encouraged advancements in space mining. Usowski identifies a gap in the current treaty, as it primarily focuses on nation states and pays little attention to commercial concerns. He believes that greater specificity would be beneficial as space commercialization continues to grow.

The United States plans to return to the lunar surface by the end of the year through commercial partnerships. Astrobotic, a private company, will provide the launch and lander for the unmanned Peregrine Mission. NASA also intends to contract commercial partners for five upcoming rover missions in 2021 as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services Initiative.

Meanwhile, China’s space program is closely aligned with its government, making it difficult to separate commercial interests from state interests.

Credit: DepositPhotos

Countries report their satellites and other objects in orbit to the United Nations, which maintains a national register. The United States currently has the largest number of objects in orbit compared to any other country.

However, as activities such as landing, building, and digging on solid ground in outer space increase, the international community is now reconsidering the regulations governing shared space.

Lawmakers and scientists agree that while it is crucial to stay ahead of China in outer space exploration, more research and understanding of outer space resources are needed before they can be considered reliable sources for mining. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware emphasized the need for a significant increase in mining and processing capabilities both domestically and globally.

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Malik is a skilled writer with a passion for news and current events. With their keen eye for detail, they provide insightful perspectives on the latest happenings. Stay informed and engaged!