U.S. President Trump Wants to Mine the Moon, Mars For Minerals
“Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space,” reads an executive order recently signed by U.S. President Donald Trump that attempts to establish the United States’ right to drill into the moon, and mine Mars, for minerals.
Essentially, this executive order makes clear that when it comes to outer space, it’s every man, or rather, every country, for itself. It states that the U.S. doesn’t consider outer space as part of the “global commons” that comprises international, shared resources such as the oceans. This means that use of the outer space, as far as the U.S. President is concerned, cannot be dictated by any international treaties or regulations. Through the order, Trump has stated a belief that he has the right to exploit these resources.
The executive order further stresses the U.S. never signed the Moon Agreement devised by the United Nations in 1979 to protect the moon and other celestial bodies as the “common heritage of mankind,” and establish an international regime that would “govern the exploitation of such resources when such exploitation is about to become feasible.” The agreement, however, was only ratified by 11 countries, including India and France. The major global players in space exploration — U.S., China, U.K., Russia — never signed it, making the Moon Agreement a failed experiment in outer space law.
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Owning, and using, celestial bodies for gain has long 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 international agreements, even when signed, are difficult to enforce and offer “no guarantees.”
The U.S. has taken advantage of this failure of international regulation — in 2015, the U.S. Congress passed a law that allows American companies to own and use any resources they mine from the moon and asteroids. In the latest executive order, Trump solidified this even further, stating the U.S. will object to any attempts by international bodies to hamper its outer space-mining efforts.
The latest announcement is in line with what many perceive as an obsession for Trump — space imperialism. He plans to send astronauts to the moon in the next five years, hopes to have NASA set up a permanent base there, which will open the door for further exploration toward Mars and beyond. Needless to say, this opportunistic, profit-centric view of outer space is not very different from how Trump’s policies designed to revitalize the dying coal industry by increasing oil and gas drilling have wreaked havoc on the environment and indigenous populations on Earth. Now, sadly, even the sky is not the limit.