Trump EO: The Moon and Other Celestial Bodies Should Be Open to Private Resource Development – Cato Institute

Legal Clarification Needed

Needed now is aspecific legal code to cover commercial activities in space. What is the legal status of areas used for mining, experiments, or other activities? How to sort out disputes over territories claimed? To what resources can companies gain title? What contract law applies to transactions involving space? And to agreements concluded in space? How about criminal law covering participants in agradually expanding space presence?

A new international framework also is needed. Existing agreements do not suffice.

The Moon Treaty restricted use of the Moon (and other celestial bodies) exclusively for peaceful purposes. The prohibition on military activities is broad, though obviously unenforceable: Any threat or use of force or any other hostile act or threat of hostile act on the Moon is prohibited. It is likewise prohibited to use the Moon in order to commit any such act or to engage in any such threat in relation to the Earth, the Moon, spacecraft, the personnel of spacecraft or manmade space objects.

This pact included along list of unobjectionable, even obvious, admonitions: consider the interests of future generations, be guided by the principle of cooperation and mutual assistance, alert other countries to conflicting uses, consider making Moon materials collected available to other states, dont disrupt the environment, and adopt all practicable measures to safeguard the life and health of persons on the Moon.

Commercialization in Space

What about commercialization? The agreement offered little guidance but appeared hostile. It was adopted when the redistributionist New Economic Order was being pushed by the longgone Group of 77 at the UN, which represented largely socialist dictatorships which sought to guilt the West into transferring vast resources to their treasuries. Indeed, the Moon Treaty embodied many of the same principles behind the Law of the Sea Treatys section governing seabed mining. The latter emerged when the prospect of trillions of dollars worth of minerals littering the ocean floor bedazzled big spending, highly indebted Third World governments. Naturally, they demanded their share of the action.

Years of negotiation yielded an almost comical Rube Goldberg system, in which the least capable states would rule. The Authority would control seabed mining. The Enterprise would mine the common heritage of mankind on behalf of the worlds most corrupt, least developed, and largely undemocratic regimes. Rules were established to limit mining, transfer technology, and redistribute wealth. The Soviet Union was granted three seats, the U.S. only one. There was no veto for America. High on the agenda of the two UN conferences developing the treaty which Iattended was constant maneuvering by conference leaders hoping to grab postratification jobs at The Authoritylater headquartered in Jamaica but without much to do since seabed mining never took off.

The Moon Treaty similarly declared that the Moon and other celestial bodies would be the common heritage of mankind. There would be no security of property or tenure: Neither the surface nor the subsurface of the Moon, nor any part thereof or natural resources in place, shall become property of any State, international intergovernmental or nongovernmental organization, national organization or nongovernmental entity or of any natural person.

Those who ratified the document pledged to undertake to establish an international regime to govern the exploitation of the natural resources of the Moon. Such an entity, imagine aheavenly version of The Authority, would be directed to ensure orderly development and rational management of resources and of course an equitable sharing by all, by which the interests and needs of the developing countries would be given special consideration. Meaning interlunar, and perhaps even interstellar or intergalactic income redistribution.

Obviously, an outer space LOST would be avery bad idea. Although the Moon Treaty hangs over space development, it can be easily ignored, having received but 18 ratifications, none by states capable of exploring space. America, China, and Russia neither signed nor ratified the agreement. India signed but did not ratify. The only European nations to ratify are Austria, Belgium, and the Netherlands. None of them appears ready to go to the Moon, let alone beyond.

The Outer Space Treaty

The Outer Space Treaty, in contrast, has been ratified by 109 countries, including all of the major potential players in space. However, the pact primarily covers two issues. First, it is adisarmament agreement, banning deployment of nuclear weapons in space and reserving the Moon and other celestial bodies for peaceful uses. There are to be no military bases, weapons testing, or military maneuvers.

Second, the treaty encourages safe, responsible action as states explore the heavens. It blesses exploration, scientific investigation, and international cooperation, and forbids countries from claiming sovereignty over celestial bodies. States the treaty: outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.

Nevertheless, sovereignty is retained over objects launched into space. Moreover, the treaty declares that:

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Trump EO: The Moon and Other Celestial Bodies Should Be Open to Private Resource Development - Cato Institute

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