Now that companies are beginning to really ponder the possibility of exploiting the resources of the Moon, or near-Earth asteroids, a thorny issue is making its way into the spotlight, namely the legal framework for such endeavors, and the ownership problems that come with it.
Though other bodies in the solar system may seem barren at first glance, they actually contain vast amounts of resources, particularly water and platinum, alongside some radioactive elements. Companies could turn a hefty profit form exploiting these vast reserves.
Currently, the necessary technology and entrepreneurial spirit exist, but the financial support for such endeavors is somewhat limited. This is partly due to the fact that the legal framework under which such commercial enterprises would operate is non-existent.
Property and mineral ownership rights are among the most hotly-debated topics, alongside issues relating to possession and ownership, and the validity of international treaties. Since the first idea to exploit resources on other worlds was proposed, private development was strongly opposed.
A collaboration of experts from the Planetary and Terrestrial Mining Sciences Symposium, the Colorado School of Mines and the Lunar and Planetary Institute recently organized a Space Resources Roundtable to discuss these issues, Space reports.
“My lay take on space property and mineral rights is that there seem to be several potential routes that the evolution of such law could take,” explains Missouri University of Science and Technology expert Leslie Gertsch, the deputy director of the Rock Mechanics & Explosives Research Center.
“The form that space law will finally take will depend on who has the guts and funds to start the process, what case it’s started with, where it is adjudicated – be it the US Australia, Europe or Asia, for example – and how the lawyers chose to argue their respective points during its course,” he adds.
“When a major legal firm begins fully billed work, then I will sit up and take notice,” Gertsch adds. Businesses have a natural adversity towards unstable legislation and treaties, in other words to legal frameworks that may change after they invest heftily in a financial endeavor, Space
Undoubtedly, over the next few years, lawmakers will be forced to come to a decision regarding how they want to regulate the use of outer space for commercial activities, primarily because companies will exert more and more pressure in this direction.