Project Mines New Frontiers in Outer-space Law

Asteroids and comets visited by spacecraft. (Credit: Planetary Society – Emily Lakdawalla)

Science is outpacing policies for responsible resource extraction in space.

By Susanna Eayrs
Western University

Two Western Law professors have launched a research project into laws governing space mining.

The growing demand for non-renewable natural resources, such as minerals used in batteries, has brought increased attention to the potential of exploiting resources in space for use on Earth – and the laws that govern such activities need to keep pace.

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International Open Letter on Space Mining

The Outer Space Institute
The University of British Columbia

International Open Letter on Space Mining

The Outer Space Institute is pleased to publish the International Open Letter on Space Mining, which stresses the need for a multilateral agreement on the exploration, exploitation, and utilization of space resources and calls on states to present a resolution at the UN General Assembly that urges the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to negotiate a draft of such an agreement. 

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Letter to Canadian Government on Space Mining

Honourable François-Philippe Champagne
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Global Affairs Canada
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2

cc. Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs
Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Natural Resources

20 April 2020

Dear Minister Champagne,

Re: US Executive Order on Recovery and Use of Space Resources

On 6 April 2020, the President of the United States signed an Executive Order on Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources (“Executive Order”).

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Vancouver Recommendations on Space Mining

Vancouver Recommendations on Space Mining
The Outer Space Institute
April 20, 2020

Background

Humanity is entering a new era of developing and utilizing Space that will likely include mining on the Moon, on near-Earth asteroids, and eventually on Mars. As part of this new era, a growing number of state and non-state actors are becoming capable of accessing and operating in Space.

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Canadian Institute Urges United Nations Agreement on Use of Outer Space Resources

Thermal mining of ices on cold solar system bodies (Credit: George Sowers)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In a challenge to the United States’ position that extraterrestrial resources can be legally extracted and utilized under existing law, The Outer Space Institute (OSI) is urging the United Nations to quickly begin work on an international agreement to govern these activities.

“It is our opinion that the speed and scale of developments relating to the exploration, exploitation and utilization of space resources require more affirmative and urgent action,” OSI said in an open letter to UN General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande sent earlier this month.

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‘Major Takeaways from the 2019 Mining Space Summit

White Paper from the Luxembourg Space Agency focusses on opportunities for collaboration between terrestrial and space mining sectors

LUXEMBOURG (Luxembourg Space Agency PR) — On 9 October 2019, the second Mining Space Summit gathered more than 180 experts, from 24 countries, working in fields as diverse as oil & gas, terrestrial mining, space, finance, and government.

Held in Luxembourg, the goal of the Summit was to understand the technical and economic challenges facing the space resources industry and make recommendations for the future growth of this high technology sector.

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Report: China Could Follow South China Sea Strategy in Seeking Space Resources

Optical Mining of Asteroids, Moons, and Planets to Enable Sustainable Human Exploration and Space Industrialization (Credits: Joel Sercel)

Continuing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we examine how China is seeking to shape the governance of space activities. [Full Report]

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China’s actions in asserting sovereignty over the disputed South China Sea could serve as a model by which that nation would claim extraterrestrial resources and consolidate its control over key space assets, a new report to the U.S. Congress warned.

“Contrary to international norms governing the exploration and commercial exploitation of space, statements from senior Chinese officials signal Beijing’s belief in its right to claim use of space-based resources in the absence of a clear legal framework specifically regulating mining in space,” according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 report.

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NASA Invests in Tech Concepts Aimed at Exploring Lunar Craters, Mining Asteroids

Illustration of the Skylight mission concept, a 2019 NIAC Phase III. (Credits: William Whittaker, Carnegie Mellon University)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Robotically surveying lunar craters in record time and mining resources in space could help NASA establish a sustained human presence at the Moon – part of the agency’s broader Moon to Mars exploration approach. Two mission concepts to explore these capabilities have been selected as the first-ever Phase III studies within the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.

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Luxembourg’s Bold Move into Space Mining

ESA's Asteroid Impact Mission is joined by two triple-unit CubeSats to observe the impact of the NASA-led Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART) probe with the secondary Didymos asteroid, planned for late 2022. (Credit: ESA - ScienceOffice.org)
ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission is joined by two triple-unit CubeSats to observe the impact of the NASA-led Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART) probe with the secondary Didymos asteroid, planned for late 2022. (Credit: ESA – ScienceOffice.org)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Luxembourg’s announcement of its space resources initiative provides three things that companies like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries (DSI) need to make their dreams of mining asteroids a reality.

Legal Recognition. The United States is alone in the world in recognizing space property rights. There is some dispute over whether the law violates the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.
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Moon Express Praises Signing of Commercial Space Act

moon_wires
WASHINGTON, DC, November 25th, 2015 (Moon Express PR) – Today, history was made when President Obama signed legislation into law recognizing and promoting the rights of Moon Express to explore, harvest and own resources from the Moon. This historic law was passed as Title IV of the “U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act”, making the United States the first nation to explicitly recognize private sector mining rights for water and minerals obtained from the Moon.

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Report Finds Lots of Valuable Mineral Resources in Space

Heinlein Prize Trust space mineralsSAN JOSE, Calif., July 17, 2015 (IAA PR) — A study released today by the International Academy of Astronautics found that space mineral resources (SMR) can benefit humanity and serve as an economic “game changer,” especially in developing countries.

The study, the most comprehensive to date, examined the latest technologies, economics, law and policy related to SMR opportunities and included several recommendations to space agencies and analysis of options to advance this exploration.

“This study is not about how to leverage space mineral resources, but rather how best to leverage them,” according to Art Dula, co-editor of the study and a faculty member of the Houston Law School where he teaches space law. Dula is also Trustee of the Heinlein Prize Trust, one of the organizations participating in the study. “Improving the world we know today will be possible by leveraging the phenomenal resources available in our solar system,” he said.

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Group Works on Space Mineral Resources Study

JPL_asteroid_satellite
The International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) is working on a study on space mineral resources that it plans to submit to the heads of 40 space agencies at an upcoming summit, according to study chairman Art Dula.

The study, titled “Space Mineral Resources – Challenges and Opportunities,” will “provide a logical, systematic and practical road map to promote and encourage near term evaluation, development and use of space mineral resources (SMR) in space,” according to a description on the IAA website.

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The Space Review: Balloons (Not) in Space, Sustainability and Space Resources

It’s time to pop the space balloon meme
There’s been a growing number of efforts by amateurs to fly balloons high into the atmosphere and take “pictures of space”, or even claim to have flown in space. Jeff Foust examines how how this phenomenon, and especially the media coverage of it, could have a detrimental effect on actual spaceflight.

An experiment in sustainability and spaceflight
Future long-duration human spaceflight will require technologies that can sustain life while reusing and recycling as much as possible. Kit Martin argues that the same technologies can also be essential to sustaining life on Earth.

Review: Crossing the Threshold
How can we take advantage of the virtually boundless energy and material resources in the solar system? Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a series of proposals to accelerate humanity’s expansion into and utilization of space.











Experts to Debate Our Future Destinations in Space in Sunnyvale on Friday

Asteroid Ida

The question of where humanity should go next in space will be the topic of a round table on Friday, Oct. 29 at the Sheraton Sunnyvale Hotel.

“Moon, Mars, Asteroids: Where to Go First for Resources?” will bring together some of the world’s top experts to debate our next step in the settlement of space. The round table, sponsored by the Space Studies Institute, will be held from 7:00 to 10 p.m., including a post-debate reception. Admission is free to registered conference attendees and the general public.

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