Free Enterprise in Space?

We’ve written a few times before about what we consider to be misguided treaties and bureaucratic actions designed to prevent entrepreneurial activity in space — for example, How Not To Enter the Space Age, where we grumbled about lunacy (sort of a pun) like the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. According to Wikipedia:

The treaty explicitly forbids any government from claiming a celestial resource such as the Moon or a planet, claiming that they are the common heritage of mankind.

It was signed by the United States. We said:

Isn’t that sweet? [It] means that no one owns anything. It means no private company will ever develop the resources that are out there. Government clerks might talk about it, but no one in his right mind thinks they could ever accomplish anything.

[…]

This is all nonsense. If the wealth that is probably out there is going to be discovered, mined, and brought to Earth where it’s needed and will benefit everyone, all of those “experts” need to get out of the way.

Today we have some very surprising news. Congress has just passed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. To our astonishment, it’s reported that Obama has signed it. We can’t find anything about this at the White House website or the major newspapers, but we did spot this: Mining Bill Signed by President Barack Obama, which says:

The U.S. commercial space industry is celebrating today. President Obama just signed new legislation that allows resources on Mars, the Moon, asteroids and bodies in space to be extracted, used as well as sold for commercial utilization and exploration. Some space experts believe this marks the dawn of new age in space, but that remains to be seen.

The Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act for 2015 or HR 2262, the Act permits companies that specialize in asteroid mining to keep all resources collected.

[…]

The new legislation permits U.S. citizens to own minerals extracted on the Moon and asteroids, but not own the land where they can be found. The implication with regard to property rights in space as stirred a great deal of attentions amongst lawmakers and entrepreneurs.

This new law may, however, be in conflict with earlier treaties, and that has to be clarified before anyone risks the enormous funds required to do any exploration and mining. Until then, nothing of economic importance will happen.

When news of this filters out, there will almost certainly be vigorous debate about the wisdom of this new law. The dreamy “space is for everyone!” gang will be wildly opposed to the new law. We think the new law is great, and as we said, we’re amazed that Obama signed it. We’ll be watching for future developments.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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10 responses to “Free Enterprise in Space?

  1. Rikki_Tikki_Taalik

    The resources harvested should be shared equally among all peoples on the planet Earth.

    An asteroid in every pot I say!

  2. Who will be responsible for a large enough asteroid being moved out of it original orbit if it ended up colliding with Earth? It probably wouldn’t really matter after the collision.

    Would the owner of the asteroid be held responsible or the company that caused the problem due to “human error”.

    Will public funds be used to subsidize corporate harvesting of the solar system? Will corporations need publicly funded military protection or emergency response infrastructure to be present in the areas being targeted for harvesting?

    Opening our solar frontier is going to be considerably more complex than just encouraging people to move to a promised land.

  3. This new law doesn’t matter, nor do any previous treaties. Any company wanting to extract resources from asteroids or other bodies in the solar system will just incorporate in some little country that didn’t sign the treaties. For a share of the loot there will be a lot of such countries!

    A pertinent example is the number of ocean-going ships that get registered in countries with fewer regulations.

  4. Of course, to harvest resources in space, first you have to get there. And no one has gone beyond low Earth orbit in 42 years.

    This has encouraged the growth of belief in conspiracy theories claiming that we never went to the moon at all, and that we can’t ever go because the angel with the flaming sword that turneth every which way, that is to say, the supposedly “deadly” Van Allen belts, won’t let us. And the longer we DON’T go, the more popular such ideas will become.

  5. The whole matter seems awfully silly. Spend billions and billions to fetch a few pounds of X or Y? The overhead is enormous, unless maybe a conveyor belt between the orbs can be physically set up. Of course, all business expenses, accidents, etc. can all be written off on any taxes due and profits earned.

  6. Then again, perhaps on one of the asteroids or planets the element “upsidasium” is discovered, you know, the stuff that reverses gravity.

  7. No government or politician or bureaucrat has authority over any space stuff. No one can “allow” or “not allow” anything that is not under their purview in their own country. This so-called law is moot and invalid and meaningless, just like state marijuana legalization laws – all are automatically null and void and marijuana is still illegal everywhere in America, because federal law trumps state law (remember 8th grade civics class?).

    If we, as a society, allow the American government to pass a “law” about space stuff, it sets a precedent for them to self-declare authority over things they have no control over. Dangerous. They already have too much authority & they abuse it regularly anyway.

  8. JSJ, you must be a commie. Next you will be claiming that the US, Great Britain, Russia, Poland, etc did not obtain their lands by valid legal means.
    ——————
    Forget outer space for now, what about newly accessible mineral resources in the Antarctic and Arctic?

  9. In other news:

    Two bald men continue to fight over comb.

    What none of you primitive earthlings realise: the quadrant of the galaxy in which your benighted planet spins is in fact part of a vast collective farm set up a billion years ago by the Sentient Beings’ Republic of Alpha Centauri.

    Fortunately for the evolution of your species, this section has been left fallow for the past 500 million years.

    But unfortunately, its scheduled for ‘slash and burn’ cultivation under the next Centauri Workers’ 500 Million Year Plan…

  10. Whoops, thought for a moment I’d strayed onto the Disco Tute site.