We have some very good news to report today. As our long-time readers are aware, your Curmudgeon is an advocate of free enterprise — not only here on Earth, but also out in space. Therefore we have criticized the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which was signed by the US. 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.
In How Not To Enter the Space Age 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.
But then there was some good news. In 2015 we wrote Free Enterprise in Space?, and said:
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 quoted a news story that said:
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.
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.
The last time we discussed the subject was four years ago, in Where No One Has Gone Before, where we mentioned that PhysOrg had a copy of a blog article that was wildly ranting against the free enterprise system in outer space. We ended that post by saying:
And so, dear reader, if you were running a mining company, would you be interested in financing the titanic effort to explore the asteroid belt or the moons of Jupiter, under the wise and benign supervision — hee hee! — of an international body for the benefit of everyone on Earth — including the Amazonian tribes and the villagers of Bangladesh, who probably never even heard of the asteroids?
We have, shall we say, a few doubts that such an academically contrived regime will result in a flow — or even a trickle — of much-needed resources to Earth. But maybe we’re wrong. Perhaps international bureaucracies, not free enterprise, will boldly go where no one has gone before.
The reason for all that background is because the subject of economic freedom off the Earth is back in the news. We just found this at PhysOrg: Trump signs an executive order allowing mining the moon and asteroids. This will be difficult for those who dislike both free enterprise and Trump, so we hope you can control yourselves. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:
In 2015, the Obama administration signed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA, or H.R. 2262) into law. … On April 6th, the Trump administration took things a step further by signing an executive order that formally recognizes the rights of private interests to claim resources in space. This order, titled “Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources,” effectively ends the decades-long debate that began with the signing of the Outer Space Treaty in 1967.
Control yourself, dear reader. PhysOrg then says:
This order builds on both the CSLCA and Space Directive-1 (SD-1), which the Trump administration signed into law on December 11th, 2017. It establishes that “Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law,” and that the United States does not view space as a “global commons.”
Unbelievably fantastic news! PhysOrg then tells us:
This order puts an end to decades of ambiguity regarding commercial activities in space, which were technically not addressed by the Outer Space or Moon treaties. … As of June 2019, the treaty has been signed by no less than 109 countries, while another 23 have signed it but have not yet completed the ratification process. At the same time, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the full meaning and implications of the treaty. Specifically, Article II of the treaty states: “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.”
We’re only about a third of the way through the PhysOrg article, but this is already a very long post. Oh wait — we have to include this:
… Russia’s space agency (Roscosmos) officially condemned the executive order and likened it to colonialism. [BWAHAHAHAHAHA!] These sentiments were summed up in a statement issued by Sergey Saveliev, Roscosmos’ deputy director-general on international cooperation: “Attempts to expropriate outer space and aggressive plans to actually seize territories of other planets hardly set the countries (on course for) fruitful cooperation. There have already been examples in history when one country decided to start seizing territories in its interest— everyone remembers what came of it.”
When the Ruskies are opposed to something, you know it’s good. Okay, we’ve said enough. Now it’s your turn, dear reader.
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