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Space for Concern: Trump’s Executive Order on Space Resources

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Among the bevy of executive actions undertaken by President Donald Trump during the COVID-19 crisis is, of all things, an executive order (issued on 6 April 2020) promoting the development of space resources, which states in part that: Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law. Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view it as a global commons. Accordingly, it shall be the policy of the United States to encourage international support for the public and private recovery and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law. But what does this really mean, and is it a good or a bad thing? The executive order fits the mold of a common rallying call among space advocates that, confined to Earth, humanity exists in a closed society that stifles progress on all fronts, but especially on social and economic fronts.  Progress, we’re told, requires an ever expanding space frontier that will provide humanity with limitless resources, removing any need to be concerned about the rate at which we consume natural resources.  Further, we’re told, this progress requires a minimally-regulated, free market approach to space resources.  It is only through permitting the private sector free reign over space resources that humanity can even hope to see any benefits. In some respects this new executive order is nothing new at all when it comes to US space policy, given that the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015, signed by then-President Barack Obama, had already codified the US government’s willingness to defend American firms’ claims to ownership over any resources they extract from space.  Questions still linger as to whether this law is compatible with Article II of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits national sovereignty claims over celestial bodies (such as the Moon, the. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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