Controversial Space Mining Bill Passes U.S. Congress
Mining. In. Spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace!
Currently, due to international treaties, no nation can own things in space like asteroids or the Moon (despite us flying up there and putting our flag on it). However, with private spaceflight becoming more and more of a pressing reality, congress has passed a bill granting ownership of resources that corporations bring back from space.
Which is … kind of nuts. Since “space” itself isn’t really anything, the objects in it are really the only things to be owned. Under the newly passed law, which experts reportedly predict president Obama will sign, those things can be owned if they’re brought back to Earth. In good news, we’ll never need cheese again once Moon mining starts. Right?
Not so fast. Whether the law makes it onto the books, space lawyers (real thing) still aren’t sold on whether the U.S. even has the power to create such a law—especially since it doesn’t and can’t own those things in the first place. Frans von der Dunk, a space law professor at the University of Nebraska, told Popular Science that space law is like the legality of fishing on the ocean. He said, “Freedom of activity is the baseline and limitations to such freedoms should principally be agreed upon at the international level.”
Valid or not, the provision for space mining was a late addition to the bill, which is also intended to extend a “learning period” for private spaceflight. That period has currently expired, which leaves the FAA open to put restrictions on the industry and potentially hamper its growth. With the bill in place, the final frontier will get to keep its frontier nature for a bit longer—until corporations bring it all back to Earth with them, of course.
(image via Kevin Gill on Flickr)
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