The US has made the first step in mining resources from the Moon and Mars through a new executive order recently signed by President Donald Trump. The move by the country goes against an international treaty regarding the non-scientific use of resources from space.
The executive order was officially signed by Trump on April 6. Known as the Executive Order on Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources, it outlines the US plans to extract precious resources such as water and metals from off-Earth sources.
Trump's EO For Space Mining
Trump signed the order as NASA is currently preparing on deploying human expeditions to the Moon and Mars. Under the agency's new spaceflight program known as Artemis, NASA is hoping to establish a sustained human presence on the Red Planet and the lunar surface. Although NASA will most likely pave the way for humans outposts on the Moon and Mars, the new executive order opens space-based mining opportunities for commercial companies. This means that through a partnership with the US government, private companies will be able to conduct mining operations on the Moon and Mars.
"Successful long-term exploration and scientific discovery of the Moon, Mars, and other celestial bodies will require partnership with commercial entities to recover and use resources, including water and certain minerals, in outer space," the executive order stated.
Going Against The 1979 Moon Treaty
Trump's move to kick-off space-based mining for the U.S. indicates that the country, or at least the current administration, does not view space as a "global commons." According to the 1979 Moon Treaty, those looking to conduct mining operations in space for non-scientific purposes can only do so by following the laws governed by the United Nations. However, as indicated in the executive order, the US, like other countries with thriving space agencies, did not sign the international agreement. This means the companies from the country are not required to comply with international laws regarding space mining.
"The order further clarifies that the United States does not view outer space as a 'global commons,' and it reinforces the 2015 decision by Congress that Americans should have the right to engage in the commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space," Scott Pace, the executive secretary of the US National Space Council and the deputy assistant to the president said in a statement.