Since man first launched Sputnik 1 to space in 1957, man has believed in his ability to conquer space and harvest its treasures for commercial gain – well, the advance in space technology is fast making this to be a reality. But there are stakes involved and implications for all humanity, according to The Conversation.
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The United Nations established the United Nations Outer Space Treaty (OST) of 1967 establishing that nations have equal rights to venture into space for peaceful and scientific purposes, but no portions of space must be appropriated as a sovereign property.
That was a time when nations had the resources and the technology to venture into space, not the opportunity is fast falling into the hands of private corporations who are driven by both military and commercial interests.
The commercial interest lies largely in mining space for rare metals and precious stones that lie untouched in the moon and near-Earth asteroids among other planets. The US President Barack Obama in November 2015 signed the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA) into law – and this empowers US companies to mine resources in space and sell them for profit on Earth.
There is however a problem that seemed overlooked. People consider the moon the general property of everyone, and any excavation scars observed on its surface via Earth-based telescopes might generate conflicts. Terrestrial mining companies are generally required to comply with domestic legislation that protects heritage, community values and the environment, and people or nations might think this should as well apply to mining the moon.
After the US signed the CSLCA into law, Luxembourg followed by announcing it is establishing a legal framework to facilitate space mining. Now, if every nation rises to the profits and adventure of mining the moon for commercial gain, will that not destroy what is supposed to be a natural resource for all the inhabitants of the Earth – just like we have space debris floating about and constituting junks above our atmosphere?
Australia is also gearing up for space mining, and so might other nations.
The truth however is that any country could make a rash move that could tip the balance and erode the principle that upholds the moon as the common heritage of all humanity – underscoring the need for a detailed international regime that must safeguard the interests of every stakeholder – this will work out a safe and sustainable way to exploit space resources while avoiding space risks and disasters.