Trump wants to cut resources in space. And who do they belong to?

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Photographer, Getty pictures

On Monday, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order approving the commercial development of resources on the moon and the planets in the solar system. Roscosmos accused Trump of trying to take space territories. International law deals with this issue ambiguously.

According to the text of the document circulated by the White House press service, the United States does not consider outer space as the common property of mankind, and believes that Americans should have the right to conduct commercial research, mining and use of resources in space.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and other relevant departments have been commissioned to negotiate at an international level to conclude agreements on the development and extraction of resources on the moon and other space bodies.

The decree also emphasizes that the United States does not recognize the legality of the agreement on the activities of states on the moon and other celestial bodies, which was adopted by a resolution of the UN General Assembly in December 1979. In particular, this document stated that the moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of mankind.

“As America prepares to return a man to the moon and send him to Mars, this executive order defines U.S. policy regarding the use of space resources, such as water and certain types of minerals, to advance the commercial evolution of space,” he explained. the Secretary of the National Space Council under US President Scott Pace.

On Tuesday, Roscosmo’s deputy director general for international cooperation, Sergei Savelyev, accused the US authorities of plundering. “Attempts to expropriate outer space and aggressive plans to actually occupy the territories of other planets are unlikely to put the countries on fruitful cooperation,” Savelyev said.

Head of Department Dmitry Rogozin wrote on his Twitterthat Trump’s executive order says “the actual allocation of the territory of the moon and other celestial bodies to the United States.”

Russian President Dmitry Peskov’s press secretary also joined the dispute, calling for a “legal assessment of such decisions” to begin with. “Still, some form of privatization of space in one form or another, and now I have a hard time saying if this can be seen as an attempt to privatize space, such attempts would be unacceptable,” Peskov concluded.

The principle of non-allocation and the lunar treaties

As Elina Morozova, a board member of the International Institute of Space Law, explained to the BBC, the principle of non-appropriation of celestial bodies is considered fundamental in international law, but the issue of their natural resources is more complex. and can be interpreted ambiguously.

“There are two main positions: one states that the principle of non-allocation also applies to space resources (that they can not be used and mined for national and commercial purposes, except for scientific research); the other position states that the principle of non-allocation – “The appropriation of celestial bodies does not regulate the issue of extraction of space resources. This dilemma has been known for a long time,” Morozova explains.

With regard to claims to the moon, there are two basic international documents: the Treaty on the Principles of States’ Activities in Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies from 1967, and the Convention on the Activities of Lunar and Other Celestial Bodies (1979). ).

The first document was signed by the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union; the second document was ratified by 18 countries, but among them there was not a single member of the “Big Seven” or a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

The purpose of both treaties was to secure the use of the moon for peaceful purposes. In particular, the 1967 Treaties emphasized that the moon, like other celestial bodies, “is not subject to national appropriation either by declaring sovereignty over them, or by use or occupation, or in any other way.”

As Elina Morozova notes, since the United States did not sign the 1979 treaty, they are today trying to find alternative ways to resolve the issue of developing space resources and emphasizing their position. “Thus, the United States acts as an initiator of the regulatory process in international law,” she concludes.

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