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

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US President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order authorizing commercial development of resources on the moon and planets in the solar system. Roscosmos accused Trump of trying to take space territories. International law treats this question ambiguously.

According to the text of the document circulated by the White House Press Service, the United States does not regard 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 State Department and other relevant departments have been tasked with negotiating at the international level to conclude agreements on the development and extraction of resources on the Moon and other outer 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, in this document it was 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 US policy regarding the use of space resources, such as water and certain types of minerals, to advance the commercial development of space,” explained the executive secretary of the National Space Council under US President Scott Pace.

On Tuesday, Roscosmos Deputy Director General for International Cooperation Sergei Savelyev accused the US authorities of predatory behavior. “Attempts to expropriate outer space and aggressive plans to actually occupy the territories of other planets hardly put the countries on fruitful cooperation,” Savelyev said.

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

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

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

Regarding claims to the Moon, there are two basic international documents: the 1967 Treaty on the Principles of the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, and the Agreement on the Activities of States. on the Moon 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 treaty 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, today it is trying to find alternative ways to solve the issue of developing space resources and emphasize its position. “Thus, the United States acts as the initiator of the rule-making process in international law,” she sums up.

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