President Trump has signed an executive order establishing U.S. policy on the use of off-Earth resources, including mining of the moon’s water ice and other natural resources, as well as tapping asteroids passing by.
On Monday, the president signed the executive order, titled Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources. The order cites the 1967 Outer Space Treaty as allowing the U.S. to tap resources on the moon, Mars and elsewhere.
“Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view space as a global commons,” the order states. The order “also affirms Congress’ intent that Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law. ”
“After braving the vast unknown and discovering the new world, our forefathers did not only merely sail home — and, in some cases, never to return. They stayed, they explored, they built, they guided, and through that pioneering spirit, they imagined all of the possibilities that few dared to dream,” Trump said in the order.
The order says:
- This Executive Order directs the Secretary of State to lead a U.S. Government effort to develop joint statements, bilateral agreements, and multilateral instruments with like-minded foreign states to enable safe and sustainable operations for the commercial recovery and use of space resources, and to object to any attempt to treat the 1979 Moon Agreement as expressing customary international law.
- Nevertheless, in seeking international support, the United States may draw on legal precedents and examples from other domains to promote the recovery and use of space resources.
- American industry and the industries of like-minded countries will benefit from the establishment of stable international practices by which private citizens, companies and the economy will benefit from expanding the economic sphere of human activity beyond the Earth.
The United States has long kept open its options in space. No president has ever signed on to the 1979 Moon Treaty, which says non-scientific use of space resources are governed by an international regulatory framework. In 2015, Congress passed a law allowing American companies and the country’s citizens to use moon and asteroid resources.
“The order was prompted, at least in part, by a desire to clarify the United States’ position as it negotiates with international partners to help advance NASA’s Artemis program for crewed lunar exploration, the official added. “Engagement with international partners remains important, the official said,” Space.com reported.
“Artemis aims to land two astronauts on the moon in 2024 and to establish a sustainable human presence on and around Earth’s nearest neighbor by 2028. Lunar resources, especially the water ice thought to be plentiful on the permanently shadowed floors of polar craters, are key to Artemis’ grand ambitions, NASA officials have said.”
Said Scott Pace, deputy assistant to the president and executive secretary of the U.S. National Space Council: “As America prepares to return humans to the moon and journey on to Mars, this executive order establishes U.S. policy toward the recovery and use of space resources, such as water and certain minerals, in order to encourage the commercial development of space.”