People first set foot on the moon half a century ago, but remain largely unexplored and unshielded to this day, and humanity can not agree on how to deal with the business there. After all, who owns the Moon?
Fifty years after Neil Armstrong made "One Small Step" on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969, the race reaches the nearest Earth – but still so far away – the celestial bodies appear to be in full swing.
The interest in the only natural satellite on our planet increased for about three years, between 1969 and 1972, and then disappeared, while the rest of the Apollo program was canceled.
However, it was recently re-separated because more nations joined the new space race – this time as less than a search for glory or science, and more fueled the idea of potentially using the moon's natural resources.
While newcomers share their plans for future lunar exploration and established rescue countries, such as the US and Russia are planning to return to the moon, many questions arise.
Who Owns the Moon?
Technically, no one – or better, of all humanity. The Space Treaty (OST), which appeared in 1967 (two years before the first lunar landing), explicitly states that the exploration and use of the moon "It is done in favor and in the interest of all countries" and in no case can it be "Subject of national appropriation at the request of sovereignty" or any other means.
This makes research and all peaceful exploration activities related to the moon free for anyone with enough resources and will to do so – but excludes the possibility of using lunar resources.
Why the Moon?
If sovereignty can not legitimately be claimed above even the smallest part of what has long been regarded as dead space rocks, why is almost every aspirant country so enthusiastic about it? In short, due to the prospect of future exploration in space.
It turns out that the moon has resources that can greatly advance space exploration – and exploitation. One such resource is water. The treatments in the form of ice were discovered by the Indian mission in 2008.
The prospect of water has led to dreams of permanent bases on the moon, using lunar ice as a source of rocket fuels for more ambitious space travel, such as going to Mars and beyond.
India is now preparing to launch its second lunar southern mission to search for water.
Russia and the United States also plan to launch their own missions to explore lunar resources in 2021 and 2023, while China wants to send a whole range of probes.
Additionally, the moon is believed to have undercover huge deposits of Helium-3, a rare isotope that scientists believe can be used to create nuclear fusion reactors.
Can the moon become a zone of conflict any time soon?
This kind of international competition naturally raises the worrying idea that a war might come out.
Existing international agreements prohibit "Establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications" on the moon, and testing any weapons there.
In fact, the moon is even better protected from the Earth itself, because the Space Treaty only prohibits weapons of mass destruction from the orbit of the Earth.
Can a private company ask for part of the Moon's surface for itself?
While national governments are limited by the claim of lunar land, the case is a bit more complicated for corporations.
On the one hand, the OST says its provisions relate to activities carried out by governmental and non-governmental organizations. On the other hand, the contract explicitly does not specify what is allowed to private companies or is forbidden to perform in space.
This is not surprising, given that it was written at a time when only a few science fiction authors imagined that private space exploration could be something (Robert Heinlein's "The man who sold the moon" one example).
What the OST says is that "The activities of non-governmental organizations in outer space, including the moon and other heavenly bodies, require approval and continuous supervision by the respective State party to the Treaty." It certainly looks like a hole big enough to drive a missile ship through.
Can companies legally extract resources from the moon?
Unlike the issues of sovereignty over celestial bodies or the militarization of space, it appears that economic activities outside the earth are not thoroughly regulated internationally.
OST just says that "Use" on the moon "Will be free" for all nations without any discrimination, until they search for any part of their surface for themselves.
In other words, OST does not openly allow resources to be taken out of the moon for commercial use, but does not forbid anyone to do so.
However, the Russian space agency Roscosmos, however, claims in 2017 that the claim that all resources extracted from the celestial body is equivalent to claiming to be part of that body.
Russian complaints were in response to a law brought to Luxembourg, which boasts of its existence "The first European country to establish a legal framework for space exploration and the use of space resources."
However, the United States was the first country to pass a law to approve extraction "Space resources." The US Competition Law on Commercial Space of 2015 gave the Americans the right "Owns, owns, transports, uses and sells" resources extracted from the moon or other celestial bodies.
What about other celestial bodies?
So far, the rules prescribed in the Space Treaty refer to any celestial body outside the earth – meaning the Moon, Mars, and even the smallest asteroid. This means it's unlikely to see Star Wars & # 39; in the near future, but the question of the exploitation of space resources remains complicated.
At this point, no nation or corporation has the technology to successfully utilize resources from celestial bodies. Plans for permanent bases on the Moon's surface are still far from becoming a reality.
Roscosmos recently thought about creating a moon base around 2040. NASA has a more ambitious schedule, which includes the establishment "Permanent attendance" on Earth's satellite until 2028. China also said it could build a research base near the South Pole on the moon around 2030. This means that any potential conflict in competition over "Space Resources" is at least a decade away, if not more.
However, if legal issues are not resolved by the time nations and corporations develop space-use technology, there will be temptation to begin to seek not only resources, but also heavenly bodies themselves, leading to a situation in which some parts of the universe will not be "Free for all" humanity more.
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