President Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday, April 7, establishing an official policy about mining resources in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies
The Executive Order on “Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources” notes that the US does not consider outer space as “global commons,” prioritizing American engagement in commercial exploration, recovery, and the use of resources in outer space for commercial endeavors, including water and certain minerals from space.
“Uncertainty regarding the right to recover and use space resources, including the extension of the right to commercial recovery and use of lunar resources, however, has discouraged some commercial entities from participating in this enterprise,” reads the order.
Space efforts have been at the forefront of the president's platform, spurring the launch of the US Space Force. The move is in line with NASA’s Artemis mission that, under the Plan for Sustained Lunar Exploration and Development, intends to send astronauts to the Moon in 2024 and create a sustained presence complete with a lunar terrain vehicle, a mobile habitable platform enabling crews to take up to 45-day trips, and a foundation that could house up to four crew members on shorter stays.
The Administration says the order underscores the government’s commitment to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which set rules for how countries would use outer space, and follows suit with the American stance on celestial space extraction. "Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view space as a global commons," it said.
The US has not signed the 1979 Moon Agreement, which adds to the Space Treaty, binding eight signed nations to agree that the Moon and other celestial bodies are to be used for peaceful purposes and environments left uninterrupted.
However, the US does not consider the agreement to be an “effective or necessary instrument to guide nation-states,” adds the order. In 2015, Congress signed the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act into law to allow US citizens and industries to "engage in the commercial exploration and exploitation of space resources,” which includes water and minerals.
“Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law,” adds the order. “Accordingly, it shall be the policy of the United States to encourage international support for the public and private recovery and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law.”
Government officials are further directed to encourage international support for the order and will seek to negotiate arrangements with world leaders.