Ms. K.M. shared this article, and it's an important one to pass along because it's bringing to the attention of the mainstream the problems inherent with the increasing commercialization of space: how will competing international claims to mining rights on celestial bodies be ajudicated? Here's the brief article she shared from Wired magazine:
At the heart of the issue is, once again, American unipolarism versus other nations:
The big wrinkle may not be whether it’s legal to mine an asteroid but how to figure out who has permission and who owns what claims. The US has no agency or process to issue licenses for space mining. “The politics can’t be known, but there will be politics,” says Joanne Gabrynowicz, a spacelaw expert at the University of Mississippi. Licenses give clarity not only to would-be miners but also to investors and governments starting their own operations. “If you don’t have that license, the investors are taking a big chance,” she says.
The US is now drawing up a law. Problem is, it’s unilateral and incomplete. The Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 says citizens can “possess, own, transport, use, and sell” an asteroid resource once they obtain it. But the bill doesn’t establish an agency or process for issuing licenses. Worse, it says your ownership claim begins as soon as you detect the existence of metals on an asteroid. You don’t even have to plant a flag. But what if China and Russia have different ideas—and different laws for their own citizens? Commercial activity in distant space could easily cause seething international strife here on our home planet.(Emphasis added)
That's it in a nutshell, and we've pointed this out numerous times on this website, as have many others who have been following this story.
And this is precisely where the high octane speculation, or rather, speculations, of the day begin.
We can expect that what is really being orchestrated by the American Congress contemplating and passing the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (2015) is really the "enunciation of a position," the declaration of principles that the USA will and must inevitably bring to any comprehensive treaty arrangements it will negotiate in the future with other space-faring or potentially space-faring nations. And rest assured, such renegotiation is not a prediction; it is an absolute necessity, if for no other reason than to avoid the potential for conflict to arise because of misunderstandings in space. In other words, expect in the years to come a comprehensive space treaty to be negotiated, having to do precisely with commercial activities and claims. As a result of this, one must also expect that space commercialization will be one tool used to drive the creation of an international licensing and regulatory agency, having real teeth. That, in turn, is a significant step to a real and functioning global government.
Here the corporate model will, I suspect, be the driving model and philosophical assumption behind any such treaty, and we've already had some strong hints of this recently, with Mr. Putin's decision to transform the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, into a state-owned corporation. This, I suggested not too long ago in another blog on this website, was a part of a long term strategic repositioning of Russia's space assets vis-a-vis such upcoming treaty negotiation. One may therefore anticipate similar moves from other space faring nations, China at the head of the list.
Such a treaty is not going to come overnight. The complexities of negotiation will be extreme, given the different systems of jurisprudence and underlying philosophical assumptions at work in different countries. Additionally, a mechanism for the adjudication of competing claims under such a treaty will have to be established. It won't happen overnight, in other words, but by the very same token, the very complexities involved means also that it is a process that will have to be begun sooner rather than later, and it may be a process that will not even be initiated by the USA, but rather by some other space-faring nation, and I suspect that the initial moves for such a treaty will be suggested by some other nation.
Now all this is, of course, merely the terrestrial angle and perspective, which brings us to the second high octane speculation of the day.
In last year's Secret Space Program Conference in Bastrop, Texas, I suggested that there are possible or potential treaty considerations of a wholly different sort, ancient ones, that might stem from some past "cosmic interplanetary war" fought right here in our own celestial neighborhood, a kind of "cosmic Versailles" treaty, complete with its own provisions for reparations or tribute or tithe, and its own "demilitarized zones" and "cordons sanitaire" around the vamquished party(that would be us, on planet Earth). I went so far as to suggest that our placards on our spaceprobes assuring "whomever" that "we come in peace for all mankind" may not simply have been a bit of sentimentality and well-wishing, but rather, a carefully considered political statement made for the precise reason that we were intending no such violation of any such ancient treaty. While this may all seem the most bizarre and extreme high octane speculation, there is evidence of such an ancient war as I and others have pointed out, and there are also suggestive considerations that some such an ancient treaty may have been enacted.
If that be the case, then any such renegotiated space treaty dealing with commercial claims will, at some point, and howsoever obliquely, have to address it, if for no other reason than to deal with competing claims, not between terrestrial corporations and nations, but between them and "someone else."
In short, this whole process and the language used to articulate it, is going to be interesting to watch. And even if it does not begin this year(as I think it will), it must begin soon.
See you on the flip side...