The United States sets its rules for the exploitation of the Moon

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By Pierre Barthélémy

Published today at 2:54 am

Appeared at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the case went into the background, even unnoticed. However, in the spring, the United States upset the old international consensus on the exploitation and appropriation of “extraterrestrial” resources, those that can be drawn from the Moon and, in the longer term, , asteroids.

First time, April 6. On that day, Donald Trump signs a presidential decree aimed at “Encourage international support for the recovery and use of space resources”. What is behind this abstract formulation? The text begins by establishing that “Uncertainty regarding the right to recover and use space resources, including the extension of the right to the commercial recovery and use of lunar resources, has discouraged some commercial entities from participating in this endeavor.”

Donald Trump therefore decides to clarify things by stating that “Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery and the use of resources in outer space, in accordance with applicable law. Outer space is a field of human activity that is unique in legal and physical terms, and the United States does not regard it as a global common good. ”

Read also NASA recalls its objectives: astronauts on the Moon in 2024, then on Mars in 2033

To put it in a trivial way, the White House tenant kicks off the top position of the world’s largest power from his post as the number one lunar gold rush – knowing that in at least first, the most important resource of our satellite will be water, to extract hydrogen and oxygen, very useful for the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G), the space station that the United States wants to orbit the Moon in a few years. On the condition of being able to make the trip, everyone would therefore have the right to grab Séléné’s resources.

Primacy of bilateral agreements?

The second stage of this “rocket” on the exploitation of the Moon is ignited a few weeks later by Jim Bridenstine, the administrator of NASA. On May 15, the latter presents a list of ten main principles for a future in space. “Safe, peaceful and prosperous”, which must underlie a series of bilateral agreements that the American space agency is responsible for negotiating with its international partners.

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