Since When Did the U.S. Take Ownership of Space?

In a largely overlooked bit of news with potentially massive implications, President Barack Obama signed a law in late November authorizing companies to claim legal ownership of any resources or minerals they are able to claim from space.

space_exploration_RoadmapFrankly, I’m astonished. As I read reports of this development, the questions tumbled out and over one another.

What gives the United States any jurisdiction over extraterrestrial object ownership?

I thought that stuff belonged to God or the Universe or to all of humanity?

Wait, not even humanity. If there are other races out there, don’t they get a say?

What makes us so arrogant to think that only earthlings…only earthlings in America…only earthlings in America who happen to be artificial people…can or should even have a say in this?

Just in general, WTF?

I mean, seriously? Perhaps the President should familiarize himself with the nearly 50-year-old United Nations Outer Space Treaty, which the U.S. ratified in 1967. The UN’s Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) has published a significant number of documents describing that treaty and other matters involving space exploration and exploitation which obligate the United States to follow some rules.

Here are some of the basic principles of that treaty. (The full list can be found here.)

  • States shall be responsible for national space activities whether carried out by governmental or non-governmental entities;
  • the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind;
  • outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States;
  • outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means;

So where does this attempted new law get off? Someone with more clout than me (and that includes just about everyone) needs to call BS on this one!

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