Space is apparently the “final frontier” for the free market. If most of us look up at the heavens in wonder, a scheming corps of entrepreneurs are apparently seeing space and celestial bodies (planets, asteroids, solar energy) for their raw market value…especially now that a private rocket has been successfully launched.
Peter Montague alerted me to a recent essay by Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, who writes about the coming privatization of space. One problem is the growing “pollution” of space by orbiting trash; more than 100,000 identifiable bits of debris are monitored by NORAD. Another problem is what “law” shall govern claims to “property” in space. The U.S. refused to sign a United Nations “moon treaty” in 1979 lest it preclude military uses of the moon and space. But the treaty, writes Gagnon, also outlaws any “ownership” claims on the moon.
Gagnon writes: “As the privateers move into space, in addition to building space hotels and the like, they also want to claim ownership of the planets because they hope to mine the sky. Gold has been discovered on asteroids, helium-3 on the moon, and magnesium, cobalt and uranium on Mars. It was recently reported that the Haliburton Corporation is now working with NASA to develop new drilling capabilities to mine Mars.”
A group called United Societies in Space (USIS) sees space as the “free market frontier,” and wants to encourage private property rights and investment in space. Once again the same dynamic repeats itself: taxpayers spend billions upon billions of dollars to develop a new technology or resource, and then the “private sector” (sic) marches in to privatize the profits.
For a fascinating review of “space law,” check out the Adelta Legal Space Law website in Australia.