Documents obtained by Vice News show that President Donald Trump’s team is asking NASA about mining on the moon—and whether the agency can survey it for potentially valuable materials.
NASA says it has been “working with industry to develop innovative cislunar [between Earth and the Moon] habitation concepts that leverage existing commercialization plans” and is working with Taiwan on a robotic prospecting rover that it’s going to test this year. The rover, equipped with digital equipment to determine which valuable metals, minerals, and other resources are located beneath the surface.
However, mining the moon poses serious legal concerns: It could violate the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. Article I of the treaty, which was signed by dozens of countries from Afghanistan and Bangladesh to Sweden, Yugoslavia, and Zambia, says:
“The exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind.
Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies.”
Article IX says that “States Parties to the Treaty shall be guided by the principle of co-operation and mutual assistance and shall conduct all their activities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, with due regard to the corresponding interests of all other States Parties to the Treaty,” and goes on to insist that exploration must avoid “harmful contamination.”
The treaty also forbids the unilateral private use of space resources.
You can read all the documents, which were requested under the Freedom of Information Act, here.
What Do You Think?
Do you think that Trump will end up supporting commercial businesses mining the moon? Do you feel that would be a violation of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, or that the document is outdated and the U.S. has a right to send private businesses to mine the moon?