Last week the President of The United States of America Mr. Donald Trump signed an executive order regarding exploitation of moon and other heavenly bodies including asteroids to tap unlimited potential of water ice and minerals present on them. The executive order titled “Encouraging International Support for recovery and use of space resources” is aimed to advance its space agency NASA’s ambitious ‘Artemis Program’ which aims to send astronauts including female astronaut to moon to establish temporary human presence by 2024 and to carry out scientific experiments and initiate commercial presence on lunar surface such as water ice and mineral mining. The USA has already signed 11 contracts with private players last year including space corporations like Space X, Blue Origin to develop Landers that can carry astronauts to the lunar surface and to place robotic space crafts on moon in order to carry out research and collect data (www.space.com) .
But the big question is –: Is USA violating any international treaty or agreement relating to outer space, 1967? By this executive order, has USA further started a never ending space race to be space supreme power?
Regarding first question, the USA is definitely not violating any provision of Outer Space Treaty, 1967 as according to Article 1, the exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interest of all countries. But in future if USA or any private player of USA based claim or inappropriate claim on its finding and use of outer space resources that doesn’t defy equality will certainly violate Article 2 as the outer space shall not be subject to any national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation or by any other means. But it is all subject to future happenings and space race among countries.
But USA can takes its defence in the form of being non-signatory state of Moon Treaty, 1979 as this treaty prevents the moon from becoming an area of international conflict and forbids any establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons.
As to second question, the execution of this executive order by the USA will certainly accelerate space race among top 5 or top 10 space powers like EU, UK, China, India, UAE and others to reach for the moon and asteroids to initiate space mining activities in order to establish their presence and claim over any outer space resources they uncover during space mining.
While the USA one of the giant space power has certainly put forward one giant leap of faith towards establishing human presence of permanent nature in space, yet all states must be cautious about exploiting natural space body like the Moon which is singular when it comes to earth’s only natural satellite and all efforts must be made to keep its existence for many decades for future-future generation.