Last week, the President signed H.R. 2262, the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015, into law. Noteworthy in the new law is a means for the United States to open up the commercial development of space beyond tourism by permitting firms to own the resources they extract from celestial bodies such as asteroids and moons.
A nice summary of the act and provision pertaining to resource rights is here.
Dr. Paul Spudis is more critical of the usefulness of the new law, which he examines here.
I don’t take as dim of a view as Dr. Spudis on the new law. Sure, H.R. 2262 skirts the problem of “property rights” by outright avoiding. Instead, it addresses the ownership of the resources extracted from celestial bodies without addressing property ownership. However, as a change enacted successfully in the current political environment, I consider H.R. 2262 as a necessary and good first step to spur development of companies willing to extract resources and make them available on the commercial market. Later, once the possibility of extraction becomes a reality, legislative steps can be enacted to address issues as they arise.
In the bigger picture, I see extraction of celestial resources as an example of a transformative change – one in which we can envision the basic concept, yet the means to accomplish the goal are so complex and the outcomes are so unpredictable that to encompass laws around it based on past precedent and what we know today would be counterproductive and naïve – and likely suppress the very thing we are attempting to grow. The provision on resource rights in H.R. 2262 is a step in the right direction.