US Supports Commercial Space Mining and Will Negotiate Deals to Enable It

On April 6, the US White House released an executive order that Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law.

* The United States is not a party to the Moon Agreement. The United States does not consider the Moon Agreement to be an effective or necessary instrument to guide nation-states regarding the promotion of commercial participation in the long-term exploration, scientific discovery, and use of the Moon, Mars, or other celestial bodies.

* The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Transportation, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the head of any other executive department or agency the Secretary of State determines to be appropriate, shall take all appropriate actions to encourage international support for the public and private recovery and use of resources in outer space.

The US secretary of state has been directed to negotiate bilateral and multilateral arrangements with foreign states for future public and private space mining.

43 thoughts on “US Supports Commercial Space Mining and Will Negotiate Deals to Enable It”

  1. Might be an idea to mine the kordylewski clouds. Don’t have to land, just slowly traverse with and through. The lowlands on the moon are rich in iron and titanium. Magnetic mine the lunar regolith dust for iron, to then build structures to house the titanium.

  2. We see the same thing, I think. A huge factor is the Primal Revolution, now 50 years old. Both O’Neill and Janov MUST happen, or we simply have no chance at all. It is easier for crazy us to kill us than almost anything else, altho we seem to be trying everything.

  3. My larger point, if that is a possibility, a “wild west” situation, the metaphorical asteroid mining boat will not float.

  4. Right now, exploitation of outer space is as the US “Wild West” was in the 1500s.

    If you aren’t based in the Spanish empire you have buckleys of grabbing any resources west of the Mississippi. You could maybe raid the existing Spanish transports after they have already extracted the wealth… but that’s a direct challenge to the mighty Spanish empire, so be prepared for the likely response.

    (And Spain was horribly distracted during that period with a long running war in the Middle East. So providing the USA avoids that particular failure mode then it would be able to protect its transport system better than Spain did.)

  5. There is an argument in favour of the “more government control” response to the great depression.

    With the world wide economic problems, there was an associated world wide shift towards socialism, with places as diverse as Japan, Russia, Germany and Argentina all adopting radical socialist governments (under different names), with the accompanying risk that the vast centralisation of power would bring with it extreme military aggression and internal repression.

    Clearly this was a bad thing.

    And with the population of the so-far-democratic countries being sufficiently miserable, they might have chosen to follow this superficially attractive route, only to find that it was one-way and impossible to (peacefully) reverse.

    Hence, it wasn’t a stupid idea to throw the pressure groups calling for government control of the economy enough bones to take the edge off their calls for revolution, while leaving the base of the economy operational enough to solve the problem in the background.

  6. Where there is only Mr Law, you cannot stake and file a claim, except trivially to yourself. Thus, the importance of property/investment protection.

  7. Fine, someone’s rail guns. A country’s laws end at the border, beyond that and excluding international “laws”, there is only Mr Law.

  8. The Great Depression technically lasted a decade. That’s the shortest time frame for declaring this a Greater Depression.

    It all depends on the response. The Great Depression triggered a massive increase in regulatory burden as the government tried curing it by command economy means.

    Trump seems inclined to take the exact opposite approach, and respond by removing regulatory burdens. If he’s successful in that, the economy could come roaring back.

    But, indeed, we shall see.

  9. Or the ones who want more pay to work in a large, open, sparsely peopled area, while others crowd in line for that very job.

  10. That is *occupy*. Staking a claim is relying on the law to protect the claim, not your own arms only.

  11. I prefer *socialist* as it is more general and yet more precise. The optics are far better to allow a corp to invest rather get paid (SLS), which is what I thought you were talking about. Say Bezos wants to make H from lunar water, why would that be bad optics to any but the most anti-money types? Also, you are dead wrong: WE SHOULD HAVE DONE IT 40 YEARS AGO!!!, as I have been saying it since 1977. SMIILE, anyone?

  12. Just realize I own and have exclusive mineral rights to Area G-11/ Quadrant Alpha, Lot 7/1720 at Lat 6°-10°N long 20°-24°E. You have been warned that I will enforce and protect my rights! BTW its the far side, with a wonderful view of space!

  13. The corporations need Washington to say at some level it’s legal to mine off earth and you will be allowed to keep any profit you create. Until they get that in black and white with a presidential signature, investment will remain scant.

    Even saying corporations can stake claims and profit is bad optics this year. It could probably sneak by as a rider if we are passing stuff left and right but as it’s own bill… well the commies (is that a slur still?) will come out of the woodwork.

    I’m just making a point about optics not about “should we”.

    Something something congress is worse then HIV!!!

  14. Why yes, yes it is. Unfortunately the population has trouble understanding the many ways in which corporate goals and household goals align. I know people actively agitating for a general strike now during the crisis. Other then reminding them that this is not France and the national sport here is working, all I can do is sigh.

  15. Planetary Resources, Inc(Arkyd Astronautics) and Deep Space Industries were way early to the game.

    In the case of Arkyd, I still suspect the asteroid mining thing was mostly a ploy to hype more funding, it worked for a while. Just because the likes of Peter Diamandis, Steve Jurvetson, Perot Jr. and Google Guys were early backers, that didn’t mean they will fund it until it achieved it’s goals. Theirs was a proper VC play, those don’t usually operate like Bezos & BO. It was up to new entries to keep the lights on and at a much higher valuations, else cash flow death.

    What’s a late stage VC to do when the first payday is decades in the future. Life is short, there are easier ways to make money.

  16. Staking a claim implies you have the means to exclude others from working the same rock.

    Will robotic miners come equipped with rail guns as standard accessories.

  17. How do you pass a bill that allows the corporations to profit off the Moon during the greater depression?

    Surely an economic downturn is the exact time when people WANT there to be radical new economic prospects?

  18. I do not recall seeing active or separate heat dissipation for the cells themselves, anywhere, just electronics. Maybe some of the concentrating mirror designs, but they have the transmitter on the *other* side of the cells, which would make it worse! Very thin cells for LSP in particular. Cool back side of SPS cells would make difference, which is a thing to mix in with the differences between LSP cells and SPS cells, a much more complex topic. I’m just trying to see if LSP gets a maintenance break by not using the cells part of time, or is that a total loss.
    2nd and 3rd para factors would be the same LSP or SPS, in that the LSP cells would last longer, just enuf to (almost for para 2) cancel the added area costs, for maintenance.
    4th para I agree. I am full blown O’Neill Space guy, so it goes against grain to consider LSP, as Moon is a planet for O’Neill purposes. That cold is a big asset! But, the Moon IS a SPS, already there!
    LSP and L5 (L-5 for the org, L5 for the place?) Space Solar have a big advantage over GEO SPS, similar to the big advantage O’Neill Space has over Mars for population relief: scale. Plan for success!

  19. At this point there are too few entities capable of getting there, and all of them major military powers or based in such, for that sort of “Wild West” scenario. Maybe 10-20 years from now, but right now there are only 3-4 plausible players.

  20. Fixed position relative to Earth receivers, near 100% availability, plenty of dark sky for exhausting heat, low tidal forces for extended structures, and the distance isn’t crazy for power transmission. Geosynch is the place to put SPS’s.

  21. there is a cop bot nearby to enforce claims

    You can’t make any claims anyway, just extract resources and make use of it as you see fit.

  22. The cells should, in a vacuum anyway, primarily be degraded by excessive heat; The doping diffuses at elevated temperatures, turning a multi-layer structure into a uniform mess eventually. This process is exponential with temperature.

    A secondary process, again in vacuum, would be exposure to higher energy photons/radiation capable of knocking atoms out of their lattice positions. Basically just total accumulated dose for this mechanism.

    So what you ideally want to do is not have the cells directly exposed to raw sunlight, but instead use a specialized thin film mirror to feed them just the ideal frequency of light for conversion to electricity. (Any excess energy in the individual photon over the band gap just turns to heat.) That maximizes energy production compared to heat generation, while protecting the cells from higher energy photons.

    I should add that the basic problem with placing the cells on the Moon is that you’ve just denied yourself half the sky (The better half!) that you could have used as a heat sink, so heat dissipation becomes a serious issue. The ambient temperature at noon is well above the boiling point, not good for solar cell life or efficiency.

    Because there’s no diffusion of the light, and it’s always coming from a fairly predictable direction, it IS possible to arrange shadowing system to keep temperatures down, but this only allows you to install solar cells on a few percent of the available area if you do that.

    Geosynch, that’s the place.

  23. I am not convinced that there can be an orderly exploitation of the NEO objects/ asteroids. Unless there is just so much low-hanging fruit that any entity with a satellite launcher, digger-bot, and a mountable-flag can ‘claim’ a body, exposure (part of a body), or moon area – it will be chaos. Wild west chaos. Everything for itself with claim-jumping, ground-presence wrecking, shot-gun shrapnel –claim launching chaos. And chaos does not favour the nice, law-abiding, legal-pencil-pushing (yeah, there is a cop bot nearby to enfore claims) entities. Those entities finish last with a no-chair-for-you-at-music stop. It will be first and furious and ruthless – with mostly the ruthless – Putin, Chinese-politico-military, Indian cheap-as-market-day-rockets as you can go. Then the multi-nationals will spray their claim bots everywhere. And when the debris clears, 6 months of UN/WTO/Space Force bureaucrats – we will see not a single cluttered claim that is ready to go. 3 – 5 years later a couple hundred pounds will be returned to earth with a smear of semi-excavated, orbital ‘rubble’ stores and dead excavators across the lagrange points and intermittent voids between moon and LEO. Elon Musk may be able to break-through an excavate/ refine/build bot – but that is 2030-ish…

  24. I was sweating! Seemed like it was just going to breeze thru. Now, I am not a vote counter either, so could have been overly concerned.
    BTW, I think there may be another cost factor to consider in the *Where Space Solar?* question. If, which I don’t know, the cells themselves are degraded by light rather than time, then, the maintenance cost (for the cells only) would be the same for LSP as L5 or GEO, even with the larger total area needed due to lunar nite. Could be a 5-10% factor overall, compared to just using area in cost calcs.
    Thanx for L-5 work. Those were the days!

  25. A bit premature to call this the “Greater Depression”. That’s the sort of thing you’d have to decide after a few decades.

  26. Yes, I recall that fight, was a member of the L-5 society at the time.

    I wonder, though, how close it really was, when the treaty was such an international flop, ratified only by countries without real space programs, and few of those even.

  27. Moon Treaty was avoided (US) late 70s(?) only by bare margin, thanx to L5 and such people. Is based on Law of Sea Treaty (LOST). Total small world BS. Such as new Michael Moore’s ‘Planet of the Humans’, which states : “Infinite growth on a finite planet is suicide” but solves the problem! “A better approach, Gibbs suggests, would be people having fewer children.” Too bad he is ignorant of O’Neill. Must be depressing!

  28. ” There are no provisions in the Moon Treaty that are counter to commercial activity.”

    If you actually think that you’re delusional. The Moon Treaty was a commercial nightmare. Only 18 countries in the world signed it, none of them countries with their own space programs. That’s no accident. The “common heritage of mankind BS would have rendered the whole universe outside Earth’s atmosphere the practical equivalent of Antarctica, forbidding taking ownership of anything.

  29. “How do you pass a bill that allows the corporations to profit off the Moon during the greater depression?” This seems to place *Moon* as a gov program, to be profited from by getting gov pay. However, such projects as Criswell’s Lunar Solar Power would almost single handedly lift the economy, *real* profit! No such thing on Mars.

  30. The question is whether to live on planets, or in Space. G. K. O’Neill has the answer. Mars is a planet, as is Earth. Spin g is easy in Space, but you won’t generally want any g at all for industry, etc, or very little. Only avail in Space. You have to launch stuff mined on planets, altho that is fairly easy w/o atmos, such as Moon.
    “Spinning space cans?” We spent decades studying 0 g in ISS, to prepare for Mars distance. Should have developed spin g, as it will be easy in Space, hard on Moon or Mars. And 0 g looks worse long term the more it is studied.

  31. The moon treaty is basically hilarious. None of the signatories are capable of orbital space flight much less putting payloads on trans-lunar injection. The US doesn’t need any international agreements to enforce whatever property rights it wants on the moon. The only two other groups that can even get a payload there are the Chinese and ESA. If the US says here’s our claim infringe upon it at your own peril, the two possible contestant would say okay.

    The US’s real problem is an internal political one. How do you pass a bill that allows the corporations to profit off the Moon during the greater depression? The media would have a field day.

  32. You wanted to be left alone, I left you alone. I don’t even read what you write. But I will respond to your responses. One more and you are fair game. Really!

  33. The issue is how to build a rules based order that assures the legal certainty needed by business to make large, long term investments. Unilateral actions by no country regardless how powerful can assure legal certainty without international agreement on the rules.

    It is unclear how unilateral U.S. action can lead to a rules based order for space

    The Moon Treaty provides a process and a forum to negotiate the rules to govern use of outer space resources. There are no provisions in the Moon Treaty that are counter to commercial activity. It is conceivable that under U.S. leadership other countries will agree to abandon the Moon Treaty and choose another process and forum to negotiate the rules. Until plausible reasons can be presented how the U.S. can create such a forum which at present does not exist, the only clear pathway to a rules based order for use of outer space resources is the Moon Treaty.

    The Moon Treaty provides for unlimited use of lunar or other outer space resources for missions undertaken by the participating states even if the rules have not yet been agreed to. If the U.S. ratified the Moon Treaty there would be no restrictions in the Moon Treaty to limit or prevent the mining of lunar water or any other materials for missions such as fuel and life support for Mars missions or any sharing provision to such use. Where the rules become essential is when economic use of lunar resources without government subsidies for sale into markets becomes feasible.

  34. Spinning space cans? What’re y’all talkin’ ’bout, Willis? (Lol sorry, I’ve had a few shots of soju). Like, spinning a module to create 1G or something? I don’t have issues with going to Mars. BUT:

    The moon appears to be a reliable source of H3, which could be insanely useful, if I understand it correctly. Also, it’s space. No country will consider itself beholden to a treaty in feel space. Even in regards to stellar objects for mining, it’s going to be the Wild West for a while, unless we ditch the idea or countries (yeah right!).

    So,.please, please, please mine useful objects.

  35. Follow your own advice. It’d be one thing if you actually posted content about how to make spinning space cans work economically or at least technically – but you just repetitively advocate in a fact-free fashion.

  36. The US is party to the Outer Space Treaty, though that does not (or at least doesn’t clearly) prohibit commercial resource use. It sort of leaves space a ‘wild west’. For now at least.

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