By Mark Olalde
Trump executive order calls for commercializing the solar system, mining the moon
Neil Armstrong captivated the world when he took “one giant leap” onto the moon’s dusty surface in 1969.
President Donald Trump — who began his foray into galactic affairs when he championed the Space Force to fight extraterrestrial wars — appears to now be looking for his own moon landing-moment.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the White House announced on Monday a new executive order in which Trump called for U.S. business interests to mine the moon.
While the order specifically noted that a return to the moon would allow the country to explore and exploit lunar minerals, it insinuated that the scope of this new era of commercializing the solar system would apply to “the Moon, Mars, and other celestial bodies.”
The decision included a search for both minerals as well as water, and said this would require partnerships between the U.S. government and private industry.
According to the order, one of the major roadblocks holding businesses back from mining the moon is “uncertainty regarding the right to recover and use space resources, including the extension of the right to commercial recovery and use of lunar resources.”
Trump’s executive order attempts to advance the scarce legal framework that exists to govern various nations’ claims to space. Several international resolutions such as the Moon Agreement have been adopted over the past 50 years, but the administration in its order did not acknowledge the legitimacy of these.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo now has 180 days to consult with other cabinet-level positions and the head of NASA before reporting back to Trump on progress made in advancing the decision.
In 2001, NASA landed the first man-made object on an asteroid, leading to speculation that certain rare minerals could one day be mined from rocks hurtling through space. The mining, oil and gas industries have turned to increasingly extreme extraction methods such as seabed strip mining and hydraulic fracturing in recent years to access new mineral deposits on this planet.
The announcement also included an aureate statement attributed to Trump.
“After braving the vast unknown and discovering the new world, our forefathers did not only merely sail home — and, in some cases, never to return. They stayed, they explored, they built, they guided, and through that pioneering spirit, they imagined all of the possibilities that few dared to dream,” the statement attributed to Trump said.
Back on Earth, the federal government has ignored calls to update the main law governing hardrock mining — meaning minerals such as gold and lead — which has gone largely unchanged since it was signed in 1872. Meanwhile, the agency regulating coal mining has stalled its rulemaking responsibilities, with some staff afraid of retribution from the Trump administration.
Credit. Mark Olalde, Palm Springs Desert Sun