Luxembourg parliament adopts draft space law


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Capitalism in space: The Luxembourg parliament yesterday adopted a draft space law that will allow that country to authorize, under the Outer Space Treaty, future private enterprise missions in space, including mining on the Moon and the asteroids.

The press release makes the following claim:

The Grand Duchy is thus the first European country to offer a legal framework ensuring that private operators can be confident about their rights on resources they extract in space. The law will come into force on August 1, 2017. Its first article provides that space resources are capable of being owned. The country’s law also establishes the procedures for authorizing and supervising space exploration missions.

In reading the actual law [pdf], however, I do not think this really does what they claim. All the law does is simply state that “Space resources are capable of being appropriated.” That’s it. They are essentially saying that any private profit-oriented mission that launches under Luxembourg’s authorization will have their blessing to take as much from any planetary body as they desire. No property rights are delineated, including the borders of any territory owned, which is not surprising since the Outer Space Treaty forbids Luxembourg from doing so.

In fact, I think this illustrates for us all the future as we colonize the solar system, assuming the Outer Space Treaty is not revised or dumped. Like pirates, nations (or their citizens) will grab as much as they can, and will then use force to protect those holdings from any one else. Everyone will have to do this, because there will be no legal framework to establish their claims.

Since it appears, at least for the present, that no one wants to change the Outer Space Treaty, expect the future in space to be a brutal legal nightmare for all involved.

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3 comments

  • LocalFluff

    Sounds great for me. If the OST allows this interpretation or not, but simply giving property rights to what you grab is what is needed. “Claiming” an area or an entire object to block others from making use of it is not the way to go.

    And seriously, there won’t be any competition for space resources in our lifetime! Like Bezos and Musk fighting it out with remote controlled rovers on Mars. There’s simply no need for space law about ownership of space resources. 50 years from now we will start getting the first experiences of what this really is about. Speculations now won’t turn out right. Laws should be based on precedents, not on bureaucrats and academics trying to second guess what legal problems the next generation might have.

  • Orion314

    The only time you’ll ever see a decent lawyer with integrity in action is by watching an old episode of Perry Mason..

  • John E Bowen

    Bob,

    “Since it appears, at least for the present, that no one wants to change the Outer Space Treaty, expect the future in space to be a brutal legal nightmare for all involved.”

    You’re probably right. You are the only serious commentator I’ve heard calling for complete scrapping or withdrawal from OST. On the other hand, many of those others I took seriously because they are either lawyers or legislators, which is to say, lawyers. And you and I consider that possible future as a “brutal legal nightmare” it may be that, for lawyers, constitutes fun and a good career.

    I’m hoping Fluff is right, that the technological problems of simple spacecraft survival will be all anyone has to worry about for the foreseeable future.

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