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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.