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Japan passes law protecting property rights in space

Japan’s legislature on June 15th approved a new law designed to protect the ownership of the resources private entities extract for profit in space.

Japan’s legislation is similar to provisions in the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2015. That law grants U.S. companies rights to resources that they extract, but not property rights to celestial bodies, which would run afoul of the Outer Space Treaty. Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates have since passed similar legislation.

All four countries are signatories of the Artemis Accords, which endorses the ability to extract and use space resources. “The Signatories affirm that the extraction of space resources does not inherently constitute national appropriation under Article II of the Outer Space Treaty, and that contracts and other legal instruments relating to space resources should be consistent with that Treaty,” the accords state.

Both Russia and China oppose such legislation, as well as the Artemis Accords, which have now been signed by eleven countries.

What this growing alignment of opposing sides means for future space operations by private companies is unclear, though it suggests these two countries will not honor those private property rights, which in turn suggests this legal disagreement is eventually going to lead to physical conflict in space.

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From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
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  • Tom Billings

    ” … which in turn suggests this legal disagreement is eventually going to lead to physical conflict in space.”

    At minimum it will lead to more diplomatic conflict, as part of the on-going reaction in China and Russia, probably on an opportunistic basis. It is likely to lead to legal conflicts. The immediate probability for physical conflict over asteroid resources seems low, simply because it’s incredibly expensive to make active war in Space, and very much cheaper to go find another of the millions of usable CC asteroids, rather than fight over one of them. It would have to be a *very* special asteroid, and in our present understanding of them, they are relatively undifferentiated, with around 75% being the Carbonaceous Chondrite Asteroids that should be both easy to mine, and holding the desired volatiles needed for settlement.

    Of course, if someone decides they have to declare a “protectorate” over the entirety of the asteroid population, whether admitted or just incrementally demonstrated, then this sort of “blockade of the belt” would be a matter of *much* greater concern to those seeking resources for the settlement of the Solar system off of planets.

  • David K

    I think this is just China showing that they are much further behind in space than many people think. If they had plans to mine lunar ice or helium 3 in the near future, they would say “let the best man win” instead of complaining.

    It also shows that Japan, the UAE and other countries besides the US are serious about space settlement.

    Russia is just siding with whoever will write them the biggest check.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Conflict in space requires that two conflicting parties both be in space. The U.S. and members of the Artemis Accords Coalition will certainly be there, but the presence of nationals from either of the ILRS founder nations is a lot more problematical.

    Russia’s Putin prioritizes Earthly conquest over conquest in space as part of his quixotic project to try to restore the USSR. Russia’s poverty row space program will be doing well to keep even its near-term unmanned lunar probe commitments to the ILRS project. Russia’s ability to execute on future notional ILRS commitments will grow ever iffier the further out in the future said commitments are supposed to take place.

    China, while formidable at present, is already in the earliest stages of a demographic squeeze that will simply grow unrelievedly worse as time goes on. The combination of this unavoidable slow-rolling demographic collapse and Xi Jin Ping’s efforts to re-establish Maoist communism after a 45-year interregnum could easily result in the fall of the PRC regime before it can actually land anyone on the Moon.

    Over the long haul, it seems unlikely that Russian and PRC opposition to the Artemis Accords is likely to have any practical significance.

  • john hare

    I’m not real comfortable with dismissing any potential adversary. History is just too full of conflict examples with countries and companies that should not have had a chance suddenly surging. Japan in early stages of WW2 put the lie to the detractors that had dismissed their capabilities. Japan again in the later 20th arising from the copycat/junk producer rep of the mid 20th. Germany by the statistical numbers should’ve lost WW2 early. Elon of a couple of decades back, WHO??? Gates vs IBM before hitting it big. The insane cancel culture should have died stillborn. And so on. Underestimating adversaries is likely far worse than overestimating them. I think Russia and China have problems. I also think that a “perfect storm” of commitment and talent could shake everyone up.

    OT, Duheagle, are you seeing comments on Parabolic arc? I’m not and don’t know if it’s me or the site.

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