(ORDO NEWS) — At least 6 countries and many private companies have publicly announced more than 250 planned flights to the moon over the next decade.
Many of these missions include projects to establish permanent moon bases. To a large extent, the missions are aimed at using the natural resources of the moon.
On Earth, the possession and possession of natural resources is based on territorial sovereignty. However, Article II of the Outer Space Treaty prohibits states from claiming territory in space. So how will space resources be managed?
The US-led Artemis program is a coalition of commercial and international partners whose primary goal is to return humans to the moon by 2024. Ultimately, it is planned to create a long-term lunar base.
Russia and China also announced plans to establish a joint International Lunar Research Station. Several private missions are also being developed by companies such as iSpace, Astrobotic.
These missions aim to determine what resources are actually available on the Moon, where they are, and how difficult it will be to extract them.
Current research shows that only a few small areas of the Moon contain both water and rare earth elements.
This concentration of resources could pose a problem, as many of the planned missions are likely to focus on the same areas of the Moon.
NASA in 2011 issued a set of recommendations for all space missions. The goal was to protect the Apollo sites and other US objects on the lunar surface that are of historical and scientific value.
NASA guidelines refer to “no-go zones,” which are defined as “border areas that spacecraft must not enter.”
The very concept of these zones is contrary to Article II of the Outer Space Treaty. The article states that no area is subject to “national appropriation” by “means of use or occupation”. The creation of a no-go zone around a landing or mining site can certainly be seen as an occupation.
Article IX of the Outer Space Treaty requires that all activities in outer space be carried out “with due regard to the respective interests of others”. In line with this philosophy, many countries are currently working on the sharing of space resources.
To date, 21 countries have agreed to the Artemis Accords, which use the Outer Space Treaty provision to give due consideration to the development of “notice and coordination” zones, also referred to as “safety zones”. The agreements have not yet been signed by the main space powers – China, Russia and India.
In June 2022, the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space formed a working group on the legal aspects of activities in the field of space resources.
The purpose of this group is to develop principles relating to the “exploration, exploitation and use of space resources”.
Through these principles, “safe zones” such as those defined in the Artemis Accords can gain international support. Experts believe that this measure would protect important historical sites.
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