Wanted: Interplanetary Legal Experts to Hassle Asteroid Miners
By The Daily Bell Staff - August 28, 2017

Space police. When is it too soon to make a new federal policing agency to make sure no one is illegally mining asteroids?

We can call it the EPA, Extraterrestrial Protection Agency. They can ignore newly structured interplanetary property rights, and insist that space-dust runoff from the asteroid mining operations are causing mass extinctions on Mars.

You might think space would be vast enough so that property rights in the final frontier were not a huge issue. But to say politicians want to control everything on Earth is an understatement. They also want to control everything in space.

Legal experts are left wondering, how will taxes be structured for space mining companies? Who will own the resources mined? And does this violate a 1967 treaty which says nations cannot claim celestial bodies as their own?

Sane people are left wondering, really?

Why on earth–or in space–wouldn’t a company own the resources they extract from unoccupied asteroids? The issue of property in outer space is pretty obvious. If a company physically possesses something that they extracted in outer space, of course it is theirs.

Obviously, there are some issues when it comes to the Moon and Mars. But there is a precedent from when there were huge tracts of land to settle in the American West. Basically, it was first come first serve, and you only owned what you actually used. Hopefully, on the Moon and Mars, there won’t be any natives to displace.

Discussing taxes and legal jurisdiction when it comes to space just shows how far behind politicians and governments are. Especially because many of the companies are not even talking about bringing the resources back to Earth.

The company will launch its first robotic probe mission to scout asteroids for resource deposits in 2020, said Planetary Resources’ Chief Executive Chris Lewicki.

‘If you obtain a resource and bring it with you, it becomes your property,’ Lewicki said, citing recently passed space laws in the U.S. and Luxembourg that offer a legal framework to ensure that private operators can be confident about their rights over resources they extract in space.

‘You can sell, keep or deliver (space resources) peacefully,’ Lewicki told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The firm plans to extract oxygen and hydrogen – the components of water – from asteroids to sell.

Lewicki is not planning on bringing those water resources back to Earth; he wants to market them in space, creating a ‘gas station’ for other exploration missions.

Hydrogen and oxygen, kept at a docking station orbiting around Earth, will be used to fuel other space ships.

The companies should really just avoid all this trouble with Earthly governments and set up their corporate headquarters on a large asteroid. Then whose jurisdiction would they fall under?

Actually, space exploration by private companies gives us a whole new opportunity to define property rights, absent government.

Original appropriation, plus labor. Add in some sort of sunset provision about abandoned or un-kept properties. And all this can be decided in common law fashion. No crime is committed until someone brings a claim. In space, that might take some time–there are plenty of asteroids to go around.

The frontier that is truly exciting is space law. What will it look like when we rise above the statutes of Earth and interact in the cosmos?

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