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posted by cmn32480 on Friday November 27 2015, @01:38AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the space-mining dept.

An event of cosmic proportions occurred on November 18 when the US congress passed the Space Act of 2015 into law. The legislation will give US space firms the rights to own and sell natural resources they mine from bodies in space, including asteroids.

Although the act, passed with bipartisan support, still requires President Obama's signature, it is already the most significant salvo that has been fired in the ideological battle over ownership of the cosmos. It goes against a number of treaties and international customary law which already apply to the entire universe.

The new law is nothing but a classic rendition of the "he who dares wins" philosophy of the Wild West. The act will also allow the private sector to make space innovations without regulatory oversight during an eight-year period and protect spaceflight participants from financial ruin. Surely, this will see private firms begin to incorporate the mining of asteroids into their investment plans.

The act represents a full-frontal attack on settled principles of space law which are based on two basic principles: the right of states to scientific exploration of outer space and its celestial bodies and the prevention of unilateral and unbridled commercial exploitation of outer-space resources. These principles are found in agreements including the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and the Moon Agreement of 1979.

I learned everything I need to know about asteroid mining from Rip Foster. [Read it at Project Gutenberg. -Ed.]


Original Submission

Related Stories

Could Corporations Control Territory in Space? Under New US Rules, It Might Be Possible 58 comments

Could corporations control territory in space? Under new US rules, it might be possible:

First, the Artemis Accords go beyond simply rejecting the unpopular 1979 Moon Agreement, which declared lunar resources to be the "common heritage of mankind" and committed parties to establish an international regime to oversee space mining. Only 18 countries have signed the treaty.

In its place, the accords envisage a US-centric framework of bilateral agreements in which "partner nations" agree to follow US-drafted rules.

Second, the accords introduce the concept of "safety zones" around lunar operations.

Although territorial claims in space are prohibited under international law, these safety zones would seek to protect commercial and scientific sites from inadvertent collisions and other forms of "harmful interference". What kinds of conduct could count as harmful interference remains to be determined.

Previously:
(2020-06-02) Third European Service Module for Artemis Mission to Land Astronauts on the Moon
(2020-05-16) NASA Wants Partner Nations to Agree to "Artemis Accords" for Lunar Exploration
(2020-03-12) CoronaVirus (SARS-CoV-2) Roundup 2020-03-12
(2018-07-22) Who Owns The Moon? A Space Lawyer Answers
(2018-03-07) China to Recruit Civilian Astronauts, Partner With Russia on Upcoming Missions
(2018-01-09) Russia Assembles Engineering Group for Lunar Activities and the Deep Space Gateway
(2017-10-18) Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022
(2015-11-26) Who Owns Space? USA's Asteroid-Mining Act is Dangerous and Potentially Illegal

Robert Heinlein explored the notion in a novel. Does the future of space exploration lie with governments or corporations?


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Justin Case on Friday November 27 2015, @01:59AM

    by Justin Case (4239) on Friday November 27 2015, @01:59AM (#268484) Journal

    Who owns space?

    To answer this you need to do some thinking about the nature of ownership. Who owns Pluto? The first team/country to fly a spaceship past? And that gets you the whole planet?

    Or maybe a landing is necessary. So USA owns the whole moon, having landed there first. Although didn't the (now defunct) Soviet Union actually crash a hunk of metal down first?

    Who owned what we now call North America 1,000 years ago? The people who lived here? How much good did that ownership do them?

    I'm not 100% sure but it seems to really own something you must be prepared to defend it against other claims. Defend, as in, with force, if need be.

    Now... who owns you?

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by mhajicek on Friday November 27 2015, @03:01AM

      by mhajicek (51) on Friday November 27 2015, @03:01AM (#268493)

      Ownership is a mental construct, an illusion. He who can defend something owns it.

      --
      The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @03:35AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @03:35AM (#268503)

        He who can defend something owns it.

        Oh great, so are we back to having lots of wars? If you think we're having lots of wars now, we aren't compared to the past- we're doing a lot more trade now instead of war: http://www.salon.com/2014/01/15/were_living_through_the_most_peaceful_era_in_human_history_%E2%80%94%C2%A0with_one_big_exception_partner/ [salon.com]
        (one of the reasons why there are so many wars in the middle east is because the USA doesn't want the stability. The ISIS rose because the USA and its allies wanted to weaken Iran and Syria).

        What seems more likely to happen is the 0.1% owns all the stuff and gives us some bread and circuses.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by K_benzoate on Friday November 27 2015, @04:38AM

          by K_benzoate (5036) on Friday November 27 2015, @04:38AM (#268522)

          People go to war on Earth because of scarcity. There's so much stuff in space, and so much...space, that scarcity essentially drops to zero. Why bother raiding someone else's asteroid mine (itself a proposition so risky as to verge on suicidal) when there are literally millions of other asteroids that no one is protecting?

          --
          Climate change is real and primarily caused by human activity.
          • (Score: 3, Insightful) by mhajicek on Friday November 27 2015, @06:27AM

            by mhajicek (51) on Friday November 27 2015, @06:27AM (#268538)

            To save the time and expense of mining I'm sure. People have always been willing to kill to take the fruits of others labor.

            --
            The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
          • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @08:29AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @08:29AM (#268577)

            That's silly. It's like saying there are some many resources on Earth that why bother warring. There will be asteroids that contain more valuable stuff than the next asteroid. There are asteroids that are closer to us in the vastness of space. The will be the same political bickering and shock and awe bullshit in space too, make no mistake.

            Also, much of scarcity on Earth is man made, I'm sure that too will follow us to space should we as a species ever make it...

          • (Score: 2) by jimshatt on Friday November 27 2015, @09:56AM

            by jimshatt (978) on Friday November 27 2015, @09:56AM (#268600) Journal
            You say that like earth is a separate entity from the rest of space. Following your argument of 'so much stuff in space' there isn't any scarcity on earth either because the earth is that very same space. If you define scarcity as the cost / energy / hassle required to get what you need, suddenly stuff in space is very scarce. In fact, the first asteroid that is cost effective to mine has yet to be discovered, so claiming ownership on sight is a very aggressive move.
            But anyway, that's how things work (and if you disagree then tough luck your stuff is mine, now).
          • (Score: 3, Insightful) by tibman on Friday November 27 2015, @06:30PM

            by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 27 2015, @06:30PM (#268738)

            It sounds like your mining operating needs protection from some of these bad guys out here. For a modest fee i'll make sure nothing bad happens to you. Because it would be a shame if something bad happened here.

            --
            SN won't survive on lurkers alone. Write comments.
    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by dingus on Friday November 27 2015, @05:46AM

      by dingus (5224) on Friday November 27 2015, @05:46AM (#268532)

      Now... who owns you?

      currently? The state.

    • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Friday November 27 2015, @07:45AM

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 27 2015, @07:45AM (#268563) Homepage Journal

      I think that ultimately, "ownership" will devolve to those people who invest money, AND live there.

      Eventually, the problems with microgravities and radiation will be solved, in more or less satisfactory ways. The people who move out there, and live there, will "own" the resources. They will own those resources either before or after they rebel from terrestrial government control. The idiots at the bottom of the gravity well won't be able to impose their will on the people high up in the well for very long.

      Didn't Heinlein already write that story? A single shipping container, filled with any heavy mineral, especially a mineral that has been formed into a solid ingot, will be devastating when allowed to fall onto the earth at speed. Depending on the speed, one projectile might take out thousands of people, or it might take out millions. One projectile striking the downtown areas of the world's fifty biggest cities would be more than sufficient to stifle any saber rattling on earth.

      --
      The only reason for not believing in it (Marxism) is that it doesn't work. - Thomas Sowell
    • (Score: 2) by krishnoid on Saturday November 28 2015, @12:46AM

      by krishnoid (1156) on Saturday November 28 2015, @12:46AM (#268900)

      I think the Trans-Orbital and Trans-Biological Partnership treaties fully address these. You should be able to check the Federal Register [federalregister.gov] for the text.

      Oh, are those not public knowledge yet? Sorry, my bad.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by snufu on Friday November 27 2015, @02:09AM

    by snufu (5855) on Friday November 27 2015, @02:09AM (#268485)

    ...allow the private sector to [do what they want in space] without regulatory oversight...and protect spaceflight participants from financial ruin

    Team Americuh crony capitalism. Coming to a universe near you.

  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @02:13AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @02:13AM (#268486)

    /ducks

    • (Score: 1, Offtopic) by aristarchus on Friday November 27 2015, @03:08AM

      by aristarchus (2645) on Friday November 27 2015, @03:08AM (#268496) Journal

      Ducking will do you no good when God realizes why you are asking what he needs with a star ship. He is, after all, a jealous god, a petty god. You do not want to get caught worshiping golden, or iridium, calves. On the other hand, this is not completely out of range for humans. Some people trace their land claims back to the Royal grants of Spain, who neither had the presence nor the jurisdiction to grant such title. Yeah, this land, it will be a fertile land, if you can conquer it and subdue or kill all the current inhabitants that do not recognize my right to grant it to you. Sounds rather like the settlers on the West Bank! Oh, no, now you see the Israeli Real Estate God will be after my ass! So back to mining. I has always been the case that people generally grant property right to those people who produce property that would not have otherwise existed. Mining claims are a version of this. On the one hand, this is the Lockean principle of ownership, whatever you mix with your labor is yours. (Of course, there is the Lockean proviso, that there has to be as much and as good of the natural resource for others to apply their labor to. Not really relevant with space, since there will nearly always be?) But let us be very clear: property rights are based upon the benefit that these rights provide to society at large, not the benefits to the right holders. They are expendable, they are the ones who take the risks, and if a whole bunch of them fail it is no skin off humanity's nose, so long as enough of them succeed, and we have a competitive market for their goods. Of course, once they try to go monopoly, best to send in the Space Marines. They may have a xenomorph on board.

      --
      Die Republikkkanische Partei isst die weissvolken partei.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @10:30AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @10:30AM (#268607)

      Why does god need ducks with a starship?

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by dltaylor on Friday November 27 2015, @03:02AM

    by dltaylor (4693) on Friday November 27 2015, @03:02AM (#268495)

    Anyone who expects the United States of America to abide by a treaty is a fool. There are plenty of pre-Columbian people, as well as Mexico, at least, who know otherwise. When an action is in the self-perceived interest of the wealthy, well-connected owners of the government, that action will be taken, regardless of written promises or the cost in human life and quality of life.

    Sometimes, there is a beneficial side effect, such as the downfall of the National Socialist government in Germany, but, had the USA stayed out of WWI, as President Wilson offered in his campaign, rather than to enter the war to recoup the profits of the arms manufacturers, would there even have been that government?

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by khallow on Friday November 27 2015, @04:00AM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 27 2015, @04:00AM (#268512) Journal

      Anyone who expects the United States of America to abide by a treaty is a fool.

      What's particularly remarkable is that this guy demands that the US abide by a treaty they didn't sign! The Moon Treaty never was signed by any space power and most certainly is irrelevant to any discussion of outer space law.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @04:09AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @04:09AM (#268517)

      Yes, treaties until they become inconvenient.

      Be a part of universal human rights treaties and then waterboard people whenever needed, in any number. And burn people alive with yellow phosphorus. Extra-judicial killings... The list goes on and on.

      Americans signing their treaties is of no consequence other than to keep someone busy while fully knowing that they totally intend to break them when the time comes. There is no trust in American promises. At all.

      You've got to ask if someone signed a treaty, mustn't they abide by it? Shouldn't there be consequences if they don't? Shouldn't the world move away from the American dollar as the reserve currency? There is hardly any value left in it anyway.

      Sometimes, there is a beneficial side effect, such as the downfall of the National Socialist government

      That is your opinion. And your are entitled to it, even if it is wrong and misguided.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @04:52PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @04:52PM (#268711)

        You are saying that beating the Nazis was not the right thing to do?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @03:16AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @03:16AM (#268499)

    It makes practical sense to have temporary ownership of immediate area around a mining base. We don't want to hinder commercial mining.

    • (Score: 2, Touché) by khallow on Friday November 27 2015, @04:01AM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 27 2015, @04:01AM (#268514) Journal
      Unless, of course, you do want to hinder commercial mining.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @06:56AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @06:56AM (#268543)

      the last thing the US government wants is commercial mining in space

      space is the military high ground, and powerful space-faring nations will fiercely defend it like they do nuclear weapons

      privileged vetted military contractors will be permitted to engage in select "commercial" (read "government sponsored and sanctioned") operations in space. everyone else will be regulated out of existence

  • (Score: 4, Informative) by khallow on Friday November 27 2015, @03:57AM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 27 2015, @03:57AM (#268510) Journal
    From the article:

    The act represents a full-frontal attack on settled principles of space law which are based on two basic principles: the right of states to scientific exploration of outer space and its celestial bodies and the prevention of unilateral and unbriddled commercial exploitation of outer-space resources. These principles are found in agreements including the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and the Moon Agreement of 1979.

    Sounds bad doesn't it? But the US can do it all above board by simply notifying, a year before any would-be mining operation or claiming of property happens, that the US is withdrawing from the Outer Space Treaty. What was illegal suddenly becomes legal.

    Meanwhile, the Moon Agreement (1979) has in effect forbidden states to conduct commercial mining on planets and asteroids until there is an international regime for such exploitation. While the US has refused to sign up to this, it is binding as customary international law.

    But what about the Moon Treaty? No space power is a party [wikipedia.org] to the Moon Treaty which reveals the lie that these treaties are "settled principles of space law" and rather than being "customary international law", it is a wasted diplomatic effort not recognized by anyone with the power to do anything in space. I believe that gives you an idea just how full of shit this author, Gbenga Oduntan, happens to be.

    Finally, there are the incredibly lame reasons given for obstructing space development.

    The idea that American companies can on the basis of domestic laws alone systematically exploit mineral resources in space, despite huge environmental risks, really amounts to the audacity of greed. The Romans had this all correctly figured out in their legal maxim: "What concerns all must be decided upon by all."

    The first obvious observation is that this doesn't concern all. It's none of his business unless he wants to do some space mining or whatever. Second, what "huge environmental risks"? We have no evidence that there is life anywhere else in the Solar System. Instead, he argues:

    That means that the pristine conditions of the cradle of nature from which our own Earth was born may become irrevocably altered forever – making it harder to trace how we came into being. Similarly, if we started contaminating celestial bodies with microbes from Earth, it could ruin our chances of ever finding alien life there.

    Pretty fucking weak. And of course, he's agog over the possibility that someone might try to make money.

    This therefore prevents the sale of space-based minerals for profit.

    Unless you just withdrew from the Outer Space Treaty. Or

    Meanwhile, the Moon Agreement (1979) has in effect forbidden states to conduct commercial mining on planets and asteroids until there is an international regime for such exploitation. While the US has refused to sign up to this, it is binding as customary international law.

    Given that the US hasn't nor will ratify this treaty, it has zero meaning to the US.

    The idea that American companies can on the basis of domestic laws alone systematically exploit mineral resources in space, despite huge environmental risks, really amounts to the audacity of greed.

    Welcome to the current state of law on outer space.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by aristarchus on Friday November 27 2015, @06:18AM

      by aristarchus (2645) on Friday November 27 2015, @06:18AM (#268535) Journal

      But the US can do it all above board by simply notifying, a year before any would-be mining operation or claiming of property happens, that the US is withdrawing from the Outer Space Treaty. What was illegal suddenly becomes legal.

      Oh, my! khallow! You seem to have come down with a back case of "Texan". Remember, breach of contract is a crime, and breach of treaty is ground for international legal action. This means not war, but war of all the other nations of the world against the one that is so conceited as to think it can repudiate international law.

      --
      Die Republikkkanische Partei isst die weissvolken partei.
      • (Score: 2, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @07:01AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @07:01AM (#268544)

        war of all the other nations of the world against the one that is so conceited as to think it can repudiate international law

        maybe you been living under a rock, but "international law" is only something that small powerless countries are held to by superpowers that both dictate and ignore it

      • (Score: 4, Informative) by khallow on Friday November 27 2015, @09:12AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 27 2015, @09:12AM (#268590) Journal
        Look at the actual text [unoosa.org] of the Outer Space Treaty:

        Article XVI

        Any State Party to the Treaty may give notice of its withdrawal from the Treaty one year after its entry into force by written notification to the Depositary Governments. Such withdrawal shall take effect one year from the date of receipt of this notification.

        There's no actual breach of treaty when the US gives a year's notice.

        • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Friday November 27 2015, @06:28PM

          by aristarchus (2645) on Friday November 27 2015, @06:28PM (#268737) Journal

          Outer Space Treaty:

          Opened for Signature: 27 January 1967

          Entered into Force: 10 October 1967

          Number of Parties: 103

          Number of Signatories: 89

          Depositaries: Russia, United Kingdom, and United States

          So, then there is this:

          Article XVI

          Any State Party to the Treaty may give notice of its withdrawal from the Treaty one year after its entry into force by written notification to the Depositary Governments

          Seems like that deadline sailed back in October of 1968!
          And since 89 nations are signatories, that would mean 88-1 if a nation decided to renege. Ah, the whims of rogue nations! The United States is unlikely to be one of those again, for a while, because it looks like the remnants of the Nixon administration (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, "If the president does it, it's not illegal!) will not be in power ever again.

          --
          Die Republikkkanische Partei isst die weissvolken partei.
          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday November 28 2015, @12:31PM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday November 28 2015, @12:31PM (#269072) Journal

            Seems like that deadline sailed back in October of 1968!

            That's not the meaning of that clause. As I noted earlier, the Outer Space Treaty is structured so that it is easy to abandon it. And if you think about it, it's a reasonable thing to do. Most of the people involved in the original treaty would not have wanted to arbitrarily limit the future of the world, just because of a poorly thought-out treaty or create a situation where a rogue nation willing to violate treaty ends up with a powerful advantage.

            Ah, the whims of rogue nations! The United States is unlikely to be one of those again, for a while, because it looks like the remnants of the Nixon administration (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, "If the president does it, it's not illegal!) will not be in power ever again.

            That is an absurd claim to make. At the political level, everyone ignores the rules when they can get away with it, such as a fair number of ongoing and unaddressed scandals in the current, non-Nixon remnant administration.

      • (Score: 2, Touché) by khallow on Friday November 27 2015, @09:15AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 27 2015, @09:15AM (#268592) Journal

        This means not war, but war of all the other nations of the world against the one that is so conceited as to think it can repudiate international law.

        Global war for "repudiating" the Outer Space Treaty? I suppose the flying pigs will be in the vanguard of the international coalition.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by jmorris on Friday November 27 2015, @07:14AM

    by jmorris (4844) on Friday November 27 2015, @07:14AM (#268549)

    Those Treaties are Cold War relics where the Communists (and for all intents and purposes -everyone- was one) wanted to make sure no Capitalists snuck in and made a buck in space. Space was supposed to be a U.N. plaything where they would finally do things right from the beginning and simply never allow any private ownership of not only the means of production but of anything. Screw that noise.

    All of those Treaties were either never signed by the U.S. in the first place or they have exit provisions which we should exercise. If there is ever to be any practical life in space it has to be private industry in the end. We know Communism, Socialism or any of that other crap is and always will be a failure. As I write this sorta on Thanksgiving Day (a little late for my time zone...) we should be remembering the Pilgrims who came all Hippy with their Mayflower Compact and intended to share everything and all that crap.... and darned near starved to death. It was only when they abandoned that foolishness that Capitalism and private property rights produced the bounty they gave thanks for. Space will be no different. If nobody owns anything there will be no productivity and few people out there.

    • (Score: 2) by turgid on Friday November 27 2015, @10:32AM

      by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 27 2015, @10:32AM (#268609) Journal

      As a pinko-commie-socialist-fascist-athiest I will sit back and laugh as all the rabid greedy capitalist astro-prospectors lose their shirts and their lives in their hubristic attempts to make a quick buck out of space. After they've Darwinned themselves, things will settled down and civilised people will take over. There will probably be spare gear up there that we can recycle...

      • (Score: 2, Touché) by khallow on Friday November 27 2015, @05:16PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 27 2015, @05:16PM (#268719) Journal

        As a pinko-commie-socialist-fascist-athiest I will sit back and laugh as all the rabid greedy capitalist astro-prospectors lose their shirts and their lives in their hubristic attempts to make a quick buck out of space. After they've Darwinned themselves, things will settled down and civilised people will take over.

        The irony is that the "civilized people" will also be considered rabid, greedy, capitalist astro-prospectors (since who else will be bothered to do low status industrial stuff?). They'll just be the successful ones.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @07:15AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @07:15AM (#268551)

    This is a test of the emergency resource extraction system.

    This is only a test.

    If this had been a real emergency resource extraction legislation you would be given instructions on which continent to turn to for dividing up its massive supplies of mineral riches.

    This concludes our test of the emergency resource extraction system.

    DO NOT THINK ABOUT ANTARCTICA OR ITS VAST OIL AND MINERAL WEALTH.
    Thank you for your patience. We now return you to your regularly scheduled bluepilled posts already in progress.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by OtherOtherWhiteMeat on Friday November 27 2015, @07:27AM

    by OtherOtherWhiteMeat (5965) on Friday November 27 2015, @07:27AM (#268555)

    So the USA is flexing their muscle and insinuating "well if we were to start mining space in the next 8 years.... whatchya gonna do about it?" and really, what could the rest of the world do about it? The USA is in the position to be aggressive about this and get away with it. Elon Musk has SpaceX and Jeff Bezos of Amazon has Blue Origin. Both of those guys look fairly North American centric from the media info.
    Here is what I'm thinking. The USA is going for a first bum on the seat of the metaphorical king of the hill in Medium Earth Orbit. Low earth orbit (where the ISS is) has the crappy drag and you have to keep boosting your orbit. No thanks. That's at about 600 km up. Head higher out of the messy debris field to 2000 km up. Then you have to worry about the Van Allen belt anomaly over the South Atlantic ocean (where the Van Allen belt funnels charged particles especially close to the earth's surface on that side. It's a thing, look it up).
    Putting cooked astronauts on the menu is not going to be a popular move, so you'll want to head higher up still. Until you get to half geosync, (12 hour orbits), it really is quite sparse. A GREAT place to put a space station and prepare mining vehicles for a trip to the asteroid field. The favourite fuel to get a multi stage heavy rocket into MEO (Medium Earth Orbit) is a liquid oxygen / liquid hydrogen mix. The USA has the cryogenic facilities to make the LOX/LH mixes. What they're doing isn't polite, and certainly not for the benefit of all humankind. However, the USA does look positioned to be able to pull a stunt like this and have the economic benefit outweigh the loss of friends. So if they have to suffer through some embargoes, they'll be able to keep their rockets fuelled.
    Now, to save on fuel, you want to have the launch site as close to the equator as possible. Kennedy Space centre in Florida is something like 23.5 degrees North, and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California (which lets civilian companies launch from there) is 34 degrees north.
    How will the USA sell this? How about "Do you want lithium for your electric cars? It's up there. Do you want iridium for the aerials in your mobile phones? It's up there. Aluminium and Titanium to build more spaceships? Check. Oh and P.S. there's a massive amount of gold as well? We'll take our industrial processes off the planet. Trust us, we're experts at manifest destiny... what's that? we can't call it that? Well let PR work on the rebranding. Let's break for lunch."

    Want to know a place that is a lot closer to the equator? China has built an island in the South China Sea just 9 degrees North of the equator. Now I'm not saying that its primary purpose is to be a launch site, but that function could dovetail in there nicely.

    • (Score: 2) by FakeBeldin on Friday November 27 2015, @10:05AM

      by FakeBeldin (3360) on Friday November 27 2015, @10:05AM (#268603) Journal

      On the one hand. there's a few private companies based in the USA with the tech to almost reliably put a pod of food and supplies 100km up, that might go to the Moon (363,000km at its closest) or asteroids (Ceres orbits at 2.8AU from the Sun, about 420million km).
      On the other hand, nations such as China and India are spending money on getting to the moon and Mars (and are succeeding).

      But suppose the private companies were actually to somehow manage to do something. It might interfere with the space programs of nations. When it's nations versus private companies... I think the private companies will find that US Congress does not rule over India, nor over China. Moreover, both these nations have over a billion inhabitants, nuclear weapons, and little history of bowing down before the US.

      Now that I'm pondering this: in event of a clash, India/China might even hold the US responsible for damages, as it is US laws interfering with Chinese/Indian space travel. That'd be fun to see :)

  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Friday November 27 2015, @07:35AM

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Friday November 27 2015, @07:35AM (#268559) Journal

    Space mining will be the wild west only if some of the pioneers are capable of living away from Earth indefinitely.

    --
    [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by bradley13 on Friday November 27 2015, @08:21AM

    by bradley13 (3053) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 27 2015, @08:21AM (#268574) Homepage Journal

    ...treaties and international customary law which already apply to the entire universe

    It's all nonsense.

    The simple fact is: No one on planet Earth owns anything in outer space, because no one is out there. The first group - be it a country, a company, or a knitting club - the first group to establish an actual, permanent presence in space will be able to make such claims. Until then, this is all just meaningless hot air.

    --
    Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @01:19PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27 2015, @01:19PM (#268645)

      No one on planet earth owns anything on planet earth either.

  • (Score: 2) by Gravis on Friday November 27 2015, @12:36PM

    by Gravis (4596) on Friday November 27 2015, @12:36PM (#268629)

    It seems like people haven't thought to consider what the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 is actually about. I mean, how do you get 104 countries all over the world to agree to a bunch of seemingly random treaties about space all the way back in 1967? I'll tell you, it's about testing nuclear weapons. the USA and the USSR were performing high-altitude nuclear explosions [wikipedia.org] for stupid reasons and basically, we scared ourselves with one called Starfish Prime [wikipedia.org] (video [npr.org]) that was a 1 megaton detonation that caused a huge EMP, damaged satellites and created a radiation belt that took years to dissipate. All this drama lead to the creation of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

    So... you wanna mine an asteroid? well the only requirement is you have to actually go there and not blow it up with a nuke. ;)