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posted by cmn32480 on Friday November 27 2015, @01:38AM   Printer-friendly
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.]

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  • (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.

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  • (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 :)