IAA Study Provides “How to Guide” on SMR; Outlines Economic, Societal Benefits
A new public law signed by President Obama sets the stage for continued expansion of the U.S. space program and transforms the mining of space mineral resources (SMR). The President signed into law last Wednesday the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA) that recognizes the right of U.S. citizens to own space resources they obtain as property and encourages the commercial exploration and recovery of resources from asteroids and other bodies in space.
The new law resulted from legislation championed by an impressive group of bipartisan congressional leaders including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Representatives Lamar Smith (R-TX), Bill Posey (R-FL), and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), and Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Bill Nelson (D-FL).
“This new law has the potential to be a ‘game-changer’ especially for developing countries, and we applaud President Obama and the Congress for recognizing the benefits of mining space mineral resources,” said Art Dula, a Trustee of the Heinlein Prize Trust and an adjunct faculty member of the University of Houston Law Center where he teaches space law. “It also provides a much-needed regulatory framework to ensure the United States meets its obligations required by international accords including the Outer Space Treaty,” Dula said.
Mining space resources has the potential to provide materials for space sustainability. Mining water from asteroids, the Moon or Mars, for example, will help ensure that human exploration will expand beyond low Earth orbit. Water can be used as fuel and as radiation shielding, as well as for life support.
Dula and 15 other organizations and companies along with subject matter experts from around the globe recently authored a study for the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) that found that space mineral resources can benefit humanity and can level the playing field for developing countries, opening new opportunities for growth and exploration. The study, “Space Mineral Resources: A Global Assessment of the Challenges and Opportunities,” the most comprehensive to date, included a “how to guide” and examined the latest technologies, economics, law and policy related to space mineral resource opportunities. It included several recommendations to space agencies and an analysis of options to advance this exploration. Dula recently presented the study to the International Space Exploration Coordinating Group at the European Space Agency Center in Cologne, Germany. (click here to see presentation)
IAA, an independent nongovernmental organization recognized by the United Nations, fosters the development of astronautics for peaceful purposes, recognizes individuals who have distinguished themselves in areas related to astronautics and provides a program through which the membership can contribute to international endeavors and cooperation in the advancement of aerospace activities.
“The IAA study is not about whether to leverage space mineral resources, but rather how best to leverage them,” according to Dula. “Improving the world we know today will be possible by leveraging the phenomenal resources available in our solar system,” he said.
This historic new law will create a pro-growth environment for the development of the commercial space industry by encouraging private sector investment and ensuring a more stable and predictable regulatory regime. “By recognizing asteroid mining rights, this new law will be integral to protecting and supporting U.S. interests as the commercial space sector continues to expand,” Dula concluded.
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