Mining And Shining: Updated SPACE Act Passes Congress, Bound For The Stars

Many people believe that America's space program would be greatly augmented if only we could find a space-based resource to mine for materials and subsequently sell.  Well, we haven't had a gold rush for the red planet yet, but now some new guidelines for being a space prospector are in place...

Thar's gold in them thar hills!  Well, at least, minerals in them thar asteroids.
(Image courtesy ibitimes.com.)


According to Ars Technica, the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act was approved by Congress last night. The bill, which had strong bipartisan support, is aimed at making space a place for current and future industries to possess and accrue resources.

Known as H.R. 2262, the bill will augment the efforts of current space industries such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, and will aid in creating jobs in what could prove to be a critical new field.  With a spate of new launches set to occur over the next decade, space industries will remain sustainable for the foreseeable future, and now, the red tape involving their pursuits will hopefully be cut away.

Reach for the stars...that shit is lucrative.
(Image courtesy sciencespacerobots.com.)


Regarding the new bill, Eric Anderson, co-founder and co-chairman of the asteroid mining company Planetary Resources said, “Many years from now, we will view this pivotal moment in time as a major step toward humanity becoming a multi-planetary species...This legislation establishes the same supportive framework that created the great economies of history, and it will foster the sustained development of space."

Known by their excellently-crafted acronym of, ‘‘Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015’’ or ‘‘SPACE Act of 2015", the bill also seeks indemnification of the FAA for human losses in spaceflight until 2025.  Prospective astronauts will know that they are flying at their own risk for this awesome shot at entering not just a new industry, but a new frontier for humanity.  A review of "orbital traffic" and issues regarding space debris will also be factored into the new, upwardly-mobile efforts.

No report yet on the legal ramifications of snorting those sweet purple space-rocks.
(Image courtesy slate.com.)

A framework for the presence of specially-identified "government astronauts" is also being put into place, to distinguish the pros from those who are just hitching a ride to the stars ("spaceflight participants.")  If you'd prefer to be one of the former, and you happen to have a STEM degree or some piloting experience, you can apply to join NASA's next astronaut corps.

Bottom line:  the stars are ours, if we can reach far enough to get them.  As the SPACE Act elucidates:

‘‘§ 51303. Asteroid resource and space resource rights  ‘‘A United States citizen engaged in commercial recovery of an asteroid resource or a space resource under this chapter shall be entitled to any asteroid resource or space resource obtained, including to possess, own, transport, use, and sell the asteroid resource or space resource obtained in accordance with applicable law, including the international obligations of the United States.’’
It took a lot of spraypaint and some serious moon-rover driving skills to claim this one.
Now to drag it home...who's good with a lasso?
(Image courtesy cbc.ca.)

 However, that only applies to bringing the resources home.  We're not officially colonizing space...yet.  The final lines of the bill make that clear:

"SEC. 403. DISCLAIMER OF EXTRATERRITORIAL SOVEREIGNTY. It is the sense of Congress that by the enactment of this Act, the United States does not thereby assert sovereignty or sovereign or exclusive rights or jurisdiction over, or the ownership of, any celestial body." 

So, at least the aliens won't be fighting turf wars with us (even though at that point, WE'D be the aliens.)

Oh, and for all the ISS fans, don't worry...we won't give up on our existing space projects just because Congress has given the all-clear to strip-mine the stars.  The SPACE Act of 2015 clearly states, "The Administrator shall take all necessary steps to ensure that the International Space Station remains a viable and productive facility capable of potential United States utilization through at least September 30, 2024."

Shine on...

 
But just because we can't colonize doesn't mean we won't represent.
Happy Veterans' Day from space!
(Image courtesy Scott Kelly / NASA.gov.)

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