Chapter 14: Legal aspects of space resource utilization
Increasingly, it seems to be becoming feasible to use natural resources from outer space, in addition to ‘merely’ using space as an area and/or its physical characteristics such as micro-gravity or orbits and orbital slots for operating satellites. Plans so far concentrate on the moon and asteroids, with other planets as a further possibility, for harvesting highly valuable materials such as Helium-3. Though not yet operational, the potential future value has already raised major discussions in the legal area, firstly as to the legal status of such celestial bodies – common heritage of mankind as per the Moon Agreement? A global commons open to all interested to exploit for their own particular purposes? Following from that discussion, would it be desirable or necessary to develop a specific legal regime – on the international level or on the national level? Would the existing regimes for Antarctica, the ocean floor or the earth orbits offer the most appropriate examples or precedents? And should private appropriation of celestial bodies or parts thereof be allowed, recognized and/or internationally regulated, or do existing regimes sufficiently allow commercial exploitation without private ownership of territory – just as the freedom of the high seas has not prevented fishermen from exploiting the living resources successfully for centuries?
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