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Space, the new playground for billionaires: what rules for tomorrow ?


We are entering a new era of space exploration. Never has it been so popular, particularly by private players like the company SpaceX, Blue Origin (founded by Jeff Bezos) or Rocket Lab. Parallel to the transformation of the space sector, there is a strong revival of interest in the Moon, catalyzed by ever more impressive technological advances. Our satellite is the subject of much desire and this decade will be that of the return of manned missions on it. As a result, space governance is an increasingly hot topic.

Anthony Clifford Grayling, British philosopher and professor of philosophy at Birkbeck College in London, looked into the question. In his book Who Owns the Moon ? In Defense of Humanity's Common Interests in Space published a week ago, he calls for an urgent reflection on the governance, ownership and management of lunar resources.

The intensification of the race towards the Moon

The craze for the Moon is undeniable today. Between the successful landing of Odysseus, the Indian and Japanese rovers and even NASA's Artemis mission, we are witnessing a real period of excitement . Today, the strength of public-private partnerships facilitates this rush to the Moon, but we are not returning there for prestige alone or to accelerate scientific research.

The prospect of exploiting lunar resources also fuels this race. The main object of desire: the icy water of the lunar South Pole. This can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen, providing a vital source of rocket fuel and supporting life systems. It could one day revolutionize the logistics of space missions, by allowing the production of fuel directly in space, thus reducing dependence on launches from Earth, which are very expensive.

< p>Ce Moon’s Rush, as it could be nicknamed, will have profound implications for the future space economy, but especially for the legal and ethical framework governing the use of space resources . Regulation of the sector is becoming more and more essential.

Who owns the rights to the Moon ?

< p>In his work, Grayling challenges readers to the complex nature of spatial property. Formerly considered an intangible frontier, space is today a field of convergence of very diversified interests: scientific, economic or national.

The 1967 Space Treaty was a fundamental pillar of international space law, but it is now obsolete. It was written at a time when the presence of Man and the private in space seemed very distant. Today, it is no longer enough to cover and regulate the commercial exploitation of space resources. If at the time, the treaty proclaimed that space was the “ province of all humanity  “, we realize that this notion, however noble it may be, is far too vague to regulate the activity of the actors in the process of exploiting lunar resources.< /p>

For Grayling, the risk of seeing a new rush, equivalent to the Gold Rush of the 19th century, is important. An unthinkable situation, which could be further exacerbated by national rivalries and greed. If a new resource is available, its extraction could catalyze international geopolitical tensions, especially in the absence of regulation.

Space could become the scene of new conflicts: territorial disputes, unregulated exploitations, etc.

Towards equitable spatial governance?

According to Grayling, the absence of collective efforts will lead straight to an era of disorder, similar to that which was the Wild West. His book is a call for the opening of a global dialogue in order to establish an international consensus; consensus which should, ideally, govern the exploitation of space resources. He takes in particular the example of the Antarctic Treaty and the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

These are interesting management models to consider since they concern resources in areas considered common heritage of humanity. However, adapting these frameworks to space will not be done without problems and the context differs completely from the other two.

Today, space law is fragmented. Each in its own corner, countries are introducing national legislation favoring their own space ambitions. This framework suffers from the absence of global and internationally recognized arbitration mechanisms. This is an open door to confrontation and unilateral action.

For Grayling, part of the solution lies in a approach proactive question. It is necessary to clarify the rights and obligations of all space actors, establish strict standards to govern the exploitation of resources and above all build mechanisms to resolve potential conflicts adapted to the spatial context. The idea is to achieve the construction of a balanced legal framework for all users of space, compatible with a long-term vision. In short, prevention rather than cure. The most imperative being that space does not become a new source of division. The task promises to be arduous, but necessary so that the positive impacts of space benefit everyone.

  • Anthony Clifford Grayling, in his work Who Owns the Moon ? In Defense of Humanity's Common Interests in Space, offers a reflection on our ability to fairly manage lunar resources.
  • Currently, the framework governing this exploitation is insufficient and could lead to conflicts between the actors of the conquest of space.
  • For Grayling, we must further regulate the sector so that the Moon does not become a new Wild West.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116