Space privatization is unacceptable, said spokesman for Russian President Dmitry Peskov. So he commented on the decree of the American leader, aimed at encouraging US business on the moon and other celestial bodies.

According to Peskov, the decision of the White House has yet to give a legal assessment.

“But still some kind of space privatization in one form or another, - and now I find it difficult to say whether this can be regarded as an attempt to privatize space - such attempts would be unacceptable," he said.

In turn, the deputy general director of Roscosmos, Sergey Savelyev, said that the US aggressive plans to appropriate the right to extract space resources harm international cooperation.

“Attempts at expropriating outer space and aggressive plans to actually seize territories of other planets hardly set the countries to fruitful cooperation,” RIA Novosti quoted Saveliev as saying.

As noted in the Russian Foreign Ministry, Moscow proceeds from the equality of all countries in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes.

“It is not clear by what law the US administration is trying to take only a leading role in shaping the global agenda on such a sensitive international issue,” the agency’s commentary says.

The Foreign Ministry called on the international community to take collective measures to "prevent the transformation of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, into an arena of international disagreements and conflicts."

Legal uncertainty

Earlier, the head of the White House, Donald Trump, signed a decree “On Promoting International Support for the Extraction and Exploitation of Space Resources,” which affirms Washington’s right to develop minerals in outer space.

The first section of the document recalls the 2017 American space policy directive, which provides for the return of man to the moon, as well as the sending of a mission to Mars and other celestial bodies. It is understood that space structures will be able to participate in commercial structures that will be engaged in mining outside the Earth.

  • Spaceship Boeing CST-100 Starliner on Atlas V rocket
  • Reuters
  • © Steve Nesius

As stated in the presidential decree, the United States is not a party to the Agreement on the Activities of States on the Moon and other celestial bodies of 1979 and does not consider it an effective or necessary tool in helping commercial enterprises to develop natural resources outside the Earth.

In addition, the document states the existence of legal uncertainty in the issue of rights to extract space resources due to differences in the said agreement and the Treaty on the Principles of Activities of States for the Exploration and Use of Outer Space in 1967.

“In view of this, the Secretary of State is opposed to any attempt by other foreign states or international organizations to interpret the Agreement on Activities on the Moon as a document that somehow expresses the norms of customary international law,” the decree says.

In this case, Americans should have the right to carry out industrial exploration, extraction and exploitation of resources in outer space "in accordance with applicable law."

“In the legal and physical sense, outer space is a unique area of ​​human activity, and the United States does not consider it as a public domain,” the document says.

The course of America, the decree says, in this area is to encourage international support for the extraction of space resources by the public and private sectors "in accordance with applicable law." At the same time, the State Department is instructed to “strive to develop” joint statements and agreements with foreign states on the safe conduct of the extraction of space resources.

International dimension

Recall that the UN General Assembly in December 1966 approved the Treaty on the Principles of the Activities of States for the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies. In January 1967, the document was signed by the USSR, Great Britain and the USA. In total, more than 100 countries have joined it to date. It states that outer space "is not subject to national appropriation either by proclaiming sovereignty on them, or by use or occupation, or by any other means."

Moreover, all stations, installations, equipment and spaceships on the moon and other celestial bodies are “open to representatives of other states parties to this Treaty on the basis of reciprocity,” the document says.

  • Apollo 11 Space Mission, July 20, 1969
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  • © Neil Armstrong / NASA

Another international space treaty was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979. The text of the Agreement on the Activities of States on the Moon and other celestial bodies largely coincides with the 1967 treaty. The document proclaims the exclusively peaceful use of the Moon and other celestial bodies, and also prohibits the launch of objects with nuclear weapons and any weapons of mass destruction into lunar orbit.

The agreement prohibits the creation of military facilities on the moon. As for the use of the moon, it "is the property of all mankind and is carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, regardless of the degree of their economic or scientific development."

This document was ratified only by 18 countries, among which there was neither the USSR nor the USA.

As Lev Zelenyi, deputy chairman of the Space Council of the Russian Academy of Sciences, scientific director of the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, noted in an interview with RT, the old agreements really limit the commercial use of resources in space and were more focused on academic research.

“Now the situation is changing, we need new rules, a new agreement. And all countries object to the principle of "who first got up, that and slippers." In the USA, they think that once they have declared, now everything will be according to their rules, but this is not so, ”the expert explained.

Leo Zeleny recalled US attempts to secure territories on the moon around the landing zones of its Apollo spacecraft.

“But then it was about small areas. Now this is a more serious application, which will undoubtedly cause a reaction at the international level. Most likely, there will be a big discussion on this subject at the next UN Assembly, ”the expert believes.

The world community needs a new international treaty that regulates the activities of countries in space, Zelyony is sure, but it will not work out without the participation of key players, including Russia.

“Russia is one of the main players in this field because it has its own lunar program. It should be noted that the discussion is already ongoing at the level of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, a serious debate has arisen. So far, no consensus has been reached, because many countries, including Russia and China, are opposed to the approach that the United States is taking, ”the expert added.

Astronomical plans

Trump's signing of the decree on mining in space was preceded by a whole campaign of the American administration aimed at returning the United States to the moon. In May 2019, the White House requested an additional $ 1.6 billion from Congress for a project to land American astronauts on the moon by 2024.

“Under my administration, we will restore NASA to its former greatness and return to the moon and then fly to Mars,” the president of the United States wrote on Twitter.

Recall, the last landing on the moon, the Americans carried out in 1972.

  • Reuters
  • © Jim Young

But since 2011, when the Shuttle program was curtailed, NASA has not carried out manned space flights. Now, American astronauts and cargoes are delivered to the ISS by Russian rockets.

The new US lunar program has already received the name "Artemis." According to NASA CEO Jim Brydenstein, the first woman will land on the surface of the moon by 2024. At the same time, NASA initially planned to conduct a manned flight to the moon only in 2028. These calculations were revised in early 2019 under pressure from the Trump administration.

However, experts doubt that NASA will be able to fulfill the order of the political leadership and shorten the deadlines.

“The United States may well create a bridgehead on the Moon, but obviously not by 2024, but only by 2028,” explained Ivan Moiseev, head of the Space Policy Institute.

Trump's cosmic ambitions are not limited to the moon. In June 2019, he urged NASA to focus on preparing the Martian mission, as the Americans had already visited the Moon. In turn, the head of NASA said that the first manned flight to Mars could take place as early as 2033.

The moon, according to Washington's plans, should become a source of resources for the United States. As US Vice President Mike Pence said last year, American astronauts will not only “visit” the Earth’s natural satellite, but will also begin to develop its resources.

According to experts, the decision of the White House to proclaim the right of the United States to extract minerals from the moon and other space bodies unilaterally is unacceptable.

“Perhaps the United States is thus trying to“ stake out ”its right to the bowels of the moon. Now lunar programs are not only in the United States, but also in a number of other countries, the topic is gaining relevance, so Trump took such a step. But, generally speaking, now, against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, this is not the best moment for sharing the lunar space, ”Lev Zeleny noted.

A similar point of view is shared by Vladimir Shapovalov, deputy director of the Institute of History and Politics of Moscow State Pedagogical University.

“The USA is acting in its own style. The American leadership is confident that any territories and resources of interest to the United States should become their property. However, such a policy does not comply with the norms and spirit of international law, ”the expert said in an interview with RT.

According to Shapovalov, the United States will challenge the entire planet with its actions, since so many countries will want to extract resources in space over time.

“If the exploration of the moon does not take place according to international rules and norms common to all, but only on the basis of national laws, this can lead to a sharp aggravation of competition and tension, as well as a new arms race. Therefore, it is necessary to create at the international level a special legal regime for the use of resources in space. In this case, it is necessary to cooperate, not compete, ”the expert summed up.