Regarding the U.S. House Science space subcommittee hearing on H.R. 5063, which would grant U.S. companies the rights to resources they extract from asteroids, this was an excellent hearing, and I agree with the testimony of Joanne Gabrynowicz, professor emerita of space and remote sensing law at the University of Mississippi, regarding the bill [“Hearing Raises Questions about Asteroid Mining Bill,” Sept. 15, page 11].
Specifically, she is correct that the bill as written is vague; it needs to be thought out more with regards to the language but more importantly how it would be implemented.
One of the critical comments that Gabrynowicz made was regarding the political issue resource extraction rights would raise internationally. This is the 1,000-pound gorilla in the room that advocates of space property rights do not fully comprehend or appreciate. Creating a legal regime will be a significant challenge; harmonizing that regime with the realities of the international legal and political environment will be a significant challenge that will dwarf the former.
Legislation alone, whether it be H.R. 5063 or another bill, will not suffice to move private space property rights forward. The executive branch is a key part of the equation that will eventually lead to the successful advocacy and establishment of private space property rights in any form. The White House must be persuaded not to veto a bill such as H.R. 5063 or one that contains H.R. 5063 as an amendment.
More importantly, the executive branch must make the international recognition and establishment of private space property rights part of the National Space Policy. Just like the current environment of commercial space was established first by a National Space Policy that fostered the concept, which Congress supplemented with Title 51, Chapter 509, so must the executive branch enunciate private space property rights into the National Space Policy to harmonize with Congress’ efforts.
The support of the White House brings with it the necessary diplomatic resources that are mandatory to engage the international legal and political community. Without the support of the executive branch and a directive making private space property rights part of the National Space Policy, any effort to legislate these rights into existence will fail.