China has developed a vision for an international lunar research station and is seeking international involvement in the project.
An executive order by the White House April 6 seeks to establish international support for the U.S. position that space resources can be used by companies and organizations, and to head off alternative international legal regimes.
Efforts by space agencies and companies to send missions to the moon and use water ice and other resources there have renewed debate about the international legal regime regarding such resources.
The approval of set of space sustainability guidelines by a United Nations committee has been widely endorsed by the global space community, even while questions remain on how those guidelines can be turned into more binding rules.
“The problem is there is currently not legal certainty about what is allowed and what is not allowed,” said Tanja Masson-Zwaan, former president of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL).
A United Nations committee reached agreement last week on nine guidelines intended to reduce the risk of collisions in space and other harmful space activities.