On 6 April 2020, US President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) on Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources. This order addresses US policy regarding the recovery and use of resources in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies. Starting today, and over the coming few weeks, SpaceWatch.Global will publish a range of perspectives supporting and opposing the EO from experts around the world. Today’s two expert perspectives come from Peter Marquez of the United States (below) and Professor Kazuto Suzuki of Japan (see here).
In your opinion, what is the underlying strategic and economic rationale for President Trump’s Executive Order?
The rationale for the EO is not economic in nature. The EO provides direction regarding foreign policy activities and international engagement for the purposes of enabling the Artemis program. My opinion is that this Executive Order was necessary to give clear and unambiguous guidance to both the State Department and the Department of Defense. My opinion, is the direction to the State Department was given because NASA and its international partners absolutely need in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) to build a sustainable presence on the Moon. My opinion regarding guidance to Defense is to end the DoD misusing “global commons” in its statements. For several years the DoD has errantly described space as a global commons despite legal guidance given by the White House and the State Department. It will be nice to see the DoD finally get clear orders.
The Executive Order explicitly rejects the 1979 Moon Agreement. How do you think this will be received by other countries, particularly other major space powers?
The real question is how will this be received by leadership of other countries versus the reception of a small number international space lawyers and COPUOS residents. Most nations and their leadership will support this as it enables international cooperation on the Moon and provides their citizens the opportunity to also land and work on the Moon. Exploring, developing new technologies, and growing our scientific knowledge is what matters most now. These activities support and enhance humanity’s quality of life on Earth and in space. Theological exasperations on the meaning of “commons” will not lead to the next technological discoveries.
Living in Washington, DC you quickly learn that slowing down to look at a traffic accident may satisfy a morbid curiosity but you are no closer to your destination, you’ve slowed down for no purpose, and you’ve held up everyone driving along with you.
Similarly, the Executive Order explicitly rejects the view that space is a Global Commons. What, in your opinion, is the policy rationale behind this claim and, again, how do you think this will be received by other countries?
The rejection of space as a global commons is to clearly state the U.S. Government’s position on the matter. Previous administrations have also rejected the concept of space as a global commons. Then a few years ago the Department of Defense started stating that space was a global commons. It is important to note that DoD did not circulate its statements for review and approval outside of the DoD. The EO clearly states the USG position on this matter and hopefully will end the confusion about the USG’s true position on the matter.
The world made its decision on these matters when only 18 nations decided to sign the Moon Agreement. The sheer number of nations that did not sign the Agreement is telling of the sentiment historically as well as currently. I fully expect those that are the most passionate about this to be the most vocal but volume doesn’t change the reality that the Moon Agreement is an experiment conducted in a vacuum that failed when exposed to reality.
In your view, how likely will this Executive Order “encourage international support for the public and private recovery and use of resources in outer space…?”
In my opinion I believe the EO will be used to support and engender reciprocal statements from other nations that have an interest in going to and living on the Moon. Again, I believe the EO, at its essence, was an internal directive to the State Department and a notice to the DoD. Its impact will be determined by the vociferousness of State’s engagement with Artemis partners and other nations engaged in lunar activities.
Hypothetically assuming that this Executive Order leads to international support, will it make the prospect of commercial space resource extraction closer to reality?
My opinion is no. As we saw with the passage of the landmark law in Title IV of the Commercial Space Launch and Competitiveness Act in 2015, the law was very helpful in giving the space resource companies a legal foundation but the U.S. companies engaged in that activity have all ceased to exist. The business was missing two very critical and important elements: customers and revenue. An EO cannot will customers and revenue into existence. But government programs like Artemis can do that. The EO helps give guidance and support to a key element of Artemis; In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU). If Artemis is successful then maybe there will be a need for commercial lunar resource providers.
Peter Marquez is a Partner at Andart Global where he provides space policy, strategy, management, and due diligence support to investors, governments, and industry. Peter has supported several governments in their development of space agencies and space policies. Previously, Peter served as the Vice President for Global Engagement at Planetary Resources and was instrumental in the development and passage of space resource laws. Peter was the Director for Space Policy at the White House and authored the U.S. National Space Policy. Peter served Presidents Bush and Obama and was responsible for the development, implementation, and coordination of their national space policies. Earlier, Peter served for nearly a decade in the Pentagon on a variety of space and classified programs for the Air Force and Office of the Secretary of Defense.