President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday that allows the United States to mine natural resources from the moon, Fox News reported.
The order is an outgrowth of a statute passed by Congress in 2015 permitting the collection and use of moon and asteroid resources and also makes reference to a 1967 treaty that allows such resources as well as those found on other planets such as Mars to be used, according to Fox News.
The administration has been working on the order, entitled Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources, for the last year.
Fox also noted that the U.S. is not a signatory to the 1979 Moon Treaty that purports to subject non-scientific uses of moon resources to international jurisdiction.
Trump: Space not “global commons”
“Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view space as a global commons,” the Trump administration order reads.
The move is consistent with Trump’s “America first” mindset, which has resulted in the nation’s withdrawal from several international treaties and agreements authorized by his predecessors.
“American industry and the industries of like-minded countries will benefit from the establishment of stable international practices by which private citizens, companies and the economy will benefit from expanding the economic sphere of human activity beyond the Earth,” the order continued.
Scientists have believed for decades that discoveries about Earth’s moon and its resources could lead to technological breakthroughs and innovative new products, Fox noted.
Future missions planned
NASA is currently planning a mission called Artemis that is meant to land Americans on the moon in 2024 in order to learn how to support astronauts in deep space for lengthy periods.
The last time any American landed on the moon was in 1972 at the end of the Apollo program. Former President Barack Obama has been blamed for cutting NASA’s budget and for canceling a planned moon landing mission known as Constellation during his time in office, putting space exploration on the back burner, The Hill reported.
The Artemis mission is being undertaken in preparation to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s. Currently, it takes several months to travel to Mars, according to NASA, but scientists are hoping to find ways to significantly shorten that time.
Monday’s order is also consistent with Trump’s move to create the U.S. Space Force, a branch of the military charged bolstering America’s defense capability and deterring aggression from space, which the president has called “the world’s newest warfighting domain.”