In a heavily divided political landscape, we can count on one great unifier: space. On Wednesday, the Senate passed with unanimous consent — which means no individual votes were recorded — a bill that would essentially extend terrestrial capitalist business practices into outer space.
Specifically, the act would protect “Asteroid and space resource rights.” An “‘asteroid resource’ means a space resource found on or within a single asteroid,” while a “‘space resource’ means an abiotic resource in outer space,” and “includes water and minerals.”
The president, according to the bill, would be in charge of a program to “facilitate commercial exploration” of space resources, but could not prevent you from keeping what’s yours (if you can somehow obtain it). The U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act’s greatest feat could be extending “finders keepers” logic to the great beyond.
The bill, which was introduced by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, passed the House back in May with overwhelming Republican support, enough to overcome the mere 26 percent of Democrats who voted in its favor. It’s pro-business, in that the major space exploration companies that actually go to space could likely set up property and keep anything remarkable they may come across.
At the same time, it also includes government regulation. Burgeoning space tourism companies must work with the federal government to avoid high costs. For example, the Secretary of Transportation must “ensure that the federal government is not exposed to greater costs than intended and that launch companies are not required to purchase more insurance coverage than necessary.”
In addition to regulation, though, the government, with this bill, has pledged its support for private space programs. The bill explicitly states that the Secretary of Transportation should “promote commercial space launches and reentries by the private sector; [and] facilitate government, state, and private sector involvement in enhancing U.S. launch sites and facilities.”
It’s good news that the government has thrown its support further behind space exploration. As Congressman Lamar S. Smith, chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, said, the bill “facilitates a pro-growth environment for the developing commercial space sector.”