Thoughts from Wretchard on the recent commercial space bill:
The Dawn of the Space Mining Age probably signals the Twilight of Socialism as much as it does the end of all material poverty. It marks the end of a way of life. We live in a special time; a brief epoch when the human universe has become as small as it will ever be, a moment when no man living is more than a few moments away by text messaging from any other and no home is beyond 48 hours of subsonic jet travel.
If man takes to the Cosmos, then distances will become real again; and goodbyes will be for the first time in a hundred years once more forever.
The price of knowledge and plenty is to leave the Hive. Someday we may regard our stuffy politically correct Earth with more tolerance than is presently the custom. The future does not belong to those poor souls on American campuses who become hysterical at the slightest perceived micro-aggression, but to those with the boldness to take risks. In that context humanity may someday miss such coddled children in nostalgia for a lost Eden, which no sooner found at the start of the 21st century, just as soon slipped away.
A lot of people seem to be misunderstanding this, though:
The 2015 Space Act does more than recognize property rights; it breaks down bureaucracy by exempting the space industry from much regulation until 2023. As with the historical Western frontier when the law remained “back East,” there will be few sheriffs in the far reaches of the void. There, as nowhere else on 21st-century Earth, safety is your own lookout.
As his own blockquote from Eric Stallmer indicates, the only thing that won’t be regulated (that is, continue to not be regulated, as it never has been in the past) will be the safety of spaceflight participants. Everyone will still need to get launch licenses from the FAA, and continue to satisfy it that the public is not at risk, and that the launch isn’t contrary to the national interest.
As for treaty compliance, I actually had a beer with Ram and Steven Freeland (from Australia, a signatory to the Moon Treaty) on this topic a few years ago in Lincoln, and we politely agreed to disagree on the issue. The bill is not in conflict with the OST, though it clearly is with the Moon Treaty. But the latter, contra this foolish piece, is not “customary international law.” The US has no obligation to it, never having ratified it.
Related thoughts from a well-known professor of space law, over at USA Today.