The United States is slated to begin formal negotiations with key allies over a legal blueprint for mining on the moon over the coming weeks, according to a report in Reuters. Known as the Artemis Accords, the pact will offer a new slate of rule and regulations for companies and governments producing and selling natural resources from space.
The Artemis Accords, named after the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Artemis moon program, proposes safety zones that would surround future moon bases to prevent damage or interference from rival countries or companies operating in close proximity, and thus ushering in an age of sovereignty on the moon. The pact also seeks to provide a legal framework for private companies to own the resources they mine. Congress passed a law in 2015 giving US firms property rights over the resources they mine in space, although such a framework does not yet exist in the international law.
The negotiations are expected to focus around the United States's closest allies and partners, including the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, France, and the United Arab Emirates.
The leak comes as both the United States and China gear up to send astronauts back to the moon, and perhaps beyond. The United States is seeking to put men back on the moon by 2024, and establish a lunar station in orbit around the moon, similar to how the International Space Station (ISS) orbits around earth. Meanwhile, China has vowed to establish a small colony on the moon by the mid-2030s.
President Trump and his administration have placed a new focus on the final frontier, especially in relation to national security. On March 26, 2019, Vice President Mike Pence made the shift towards space clear during a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC), "Make no mistake about it — we're in a space race today, just as we were in the 1960s, and the stakes are even higher."
Today, the United States is almost one step closer to achieving victory in that race. On May 27, 2020, Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will make history in two regards: being the first crew to ever reach the ISS in a private American spacecraft (SpaceX Crew Dragon), and will be the first astronauts taking off from US soil in almost 10 years.