At the end of November President Obama signed and important called the Space Act, authorizing Americans of exploiting space resources for their own profit. Simply put, any material taken from the moon or asteroids can be exploited commercially by Americans and they will be legally protected. This spells the end of the idea that space belong to all and that it should profit to all as well. We are entering a new chapter of space exploration, a modern gold rush to exploit the resources of space.
Obviously for the ordinary American citizen nothing will change. Money is needed to exploit the resources found in space and this will not change anytime soon. The real change is for companies who now have some firm legal foundation to explore and exploit space for its resources. Already some companies have on their drawing boards the exploration of some asteroids to extract their nickel, gold and other minerals. One such company was formed by one of the founders of Google, Larry Page. The Space Act passed by the President will simply accelerate this exploration with a now firm legal foundation. Of the 1500 readily accessible asteroids surveyed by NASA a full 10% would have mineral resources.
The first resource to be exploited might not be a mineral at all but water, an essential element to life. Sending two tons of water in space costs about 100 million dollars. Finding asteroids with water or ice on the surface would make economic sense to exploit and already small probes will be sent to nearby asteroids who might harbour water.
I suppose the real question is this; is it desirable to have space
become the private domain of some private companies? Should we replicate the same capitalistic model that we have on earth in some countries? Or should we stick to the idea of space resources as belonging to all of humanity, not only to companies who have a vested interest?
One can possibly foresee a day when space itself will be polluted just as earth is. We have made a mess of earth, should we do the same thing in space?