The decree makes clear that the United States does not view space as a “global common good,” paving the way for the exploitation of the moon without any sort of international treaty.
“Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery and use of space resources,” said the order, noting that the United States had never signed a 1979 known as the Treaty of the Moon. This agreement stipulates that all activity in space must comply with international law. In 2015, the United States Congress passed a law explicitly authorizing American companies to use the resources of the moon and asteroids.
According to Trump’s decree, the United States will oppose any attempt to use international law to hinder its efforts to remove pieces of the moon or, if the opportunity arises, further mining from Mars and “d ‘other celestial bodies’.
The Trump administration’s new zeal to begin drilling the moon is consistent with its enthusiastic support for mining back on Earth. The administration has opened up vast tracts of federal land for oil and gas drilling, Trump overturning various environmental laws in an effort to revive the struggling coal industry.
However, not all of the proposed land drilling leases have been taken out by fossil fuel companies, and it is uncertain whether the private sector will explode in space to exploit the moon. The decree stipulates that the federal government “will require a partnership with commercial entities to recover and use the resources, including water and certain minerals, in space”.
Trump has always shown a constant interest in asserting American power in space, forming the Space Force within the United States Army last year to wage space war if necessary. The president, however, seemed confused about the composition of the space, when he tweeted in June that NASA “should focus on the much more important things we do, including Mars (including the Moon).”
It’s unclear if the President actually thinks the moon is part of Mars, but the two are actually quite far apart – the moon, which orbits Earth, is about 238,000 miles from our planet while Mars, which is itself a planet, is an average of 140m miles from Earth.