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Trump signs executive order supporting space mining, Russia criticizes the move

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(Kitco News) U.S. President Donald Trump took a major step for all the wannabe space miners out there this week by signing an executive order that supports the exploration and the use of space resources by the U.S. citizens and businesses.

“This Executive Order establishes U.S. policy toward the recovery and use of space resources, such as water and certain minerals, in order to encourage the commercial development of space,” Scott Pace, deputy assistant to the president and executive secretary of the National Space Council, said in a statement on Monday.

The order, titled “Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources,” gives Americans the “the right to engage in the commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space.”

The State Department also wants other countries to pursue a similar approach. U.S. policy contradicts the 1979 Moon Treaty, which America has not signed. The treaty says that all non-scientific use of space resources be governed by an international regulatory framework.

The executive order gives companies operating in space the right to any resources mined there. “Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view it as a global commons,” the order stated.

That is not a new idea. The U.S. Congress already passed a law in 2015 that allowed individuals as well as companies to use the moon and asteroid for its resources. 

Monday’s executive order comes as NASA published its long-term Plan for Sustained Lunar Exploration and Development, which envisions a “base camp” on the moon’s south pole.  

NASA is also preparing for its Mars 2020 mission in July during which it plans to send its Perseverance Rover to the red planet to collect samples and conduct a number of scientific experiments, including producing oxygen out of the CO2.  

The U.S. has already received support from Canada, Australia, the United Arab Emirates and China, CNBC reported citing a senior White House official. 

But not all countries are reacting positively. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that “any kind of attempt to privatize space in one form or another - and I find it difficult to say now whether this can be seen as an attempt to privatize space - would be unacceptable.”

Russia’s space agency Roscosmos also released a statement Tuesday criticizing the move. “Attempts to expropriate outer space and aggressive plans to de facto seize the territories of other planets will hardly encourage other nations to participate in fruitful cooperation,” said Sergey Savelyev, Roscosmos deputy director responsible for international cooperation.

Roscosmos is also planning to build a long-term base on the moon in the next two decades. 

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