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Comment Re:What is with these space law professors? (Score 1) 171

There are good reasons to argue that the 2015 SPACE Act is consistent with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

Assigning ownership certainly looks like an act of sovereignty to me. After all presumably the USA would try and enforce the property rights that it had given. If there are laws that allow the USA to requisition private property this would seem to further exacerbate the issue.

    While this might be an attempt to set CIL it fails in and of itself as it is one nations law. If they actually where interested in that they should have got an agreement with other nations. A treaty between other nations might come from this, and therefore from one point of view being successful, but it might be quite different if just to show not being under the USAs thumb.

    Of course another option is that other nations just pass there own laws with the result of different people claim different rights on the same thing. After all it would be just as valid for another nation to make its own incompatible law. An extreme example is that it could just assign random mineral rights to individuals and as far as I can see that would be just as valid as the USA's law.

In other cases, other nations have adopted US law as a template for their laws. If enough countries do this, you have CIL. This is part of the intention here.

Think a little about how this might play out. I, a citizen of one country, send a spaceship to asteroid X and start doing stuff. As long as I am there, you (a citizen of another country) are not allowed to interfere with my operations. Now, interfere can mean a lot of things (is it interfering to land 100 m away? How about 100 km away?), and that will have to be worked out, but the principle seems pretty clear - and that is true whether I am doing geology or astronomy or mining unobtanium. You don't have the right to interfere with my spacecraft going on to Mars, or back to Earth, or wherever, either, whether it is carrying unobtanium or not. All of this seems quite settled under the 67 OST. Also quite clear is that, once I leave, you are free to step in and do your own thing too. (Now, I may leave behind monitors or something, and again, what it means to interfere with them will have to be worked out, but, again, all of this seems quite settled in principle under the OST.) So, I do not have "mineral rights," just a right to operate.

All of that seems to be clear whether I am doing commercial work, or science, or something else. And, if I bring stuff back, it is also quite clear (I would argue clearly CIL) that the country whose flag I am under gets to decide what's done with that stuff. They can say I own it, it belongs to "the Crown" or the people, I have to pay tax, or whatever - that's up to to the national government. That's also quite settled under the OST.

One thing national governments can't do is say "You now own the Moon" (or Ceres or wherever). I.e., they cannot "assign random mineral rights" (or, at least, expect to have other countries abide by that). Note that this is one thing that the 2015 SPACE Act does not do.

Comment Re:What is with these space law professors? (Score 1) 171

I went to the House hearing for this Bill, and also talked to various staffers and actual space lawyers

Presumambly you mean American lawyers. And if they where at the house for the reading of this bill they may well represent corporate interests in this so hardley be impartial.

I am sure that they do, but it's a matter of what kind of arguments they use. There are good reasons to argue that the 2015 SPACE Act is consistent with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. I would be glad to hear arguments that it isn't, but they need to have some weight behind them.

After the Subcommittee hearing, I had a long chat with Prof. Joanne Gabrynowicz, Director Emerita, Journal of Space Law, who testified at the hearing. Her viewpoint was to be that nothing should be done until there is an international consensus to clarify the Outer Space Treaty. I thought that was an incredibly weak argument for doing nothing for what would probably be decades.

This Act is actually a means of trying to set Customary international law (CIL) in this area, and thus clearing up the uncertainties in the 67 OST. I think it is likely to succeed in that.

Comment Re:Nope (Score 2) 171

So does it forbid states, or does it forbid corporations with a HQ in a state? Because there is a big difference

By the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, anything launched under the flag of a given state is subject to the laws of that state while in outer space. Under the Space Station MOU, for example, each module on station is governed by the laws of the state that launched it. That gave Cmdr. Hadfield fits when it came time to clear the rights of his ISS version of Space Oddity, as he flew through a bunch of different modules in the video.

Comment Re:Nope (Score 4, Informative) 171

I'm not sure what you're talking about. Customary international law (CIL) is regularly followed/applied by SCOTUS when international disputes come up. E.g. SCOTUS pretty much always follows the protocols listed under UNCLOS. The US has not signed on, but it has regularly followed UNCLOS as CIL. It's basically seen as "common law".

162 States, including many maritime powers, have signed on to UNCLOS III. It is reasonable to view it as CIL. It is not, by the same standard, reasonable to view the Moon Treaty in the same way, as no major space power has ratified it.

Note, also, that nothing prevents the US from adopting laws that go against CIL, as long as it is based on agreements we have not ratified.

Comment What is with these space law professors? (Score 4, Informative) 171

It is had not to agree with Ricky Lee of Australia, who wrote his thesis on the subject:

"So the idea that commercial use of space resources is prohibited by the Outer Space Treaty... is quite simply absurd,"


I went to the House hearing for this Bill, and also talked to various staffers and actual space lawyers (as opposed to professors) about it. I feel, and they seem to feel, that the 2015 Space Act is entirely consistent both with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which says

Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies.

and also with the precedent set by the US, Russia and Japan, all of which have material returned from celestial bodies. The reality is that these three countries have all treated those materials as property, which can be and has been traded. That is the actual customary international law here, not the Moon Treaty, which has been ratified by no major space-faring nation, and which is a dead letter. In addition, each state gets to set the laws on actions by their citizens in space, and are responsible for those actions (say, if they cause damage to another country's spacecraft).

Finally, the 2015 Space Act itself says


It is the sense of Congress that by the enactment of this Act, the
United States does not thereby assert sovereignty or sovereign or
exclusive rights or jurisdiction over, or the ownership of, any
celestial body.

So, despite most of the headlines announcing this law, it doesn't (and couldn't) allow for the ownership of asteroids, just of material extracted from asteroids, exactly as is allowed for in the Outer Space Treaty.

I have to say that the space lawyers I have talked to share my puzzlement as to what the professors say things that seem so ungrounded. (They are of course welcome to disagree or oppose, but you would expect that they would have arguments grounded in facts.)

Note, also, that none of the other space powers has complained about this act, which they were and are certainly able to do it they feel it violates the '67 Outer Space Treaty.

Comment Simple (Score 4, Insightful) 244

Make all of the old accounts inactive. Make everyone reregister (or not, as they prefer) under their real names for new accounts. If someone can show that they were previously posting under their own name, reactivate that account by hand. That will probably be a full time job for someone for a few weeks.

I would not be too surprised if they got sued under their plan. One lawsuit, even if they win, would cost a lot more than the costs of doing this right.

Comment Re:To everyone whining about the title... (Score 1) 109

What about the "Independence Party of Georgia"? As far as I can tell, this list is the only evidence of their existence (unless the State of Georgia is sending personal information to a political party in the Republic of Georgia, which would be an interesting development).

Comment Re:Space stations (Score 1) 378

"Earths space and resources will deplete, and we could build a large rotating space station even with today's technology."

Sure, we *could*. But are you willing to pay for it? Personally I think there are better things to spend a few trillion on down here on earth. And no, I'm not a luddite going down the "there's starving kids and yet we spend money on space" argument. But an orbiting station is not an end in itself - it needs a purpose other than just being the worlds most expensive funfair ride , and until we come up with a better space motor than chemical rockets humans ain't going anywhere further than the moon anytime soon.

It is becoming clear that going to Mars will require the development of some sort of resource infrastructure in the near-Earth asteroids (as well as at Phobos). The travel times to Mars are so long and the demands of space travel so hard that going there means you are going to stay (or maintain a more or less permanent base) and that will require a supply chain that extends off our planet.

Now, another way to say that is that the economy will have to extend off of the planet for us to go to Mars at all. Once you do that, people will follow. I see that as inevitable - they will have the technology to do so, there will be economic reasons to do so, it will happen. But, spreading economies open up even more economic potential. Once it starts, it will not just spread, it will start increasing exponentially. After a while, it becomes its own justification, in much the same way that the economic viability of New York no longer depends on what raw materials it can provide Great Britain.

Comment Re:Information is lost (Score 1) 152

I don't follow that - I interpret "issue of information loss" as meaning that it is happening - i.e., that there is loss to worry about. Read at the bottom of page 1

Furthermore, the entanglement implies that the outgoing Hawking particles cannot be entangled with one another at various times. This shows
that there is indeed an issue of information loss in a black hole, within the semiclassical approximation

Entanglement survives across the event horizon (at least, in this analogue). It would be presumably destroyed at the singularity. There is (at least, in this analogue) no black hole firewall, no entanglement with previously emitted particles, no wormholes or other such exotica.

As for the frequency dependence, I will wait on that. That may be profound, or it may be an experimental error or some restriction imposed by the black hole analog setup. We should know soon enough.

Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious animal on earth.