On December 9th, 2015, Representative Brian Babin (R-TX), Chairman of the Space subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, spoke at the 10th Eilene Galloway Symposium on Critical Issues in Space Law. The event, co-sponsored by Planetary Resources and organized by the International Institute of Space Law (IISL), was focused on the recent passage of the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act into law (P.L. 114-90).
Here are some excerpts from Chairman Babin’s comments:
Title IV of P.L. 114-90 comes from H.R. 1508, the Space
“Resource Exploration and Utilization Act, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Rep. Posey and Rep. Derek Kilmer in the House with a companion bill in the Senate sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. Marco Rubio, codifies a legal principle long-accepted by the United States, that the freedom to explore and use outer space includes the right of non-governmental entities to remove, take possession, and use in-situ natural resources on celestial bodies.
Title IV of the Act and its provisions on space resource exploration and utilization has gained particular attention from the press and the space legal community. Unfortunately, there have been a number of misconceptions about the intent and legality of Title IV, so please allow me to clarify a few provisions.
First, Title IV gives an effect to the right to explore and use outer space by establishing, under Federal law, private citizen rights over obtained in-situ space and asteroid resources. It does so consistent with U.S. international obligations. Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty explicitly recognizes that non-governmental entities, such as private corporations, may explore and use outer space, including the right to remove, take possession, and use in-situ natural resources from celestial bodies. The United States Government has long taken this position, while recognizing and aware that this view is not shared by all States or commentators.
Second, this is consistent with United States obligations under Article II of the Outer Space Treaty and is not an assertion of sovereignty or jurisdiction over any celestial body.
Third, it should also be made clear that in drafting and negotiating Title IV of the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, specifically Sec. 51303, there was a challenge as to what language should be used to give effect to this right. The term “obtain” was ultimately chosen because it carried no presumption about the technical means with which the resource was to be recovered. However, it was never our intent that ‘obtainment’ would allow a company to remotely sense a resource and assert a right of possession. Only through physical recovery does this right manifest.”
“Congress has directed the President of the United States to promote the right of U.S. citizens to engage in commercial exploration for and commercial recovery of space resources free from harmful interference.”
-Representative Babin, Cosmos Club, Wednesday, December 9th, 2015