From Ice to Ether: The Adoption of a Regime to Govern Resource Exploitation in Outer Space

Raclin, Grier C. | January 1, 1986

It is clear that the world community in general, and the United States in particular, intends to move forward in the exploration of space and the commercial exploitation of lunar and other resources. It would seem equally clear that, without law in this area, no country, government, or commercial enterprise is likely to undertake the substantial risks and costs involved in such exploitation. Companies will not undertake these risks without a clear understanding of how the resulting rewards will be allocated. For the United States commercial space program to move forward, it must seek the adoption of a regime to govern such activities which will be accepted and recognized by the international community. The purpose of this Article is to provide a short description of why past efforts to adopt such an international regime have failed. The Article will contrast the currently successful efforts to adopt an international regime to regulate mineral resource activities in a similarly inhospitable environment — Antarctica — and to suggest terms of a regime that the international community might find acceptable.