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Donald Trump Wants America To Start Mining The Moon

The President of the United States has signed an executive order that supports Americans mining for minerals on the Moon -- and he wants other nations to follow. 

The executive order, signed on April 6,  lays out the United States' policy towards the "recovery and use of space resources" on the Moon, Mars and other "celestial bodies," and a possible path of off-earth mining without the need for further international agreements.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab said the moon "holds hundreds of billions of dollars of untapped resources", including 'rare earth metals' like those needed for computer chips, and said it held the potential for a "lunar gold rush". Private companies have expressed interest in mining the moon, to look for gold and platinum.

"Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law," Trump's executive order order states.

"Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view it as a global commons.

"Accordingly, it shall be the policy of the United States to encourage international support for the public and private recovery and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law."

A plane flies in front of the moon in February in Bavaria. Image: Getty

The order clearly outlines America's rejection  of the '1979 Moon Treaty' which says all non-scientific use of space resources should be governed by an international regulatory framework. America has never signed nor ratified that agreement, nor has Russia or other space-faring nations.

The order says the U.S. does not consider the Moon Agreement to be "effective" or "necessary" to govern outer space discovery and commercial interests.

"Accordingly, the Secretary of State shall object to any attempt by any other state or international organisation to treat the Moon Agreement as reflecting or otherwise expressing customary international law," the order states.

Donald Trump signed the executive order on April 6. Image: Reuters

According to Trump's order, the U.S. will seek to negotiate arrangements with other nations regarding "safe and sustainable" recovery and use of space resources.

This is not a new policy, but appears to set out a more robust legal framework. In 2015, U.S. Congress passed a law allowing citizens and companies use resources from the moon and asteroids.

The concept of space mining is also not new, and works off a similar strategy as mining back on earth. While experts in the space industry believe this could allow access to precious commodities, it could also pave the way for further exploration of outer space.

An artist's impression of a possible lunar base via the European Space Agency. Image: AAP

President Trump's administration has shown considerable interest in shaping the US' space policy, creating the Space Force within the military last year.

Trump also signed the 'Space Policy Directive' back in 2017, which paved the way for NASA's Artemis mission to return astronauts to the surface of the moon.

The executive order comes as NASA published its long-term plan for lunar exploration, which aims for a "base camp" on the moon's south pole.

NASA is also preparing for a mission in July to send its 'Perseverance' rover to Mars.

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