Go West, Young Man, Go West!?

St Louis Missouri served as a gateway to the American West (New Fortier)

Go West, Young Man, Go West and Manifest Destiny were terms, mantras, rally cries, and cultural norms and expectations of the 19th century and the early 20th century in the United States. These two expressions symbolized the daring and exciting western expansion of the then young, prosperous, innovative, and ever growing United States of America. The economy of the country had an explosive growth due to rapid mass land acquisition, a young and educated population, and the encouragement of economic and financial wellbeing for its citizens. However, this explosive growth came at a very heavy tragic cost, to both people and nations that cannot be reversed.

Regardless of the ills and woos experienced, the western expansion of the United States of America promoted global optimism (especially with Europeans), encouraging young men, families, organizations, and businesses to head westward and occupy the vastness of the great plains, its deserts, beaches, mountain regions, and the wide-open spaces that laid west of the Mississippi River.

Go to Space, Human, Go to Space!?

The Arch Way to the Stars

This same level of excitement and optimism of hope for a better way of life can be seen once again with regards to the opportunities being expressed via the private space exploration sector. It is evident to all that Manifest Destiny has been repackaged for the 21st century. This rally cry is being fully embraced globally, from both space faring nations and non-space faring nations alike.

It seems as if each day or at least several times a week there is mention of the quest for space exploration, space discovery, and/or space related business opportunities. The global public’s love affair with space exploration being lead and shaped by the private space industry appears to be growing ever more popular.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

A symbol of the Wild Wild West

Some historians, as well as like-minded individuals, would loudly argue that the Western Expansion gave birth to what is known as the lawless Wild Wild West fueled by unbridled growth, hunger for land, resources, profits, and expansion at any and all cost. Another factor of growth can be witnessed in the introduction and application of technological advances within the transportation, retail, services, and manufacturing sectors. In addition, the military (weaponry) experienced massive innovative advances. It has been said the Winchester 73 was the gun that won the wild wild west.

As the Earth inhabitants and its leaders look to space as an opportunity for expansion, what steps should be taken to ensure that gross mistakes that were made in the past on Earth, will not be encouraged and/or repeated on the Moon, Mars, and space in general?

Promoting a Voice of Collaboration for All Nations: Framework & Building Blocks

Photo of the Roundtable in The Hague before the creation of the WG | Sent by Giuseppe Reibaldi

This past November 2017, I attended the NewSpace Europe conference. During the last day of the conference, I learned of The Hague International Space Resources Governance Working Group (WG). The objective of the WG is to create a framework and building blocks that will get people (nations) talking with each other, allowing stakeholders to bring their viewpoints to the table. In addition, there is a technical panel as well to address issues and foster discussion relating to space resources.

I had the pleasure to speak with and interview Giuseppe Reibaldi. Giuseppe has an extensive 35 plus years experience working within the space sector. He is currently serving as the Executive Secretary of the WG and he’s the President of the Moon Village Workshop, a newly created NGO, based in Vienna, Austria.

Giuseppe Reibaldi

Promoting a collaborative environment in which all nations can have a voice at the table is a view that Giuseppe shares. And he shares the same concerns in not promoting or encouraging a Wild Wild West type of culture.

I would like to thank Giuseppe for his participation in the interview and for addressing my written questions, which are as follows:   

Astropreneurs:  I understand that The Hague is the seat of cabinet for the Netherlands. Many foreign embassies and international jurisdiction courts are located there. However, please explain why the Space Resources Governance Working Group was placed in the city, given there are similar cities with complimentary services like The Hague.

Giuseppe Reibaldi:  The establishment of the Working Group (WG) is rooted on my initiative to convene a Roundtable discussion in december 2014, at The Hague Global Justice Institute about the Governance of Space Mineral Resources. At this meeting were present representative of government, industry, academia. The conclusions were that the existing governance status of space resources was unclear and there was a need to create a Working Group to progress this issue. The need to create this informal and multistakeholder WG was also supported by the lack of progress on this topic in the frame of the COPUOS.
In 2015, I entered in discussion to create the WG with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Prof. Lefevre) and the University of Leiden (Prof. Zwaan-Masson). They supported my suggestion and it was decided to create the multistakeholder The Hague Space Resource Governance Working Group since its origin was rooted in the Roundtable held in The Hague. It tooks few months to get it started and the official start was in January 2016. I hope this clarifies the name. The phase 1 was 2016-17 and the phase 2 will be 2018-19.

Astropreneurs: What activities or organizations can you or others envision that may be built upon the framework or building blocks of the Working Group’s endeavors?

Giuseppe Reibaldi: The purpose of the Working Group is the identification of building blocks that could be used as basis for potential future negotiations on the establishment of an international framework for the governance of space resources. The Group will be considering possible fora or activities, where the discussion on space resources governance could continue beyond its scope. Several international organizations, including the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs are participating as observers, while some are also represented in the membership. This shows the intention on behalf of the WG and of the international community to initiate more concrete talks on the subject.
The WG has also engaged in outreach to raise awareness on the draft building blocks. It has participated in several international events to present its status report. The Dutch delegation is regularly providing an update during the UNCOPUOS LSC sessions with the purpose of informing any interested party and promoting the discussion on the governance of space resources. It is also encouraging its consortium partners, as well as its members and observers, to expand this outreach and organise events in their respective regions.
Moreover, in the phase 2, started in January 2018, a Technical Panel was established within the Group, aiming at creating a platform for technical discussions  to verify the validity of the draft building blocks. This will contribute to the Working Group becoming a multidisciplinary platform among stakeholders on the progress and issues related to the use of space resources.

Astropreneurs: In the introduction section of the booklet, the first sentence states the following: “The utilization of space resources has great potential for the future of humankind.” Please provide an example of what a great potential looks like for humankind. What are the measurements of success or failure?

Giuseppe Reibaldi: For humankind, Space Resources are for the exploration beyond LEO, the same as Communication/Navigation/Earth Observation is for LEO space application. The common denominator is the involvement of private industries beside the government, and this is multiplying the investment in space. Space Exploration can be sustainable for humankind only if space resources can create wealth and virtuous cycles of investments. All countries in the world must benefit from the Space Resources and this is what the future agreement should aim to.

Astropreneurs: How can someone participate or be involved as an observer with the Working Group?

Giuseppe Reibaldi: The number of members to the WG is limited to 35. To achieve the greatest level of transparency, the Group issued an open call for members for its second phase in late 2017. There is no limit to the number of observers. Any interested party can apply to become observer at any point in the duration of the second phase in 2018-2019, by sending an email with a CV and a short description of their involvement with space resources.

Astropreneurs: Within the booklet, under the third section entitled “Scope” it reads: “The International framework should address space resources activities within the solar system.” My questions is: Has there been a survey conducted to determine the potential value of the Solar System economy? Or at least the inner Solar System potential economic value?

Giuseppe Reibaldi:  The mention on the Solar System in the text of the building blocks was made considering the foreseeable technological capabilities, as well as the need to define space resources without excluding any fundamental element.

Astropreneurs: How were the consortium partners chosen/selected/qualified?

Giuseppe Reibaldi: The Consortium partners represent academical non-governmental organizations from around the world. In reaching out to potential partners, there was an effort to combine entities from each continent. In this regard, one of the criteria was the connection with space resource activities and the intention to support the activities of the Group by expanding outreach in their region. The Working Group is open for other partners to join, provided that the current partners do not object.

Astropreneurs: How will the framework or building blocks be different from or compliment existing space related treaties?

Giuseppe Reibaldi: One of the fundamental provisions included in the draft building blocks is the accordance with the existing space treaties. In this sense, the purpose of the building blocks is to compliment the current framework by providing interpretation of its terms and accounting for matters that might not be specified in the treaties (e.g. what is a celestial body, what constitutes a space resource, etc).

Astropreneurs: Within the sections 10 and 11 in the booklet the phrase “harmful impact” is mentioned several times. Please shed some light on this phrase. What does it mean? What does it look like? Is it regarding mining fracking accidents, asteroids collision during in-situ removal, etc.?

Giuseppe Reibaldi: During the formulation of the draft building blocks, particular attention was paid to the avoidance of any harmful impact resulting from space resource activities. Towards this end, building block nine elaborates on examples of such impact, including but not limited to safety of people, protection of the environment, and respect to property.

Astropreneurs: Section 13, E, IV of the booklet states the following: “[…] any phenomena discovered in outer space which could endanger human life or health, as well as of any indication of life.” Does this mean that if there is other life in the universe, protection from harmful impact will be brought to them? Am I correct in my understanding? Please elaborate on this subject.

Giuseppe Reibaldi: This expression under the title “Registration and Sharing of Information” suggests that the international framework on space resources activities encourages States and organisations to share information in regards to their activities. Such information could relate to potential risks for humans or indication of life. This provision is in accordance with the duty to inform of the Outer Space Treaty.

Astropreneurs: Also, if intelligent life is discovered and it is realized that treaties/agreements are already in effect, what are our responsibilities in honoring those treaties/agreements?

Giuseppe Reibaldi:  This topic has not been discussed within the Working Group. The provisions of the space treaties provide for damages caused to people on Earth or in outer space, as well as the rescue and return of astronauts.

Astropreneurs: Who created the initiative for the project plan, who approved it, and where did it come from? All this info is stated in the Final Report document.

Giuseppe Reibaldi: The project plan was drafted by the Secretariat and was presented to members to comment. The project plan defines the purposes and the activities of the Working Group and includes terms of reference for its work.

Astropreneurs: Who established the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)? And what is the content of the MoU?

Giuseppe Reibaldi: The Memorandum of Understanding defines the modus operandi of the Consortium and it was drafted by the Secretariat. The Consortium is the platform to operate the Working Group and is signed by all consortium partners. The MoU was concluded according to the mutual desire to initiate cooperation and in order to cooperate in further developing the draft building blocks and raising awareness on the activities of the Group. It includes general provisions on the areas of collaboration, its implementation and evaluation, and the representation of each of the partners. It was drafted by the Secretariat and agreed upon by the partners: the International Institute of Air and Space Law of Leiden University (The Netherlands), the Catholic University of Santos (Brazil); the Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law of the Melbourne Law School (Australia); the Indonesian Centre for Air and Space Law of Padjajaran University (Indonesia); the Secure World Foundation (USA); SpaceLab of the University of Cape Town (South Africa); the University of Luxembourg (Luxembourg); the Nishimura Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (Japan); and The Tenth to Ninth Foundation (USA)

The WG and the Moon Village organizations were initiated under the guidance of Giuseppe, promoting global collaboration amongst all nations.

This article is a second of several series of articles written with the space entrepreneur in mind. The objective is to provoke, investigate, explore, promote, encourage, and assistance in establishing a healthy and sustainable space economy within the solar system and beyond.

Posted by Michael Clanton