Public lecture “Mining, Tourism and Settlements in Outer Space: The Next Frontier”

The Festival was opened on 2nd May with a public lecture delivered by SCELG member Dr Saskia Vermeylen, who explored ethical and legal questions around natural resource development in the outer space. Saskia’s lecture compared different legal discourses in the Outer Space Treaty (1966) and the Moon Agreement (1979) and contrasted them with the frontier ‘myth’ in science fiction literature to find answers to the question ‘who owns the Moon?’ A video recording of her lecture will be soon available on the SCELG Youtube channel (meanwhile, you can download the Presentation by Saskia Vermeylen, read her blog post or listen to a 30 minute programme to which Saskia contributed for the BBC).

The ensuing discussion focused on finding the right balance in international law between regulating an activity for the benefit of humankind and providing incentives for scientific and technological advances, and on lessons that can be drawn from the law of the sea (in particular deep seabed mining and the ongoing negotiations of a new treaty on marine biodiversity, in which SCELG is involved.)

Saskia’s research focuses on how to govern future mining activities in outer space in an equitable and sustainable manner through an international regime that opposes individualistic and unilateral visions of exploitation, and rather benefit humankind. She advocates strengthening the role of the United Nations as a governing body that sets out the rules and principles that should govern any activities in outer space. Sharing the benefits and technological advancements between space-faring and non-space-faring nations or between developed and developing countries should be at the heart of any commercial space initiative. She highlighted that developing a new resource frontier in a sustainable and equitable manner demands a radical change in the dominant governing principles of sovereignty and private property. These questions are explored in the incubator on Law and Governance of the Global Commons led by Saskia Vermeylen.

The video recording of Dr Vermeylen's talk is available on the SCELG YouTube channel.