Outer space capitalism: The legal and technical challenges facing the private space industry

The private sector may need the Outer Space Treaty to be updated before it can make any claims to celestial bodies or their resources.

  • The Outer Space Treaty, which was signed in 1967, is the basis of international space law. Its regulations set out what nations can and cannot do, in terms of colonization and enterprise in space.
  • One major stipulation of the treaty is that no nation can individually claim or colonize any part of the universe—when the US planted a flag on the Moon in 1969, it took great pains to ensure the world it was symbolic, not an act of claiming territory.
  • Essentially to do anything in space, as a private enterprise, you have to be able to make money. When it comes to asteroid mining, for instance, it would be "astronomically" expensive to set up such an industry. The only way to get around this would be if the resources being extracted were so rare you could sell them for a fortune on Earth.
Keep reading Show less

Experts decide to try knocking an asteroid off course

Before the next big, dangerous, incoming rock arrives.

Image source: NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab
  • A NASA/ESA project plans to try and change the path of an extraterrestrial body.
  • The target is the moon of a binary asteroid almost 7 million miles away.
  • Science is getting serious about planetary defense.
Keep reading Show less

What is the massive thing under the Moon’s surface?

A surprise on the far side of the Moon.

Image source: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona
  • Scientists detect a gigantic, underground, metallic anomaly down a crater on the Moon.
  • "Whatever it is, wherever it came from," it looks to be billions of years old.
  • It's probably the remains of an asteroid that hit the Moon.
Keep reading Show less

Found in Antarctica: A 'weirdo particle' that predates the sun

A tiny grain found within a meteorite in Antarctica sheds light on how the solar system itself came to be.

NASA, ESA, H. Bond (STScI) and M. Barstow (University of Leicester)
  • Researchers cut open a small meteorite found in the LaPaz icefield in Antarctica to uncover a very surprising find.
  • Inside this meteorite was a small inclusion that they determined came directly from the nova of a white dwarf to Earth.
  • By studying the inclusion's composition, researchers were able to glean new insights into the thermodynamics of white dwarf novae, ultimately shedding light onto how solar systems like ours formed.
Keep reading Show less

A new theory explains Jupiter’s perplexing origin

A new computer model solves a pair of Jovian riddles.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill)
  • Astronomers have wondered how a gas giant like Jupiter could sit in the middle of our solar system's planets.
  • Also unexplained has been the pair of asteroid clusters in front of and behind Jupiter in its orbit.
  • Putting the two questions together revealed the answer to both.
Keep reading Show less