As described in the April 2nd posting titled "Homesteading the Final Frontier" on the Competitive Enterprise Institute website, Simberg (who is listed as an "adjunct scholar" for the institute) mentions both the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space including the Moon and other Celestial Bodies (also known as the 1967 Outer Space Treaty) and the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (also known as the 1979 Moon Treaty) as being intentionally structured to make it "difficult to raise funds for extraterrestrial ventures, despite the abundant resources on the Moon and on asteroids, including metals with high value on Earth."
According to Simberg, the real solution to space access is a question of legislation and not of technology. Even better, only two pieces of legislation need to be directly dealt with:
- First of all, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty needs to be formally re-interpreted as only prohibiting declarations of national sovereignty and not as prohibiting private property in outer space. This is already a reasonable and common (although not universal) interpretation of the treaty as outlined in my February 5th, 2010 post "Feedback on 'The Men Who've Sold the Moon.'"
- Secondly, a new federal law (instead of an international treaty) needs to be passed to provide national recognition of land and property claims off planet under specified conditions relating to access and utilization. This would allow the land to be used as loan collateral or as an asset to be sold to raise the funds needed for development in much the same way that funds are currently raised for mining exploration. The specifics of the land claims process could even be taken from the existing mining legislation as it covers land claims.
This is, of course, not the first time that legislation traditionally associated with the mining industry has been perceived of as being a suitable legal framework for outer space activities. As outlined in my June 20th, 2010 article "Mining as a Model for the Commercial Space Industry," many Canadians have been coming to substantially the same conclusions.
But that doesn't mean the sentiment is universal. The April 5th Mail Online article with the inflammatory title of "Billionaires should be allowed to BUY up planets and rip up an out-of-date space treaty, claims expert" states that a move of this type would "would mark a huge change in how mankind sees space and could open up the galaxy to a debacle akin to the Colonial era ‘Scramble for Africa’."
Whether or not future Martian history ends up resembling the 1964 historical war film "Zulu" is something that would seem best left until after we've discovered whether or not life exists on the planet. The key here is to remember that a simple change in legislation can make that day come dramatically sooner.