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Copyright (c) 2010 University of Nebraska
Nebraska Law Review

ARTICLE: Towards a New Regime for Exploitation of Outer Space Mineral Resources


Nebraska Law Review

88 Neb. L. Rev. 794


Leslie I. Tennen, Esq.*


The potential threat posed by a Near Earth Object ("NEO") colliding with this planet has garnered increased attention in recent years. The concept of planetary defense to NEO threats is in the early stages of development, and considers different approaches, including deflection or destruction of the object, or consumption of its materials resulting in the alteration of its trajectory. 1 The primary focus of the response to an NEO threat would be for the defense of the planet, and utilization and exploitation of the natural resources of the object would be a secondary consideration. Nevertheless, economic benefits could provide a driver for the proactive development of deflection/protection technologies prior to the advent of a planetary emergency. 2 From a legal perspective, the question which this Article addresses is whether the natural resources of NEOs can be utilized for commercial exploitation.

The exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is governed by the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. 3 This instrument of positive international law sets forth the basic legal charter which has governed all space activities conducted in the past four decades. The provisions of the Outer Space Treaty have been supplemented by subsequent international agreements, 4 including the Moon Agreement of 1979. 5

Foremost among the provisions of the Outer Space Treaty is the non-appropriation principle of article II, which proclaims: "Outer space, including the Moon and other ...
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