Is there an ethical aspect to mining the moon? A recent article in the International Business Times UK seems to think there is. It quotes Tony Milligan, who teaches ethics at King's College London as stating, in an argument against #lunar mining, “"The main argument against is that some sort of damage will be done, and that we either have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the Moon or we have worries about justice and entitlements. We maybe destroying something of cultural significance. It is the common heritage of mankind that should be there for future generations."
One has to wonder what exactly is Milligan talking about? The moon has been damaged continuously over billions of years by meteor and comet strikes, creating craters and scarring its landscape.
The efforts of a number of mining companies to extract water, helium 3, and platinum group metals are hardly going to add to that damage in any significant way. The moon is still going to shine in the night sky as it has since the dawn of time, only people will be living on it. The rest of us on Earth will likely be able to spot the lights of a lunar settlement through telescopes.
Of course, these things are not likely to be argued out by people with a scientific background, but by lawyers in service of agendas. The late Sir Arthur C. Clarke once joked that in the future groups will be fighting tooth and nail to preserve the pristine environment of the moon. The time is rapidly approaching that the prospect will no longer be a joke but a headache for people who would like to see commercial development help pay for the exploration of space.
The United States recently tried to decide the matter by passing legislation that allows for mining companies such as Moon Express to keep the material they extract from the moon and other celestial bodies.
The law has had a mixed reaction, with Americans generally in favor and some others reacting negatively.
Clearly, something had to be done to forestall legal and political attempts to block space mining operations. Perhaps it is time to amend the #outer space treaty to allow for the commercial development of space, something few if any people thought about in 1967 when the original agreement was passed. President Donald Trump seems keen on returning to trade agreements such as NAFTA. Perhaps he should turn his attention to the Outer Space Treaty as well.