In the spring of 2000, I wrote a paper for my Space Law class. The title of the paper was “Beam Me Up Scotty – There’s No Intelligent Life Down Here!” It was an analysis of the applicable law in a “first contact” situation. (I know, pretty dorky, right?)
But I’ve a lifelong love of things sci-fi and this week’s news gave me renewed hope that space travel might be a commonplace occurrence in my lifetime.
A new law expected to pass presidential approval this week would exempt private spaceflight ventures from a wide range of government oversight. H.R. 2262, which has been passed by both the House and Senate (they’re currently “resolving their differences”), would exempt private space travel ventures like Blue Origin, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic from federal regulation for the next eight years. The bill helps ameliorate their fears that close oversight by the FAA or other government agencies will seriously slow innovation.
In general, I’m all for government oversight, but I’m willing to set that aside in this instance. SPACEFLIGHT people!
There appears to be a second benefit in H.R. 2262, primarily for private space exploration ventures. In addition to expanding the lifespan of the International Space Station into the 2020s, it will also give commercial firms the rights to resources they extract from asteroids and other space bodies. This is huge news for companies that plan to mine for rare minerals on asteroids.
Under the new bill, the FAA will still have some oversight to regulate commercial space travel, such as issuing rocket launch licenses.
In all honestly, I’m probably much more excited by this stuff than I ought to be, but given that I carry around what is effectively a Star Trek communicator in my pocket, and I can access all the knowledge of humanity on that device with a few simple commands – I’m disappointed that I can’t Uber myself a flight to the moon yet. Here’s hoping that it happens soon!