Mining the Starry Skies: The Intersection of Environmental Law & Space Law

July 30, 2020 12:00 pm — 2:00 pm
Webinar Only

An ELI Public Webinar

On December 7, 1972 the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft took a picture of Earth from 18,000 miles away. This image of planet Earth, known as the Blue Marble, became one of the most famous images to date. Inspired by the image, a surge of environmental activism took place, enlarging the young and growing environmental movement. This movement led to the development of modern environmental law in the United States.

Now almost five decades later, there has been a resurgence in space exploration, at a time when climate change, natural disasters, and a deregulatory environment are putting the environmental health of the planet in continued peril.

Why the renewed interest? With an ever-growing population and dependence on natural resources, companies, government, and academia are beginning to look increasingly to possibilities for space mining. The passage of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 has led to an uptick in interest in asteroid mining, as the act allows for U.S. citizens and corporations to engage in the commercial exploration and exploitation of space resources.

In relatively unchartered territory this begs the question: what can space law learn from environmental law? How can exploitation of natural resources beyond Earth’s orbit help or hinder environmental protection in the United States? What factors are at play and guiding decisionmakers on future plans for space exploration? Our panelists explored these questions and examined the intersection of environmental law and space law.

Heather Bloemhard, Ph.D.
, Assistant Director for Federal Relations, Office of Federal Relations, Vanderbilt University & former Science & Technology Policy Fellow, Defense Laboratories Office, Department of Defense (DOD), American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and John. N Bahcall Public Policy Fellow, American Astronomical Society, Moderator
Angel Abbud-Madrid, Ph.D., Director, Center for Space Resources, and Director, Space Resources Graduate Program, Colorado School of Mines; President, Space Resources Roundtable; and Observer & Technical Panel Member, The Hague International Space Resources Governance Working Group
Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, Environmental Geologist & Consultant, Geosyntec Consultants and former Astronaut, NASA
Gabriel Swiney, Attorney Adviser, U.S. Department of State

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