Scientists call for outer space to be protected from human exploitation

With human exploitation leading to resources becoming increasingly scarce on earth, scientists are advocating that the solar system should be saved from the same fate. As reported by The Guardian, scientists are calling for up to 85 percent of the solar system to be preserved as 'space wilderness' to protect it from human exploration. Martin Elvis, senior astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said, “If we don’t think about this now, we will go ahead as we always have, and in a few hundred years we will face an extreme crisis, much worse than we have on Earth now.”

In recent years, space mining companies have set their sights on mining everything from water on the moon to iron and minerals in asteroids. In the UK, the Asteroid Mining Corporation (AMC) is “on a mission to exploit the potential of an off-Earth commercial market.” Any move to protect outer space akin the environmental protections on Earth would vastly limit the resources and profits left for space companies to mine minerals and metals. However, some argue that extracting minerals and materials from outer space could actually help protect and save the environment. For example, water ice on the moon could be used as fuel for probes to be launched from there instead of from Earth. In a recent edition of Acta Astronautica, it is even suggested that Mars could deserve similar protection to that of the Grand Canyon on Earth.

As the mining of minerals and metals has the ability to become the next gold rush, the solar system is set to become prime real estate. With environmental movements across the world dedicated to furthering climate change action here on earth, how long will it be before protesters are demanding preservation rights for the moon?


Other authors: Katherine Wood, Trainee Solicitor, Hogan Lovells Birmingham


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