Marking Policy for New Asteroid Activities: In Pursuit of Science, Settlement, Security, or Sales?


Several national governments have recently taken substantial steps toward creating policies that apply to new, path-breaking activities at asteroids in outer space. Near-term activities on asteroids are likely to be various, including mining initiated by private firms and planetary defense activities pursued by public agencies. Current perspectives on making policy toward asteroid activities often presume that the different goals pursued by actors interested in asteroids are mutually supportive and that diverse actors' common focus on asteroids builds momentum for creating an enabling policy environment. In contrast, we argue that the four main categories of asteroid activities envisioned today – scientific research (science), human settlement of other parts of the solar system (settlement), planetary defense (security), and mining (sales) – are best served by policy regimes with distinct features. Different activities require different policy arrangements, which are not straightforwardly compatible. The incompatibilities present policymakers with trade-offs. This paper discusses the four main types of asteroid activities and their related policy needs to highlight these trade-offs and influence debate.


History and Political Science


Alanna Krolikowski thanks the Fairbank Center at Harvard for hosting the informal Space Policy Discussion Forum at which this work was first presented and thanks the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (fellowship # 756-2012-0543) and the China Institute at the University of Alberta for making continued work on this project possible.

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Publication Date

01 Feb 2019