The “space resources law” was passed by a majority in the Upper House plenary session and went into effect on June 15. The law allows private sector ownership of resources collected in space, including on the Moon. With countries including Japan planning to explore the Moon and Mars, the law aims to clarify the rules for ownership of resources to facilitate private companies’ entry into the space industry.
The law defines natural resources from space, such as water and minerals, as “space resources” and allows private companies to own them. Companies must submit a project proposal stating the purpose and method of collecting space resources and submit it to the government for the prime minister’s approval.
In recent years, it has become clear that the Moon has an abundance of water that can be used as rocket fuel. The U.S. and China are planning to build manned bases for resource exploration, and some companies have begun the business of sending rovers to space.
The United Nations’ Outer Space Treaty, which stipulates the principles of outer space use, prohibits nations from having territories in space but includes no rules for the ownership of resources. For this reason, discussions on the formulation of international rules on resources are underway at the United Nations. The U.S. and Luxembourg have established domestic laws that recognize ownership.
The space resources law stipulates that “[Japan] not unduly harm the interests of other countries.” Kobayashi Takayuki, a House of Representatives member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) who spearheaded the legislation, said, “We will develop a domestic law that emphasizes international cooperation to enable Japan to lead the formulation of international rules in order to prevent disorderly development [of space].”
Gakushuin University professor Soichiro Kozuka, who is familiar with laws on space, pointed out that “the worldwide establishment of the idea that countries should not interfere in the activities of other countries will become a deterrent that will prevent conflicts with China.”