Research, probing, monitoring hurricane Florence raging on the coast. Satellite above the Earth makes measurements of the weather parameters. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics amended the reauthorization legislation for NASA to include U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton’s proposal for a Space Resources Institute.

“It’s critical that there be a federal framework to guide future innovators looking to explore regions beyond Earth,” Tipton said. “Colorado has long served as a gateway for aeronautical research and development, and this legislation will ensure this role continues for years to come.”

The institute, as the legislation directs NASA to design, would be aimed at “maintaining United States preeminence in space.” The primary mechanism would be the research and development of space resources, which the bill defines as abiotic, nonliving resources. On Earth, those would include land, air, water and fuel.

Specifically, the development and extraction of fuel sources in space could lead to “more affordable and safe human spaceflight missions to the Moon and Mars,” Tipton pointed out in announcing the legislation last February.

However, the five-decade-old Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies may be a hindrance to such goals. The treaty contains a provision that outer space “is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.” It is unclear whether extraction of resources would violate the treaty, an analysis in the Global Policy Journal pointed out.

U.S. Reps. Ed Perlmutter and Doug Lamborn were cosponsors of the bill.

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