Journal of Physics Research and Applications

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The Ethics of Resource Extraction In Space: A Normative Essay

The expansion of mankind in Space will eventually lead to the need for resource extraction on places different from earth. For the few who would succeed, the monetary gains from space mining are promising but inevitably, such activities will bring about substantial consequences to the celestial bodies they are conducted on and to the political-economical scene of the parties involved. Thus, a new set of moral interrogatives needs to be dealt with. This paper reflects, from a utilitarian perspective, on whether it is ethical or not to exploit extraterrestrial resources and tries to produce moral norms on the matter. The main research question is analyzed with respect to three crucial aspects: Environmental consequences, interaction with possible forms of life and the political-economical setting around resource extraction in space. Reflections, argumentations, and claims are backed up or confronted with already existing theories and positions of other authors. Altogether, we concluded that the extraction and usage of the resources of another celestial body is ethical only when: 1) It is regulated enough to avoid the destruction of naturalistic, aesthetically or culturally valuable environments; 2) It does not interfere (or at least, it tries to deal) with existing or possible future forms of life, which ought to be protected with ad-hoc legislation; 3) It is regulated to prevent tensions that would likely arise between countries that want to access specific resources-rich sites, issuing laws able to avoid conflicts and a possible economic collapse. To summarize, we identified the concept of responsible innovation as the key director for future policies that will need to be established when space resource extraction becomes a reality.

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