US Government Reportedly Mulling Commercial Prospects on the Moon

Helium leak detector

Currently, leak testing is an important service for a number of industries, as it provides quality assurance, checks a product’s integrity and more. However, leak testing methods are arguably most valuable to the aerospace industry, where even the smallest margin of error can mean the difference between life and death. While helium leak testing equipment has traditionally been used to test aerospace products, other options like Mass Extraction and air leak tests are increasingly being selected to check everything from turbine engines to oxygen systems. Now, it is likely that this will only continue as the United States government begins preparing to encourage commercial development of the moon.

According to documents obtained by Reuters, American companies can now stake claims to lunar territory through an existing program for space launches. The Federal Aviation Administration has reportedly discussed the possibility of developing commercial activities on the moon with companies that include Bigelow Aerospace. However, in their conversations with Bigelow, the FAA did note that the U.S. State Department is reportedly concerned that the nation’s current regulatory structure is ill-equipped to handle the prospect of these commercial aerospace endeavors.

The State Department’s concerns are believed to derive from the 1967 United Nations Outer Space treaty, which governs activities on the moon, among other things. The treaty, in part, requires countries to supervise non-governmental organizations who operate in space. As a result, the FAA says it has only agreed to review Bigelow’s operations to consider a future launch license request. However, the discussion has been carefully preserved in letters between the company and several government agencies, including NASA, allowing the administration to document a serious proposal that could lead to a policy change.

The United Nations Outer Space Treaty also bans nuclear weapons in space, bans national claims to planets and other celestial bodies, and holds that space exploration and development should benefits all countries, reasonable stipulations all. However, because outer space is governed only by an almost 50 year old document, there is potentially plenty of room to consider numerous commercial possibilities. It seems that this process has already begun: Bigelow recently partnered with NASA to test inflatable space habitats meant to facilitate life on Mars. Will space as a business soon become a reality? Will companies continue to turn to mass extraction over helium leak testing equipment in light of this change? Only time will tell.