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Photo: NASA

On Monday, President Trump signed an executive order to shore up international support for mining the Moon or other bodies in the solar system.

Why it matters: The executive order affirms NASA's hopes to one day mine the Moon for water, which can then be converted into rocket fuel, and establish a long-term presence on the lunar surface sometime after its Artemis mission in 2024.

  • The order also further opens the door for commercial companies that hope to one day mine the Moon and other bodies in the solar system for resources of their own.

Details: The executive order directs the State Department to find international partners that are interested in collaborating with the U.S. on creating "sustainable operations" related to commercial use of space-based resources.

  • "Last year, the U.S. and Luxembourg signed an agreement to support utilizing space resources consistent with international law," space industry analyst Laura Seward Forczyk told Axios. "Today’s executive order broadens that policy position to all international space players."
  • The order also affirms America's commitment to the 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treaty, which prevents nations from laying claim to celestial bodies but doesn't forbid companies and countries from using any resources they harvest in space.
"Providing private operators legal certainty in space resources utilization activities will require international consultation. This action is a step towards that process, and will support active U.S. leadership in bilateral and multilateral efforts to resolve legal uncertainties around space resources utilization."
— Ian Christensen, of the Secure World Foundation, told Axios via email

But, but, but: Scientists still aren't sure how much water exists below the surface of the Moon or what form it's in.

  • NASA's Lunar Viper rover, expected to launch to the Moon in 2023, will help characterize and map that water ahead of the Artemis missions.

Go deeper ... Deep Dive: Factory Moon

Go deeper

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

McConnell drops filibuster demand, paving way for power-sharing deal

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (R) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attend a joint session of Congress. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has abandoned his demand that Democrats state, in writing, that they would not abandon the legislative filibuster.

Between the lines: McConnell was never going to agree to a 50-50 power sharing deal without putting up a fight over keeping the 60-vote threshold. But the minority leader ultimately caved after it became clear that delaying the organizing resolution was no longer feasible.

5 hours ago - Technology

Scoop: Google won't donate to members of Congress who voted against election results

Sen. Ted Cruz led the group of Republicans who opposed certifying the results. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Google will not make contributions from its political action committee this cycle to any member of Congress who voted against certifying the results of the presidential election, following the deadly Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Several major businesses paused or pulled political donations following the events of Jan. 6, when pro-Trump rioters, riled up by former President Trump, stormed the Capitol on the day it was to certify the election results.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Minority Mitch still setting Senate agenda

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Chuck Schumer may be majority leader, yet in many ways, Mitch McConnell is still running the Senate show — and his counterpart is about done with it.

Why it matters: McConnell rolled over Democrats unapologetically, and kept tight control over his fellow Republicans, while in the majority. But he's showing equal skill as minority leader, using political jiujitsu to convert a perceived weakness into strength.