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引领新一轮太空竞赛的欧洲袖珍小国卢森堡

更新时间:2018-8-1 21:01:48 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The tiny nation leading a new space race
引领新一轮太空竞赛的欧洲袖珍小国卢森堡

As a new space race gathers pace, many tech executives have sold Mars as humankind’s off-Earth destiny. But they may be looking too far afield. Our most immediate chance for life-beyond-Earth lies much closer, a path likely to be blazed by far lesser-known companies.

新一轮的太空竞赛进程加快,很多科技专家宣称,除了地球,火星是人类可能的居住地。他们可能有些舍近求远。一些不太知名的公司开辟了一条新路,人类想要在除了地球以外的星球生存,其实有更近的选择。

Building colonies on the Moon will “provide a blueprint to Mars”, Nasa scientists say. The men and women who will found these lunar settlements will in all likelihood be employed by small private mining companies, not tech tycoons. Many of these companies are connected to the tiny EU nation of Luxembourg.

美国国家航空航天局的科学家称,开发月球为移居火星描绘了蓝图。在月球居住的人可能并非就职于科技巨头企业,而是小型私人采矿公司。许多公司都和欧盟小国卢森堡有关。

Amazingly, Nasa believes such Moon colonies could be established within the next four years.

令人吃惊的是,美国国家航空航天局认为,月球殖民地在接下来的四年内就有可能建成。

Takeshi Hakamada is one of those trying to boldly return to where humanity has set foot. This time, however, there is a much more commercial dream in mind: to scour the Moon for profitable mineral and gaseous resources, as well as life-sustaining lunar water.

有些人野心勃勃地想要重返人类曾踏足的月球,袴田(Takeshi Hakamada)就是其中之一。但是,这一次的想法有些商业化:为了开发矿产和天然气资源,以及寻找人类赖以生存的水资源。

Hakamada is the CEO of ispace, a private space exploration company based in Tokyo, which also has a presence in Luxembourg. It plans to complete a lunar orbit in 2020, and then attempt a soft lunar landing in 2021.

袴田是ispace的首席执行官, ispace是一家东京的私人航天公司,在卢森堡也有办公室。该公司计划于2020年完成绕月环行,2021年尝试在月球软着陆。

“Our first two missions will act as a demonstration of our technology. From there, we will begin to establish a high-frequency transportation service to bring customer payloads to the moon,” he says. “If we find water resources on the Moon, we can develop a whole new resource industry in space.” The discovery of a frozen water basin would be a monumental moment for our species, as it would allow humans to stay off Earth for longer periods.

他说,"前两个任务主要是展示我们的技术能力,此后,我们会提供地月间高频次的运输服务,向月球输送大量旅客。如果在月球上发现了水资源,我们能在太空开发新资源,并形成产业。水冰陨坑的发现是人类历史上里程碑性的时刻,让人类长期远离地球有了可能。"

Hakamada is far from alone in his cosmic ambitions. There now are 10 space-mining companies (including ispace) legally domiciled in Luxembourg since the launch of the country’s space resources law in February 2016. This was fuelled by a fund worth $223m (200m euros/£176m). For these space ventures, the Moon is one of two primary targets being considered; commercial ventures also are eyeing near-Earth asteroids for mining metallic resources (as covered in this recent story on BBC Future). Between the Moon and an estimated 16,000 near-Earth asteroids, the resources available could be rich enough to produce the world’s first trillionaire, some experts – including renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson – have said.

拥有这样的野心探索宇宙的,远不止袴田一人。自卢森堡2016年2月颁布太空资源法以来,已有10家太空采矿公司(包括ispace)在卢森堡合法落户,还有2.23亿美元(2亿欧元或1.76亿英镑)的资金支持。对于这些太空企业来说,月球是两个主要考虑对象之一。商业企业也将目光锁定在近地小行星,以开采其金属矿产资源(见"BBC未来"最近的报道)。一些专家,包括知名的天体物理学家泰森(Neil deGrasse Tyson)称,月球和约16,000个近地小行星上的丰富资源足以造就地球上首个万亿富翁。

The current space race sped up after Luxembourg launched its 2016 law. This made it the second country in the world after the US to provide a comprehensive legal framework for the exploitation of resources beyond our planet. “Since February 2016, we interacted with almost 200 companies that have contacted us,” says Paul Zenners, a representative of Luxembourg’s ministry of economy, which runs the government’s SpaceResources.lu initiative.

2016年卢森堡颁布法案以来,当前的太空竞赛加速了。卢森堡成为继美国之后第二个对开发地球以外的资源制定全面法律框架的国家。泽纳斯(Paul Zenners)是卢森堡经济部的代表,也是政府太空资源项目的负责人,他说:"自2016年2月以来,我们已经与近200家联系过我们的企业进行了沟通。"

Luxembourg’s space framework has important differences to that of the US. The latter’s law requires companies to have more than 50% of US-backed equity, while Luxembourg sees no such limitation. The wealthy Grand Duchy, ranked the richest nation in the world by per capita GDP according to the IMF, also has been accused by some of being a tax haven. It does offer a range of tax incentives and benefits, including extremely low rates for the repatriation of capital.

卢森堡的太空开发框架与美国的非常不同。后者需要美国公司持有50%以上的股份,而卢森堡则没有这样的限制。根据国际货币基金组织的数据,卢森堡是人均国民生产总值最高、世界上最富裕的国家,也被一些人指责为避税天堂。卢森堡的确有一系列的税收减免和优惠政策,包括超低的资本汇回率。

Luxembourg’s 2016 entrance into the space resources race had the effect of attracting the US’s largest companies in the field, including Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, a US-based firm that counts Sir Richard Branson and Google co-founder Larry Page as backers. Planetary Resources, one of the oldest players in the private space industry, sold a $28m (£21.2m) stake to the Grand Duchy. The exact equity amount has never been disclosed, but the firm’s chief acknowledges Luxembourg is one of the biggest investors.

卢森堡2016年加入太空资源竞赛以来已经吸引了美国该领域最大的公司,包括深空工业(Deep Space Industries)和行星资源(Planetary Resources)公司,行星资源得到了英国大亨布兰森(Richard Branson)和谷歌创始人之一佩奇(Larry Page)的支持。行星资源作为最早涉足太空产业的私人公司,卢森堡收购了其2800万美元(2120万英镑)的股份。具体的股本金额未曾披露,但是该公司的首席执行官承认卢森堡是最大的投资者之一。

Luxembourg’s Space Resources Act opened a floodgate for investment, with the ministry of economy now saying the space industry accounts for some 1.8% of the nation’s GDP, the highest ratio of any EU country.

卢森堡的太空资源法案打开了投资的大门,经济部称太空产业约占卢森堡国民生产总值的1.8%,欧盟国家无出其右。

Despite the investment, space mining is an industry that simultaneously highlights ambiguous legal pitfalls.

尽管吸引了许多投资,太空采矿业同时也暴露了一些模糊的法律缺陷。

“It is not clear whether international space law allows for a country to grant property rights to natural resources extracted in space,” a study by Allen and Overy, a Luxembourg-based law firm, found. After the US approved the world’s first space mining law in 2015, Russia was one of the countries to raise objections.

卢森堡的安理律师事务所(Allen and Overy)研究称:"国际太空法是否允许一个国家对太空获取的自然资源拥有所有权,目前尚不清楚。"美国2015年通过世界首部太空采矿法后,俄罗斯等国提出反对。

To understand the ambiguity of space, we have to go back to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST), a Cold War-era accord prohibiting the national appropriation of celestial bodies. Essentially, space is treated as common ground, not unlike Antarctica. Military development is extremely limited in space by the OST, which was signed by 105 countries. In order to pull off President Trump's recently trumpeted Space Force, Washington would have to exit the OST, further isolating the US.

要明白太空的模糊性,我们需要回顾1967年的外太空条约。该条约诞生于冷战时期,禁止国家私自占有天体空间。太空和南极一样,都被视为共有空间。105个国家签署了该条约,发展太空军事受到严格限制。美国总统特朗普最近鼓吹建立太空军,美国因此不得不退出外太空条约,此举进一步孤立了美国。

But the OST noticeably overlooks any reference to the ownership of resources, an omission that the US and Luxembourg have chosen to define. They’re unlikely to be the only ones; the UAE recently signed an agreement to learn from Luxembourg’s legal finesse.

但是外太空条约忽视了太空资源的所有权,美国和卢森堡想要说明的正是这一缺陷。不止这两个国家,阿联酋最近也学习卢森堡的法律策略签署了协议。

“Luxembourg’s law on the exploration and use of space resources addresses this [omission] and gives clarity on a national level, as a first step to enable space resources activities,” says Zenners. “Luxembourg’s law does not have the objective, purpose or effect of paving the way for any national appropriation of celestial bodies. Only the ownership of space resources is addressed in the legal framework, which also lays down the regulations for the authorisation and the supervision of missions.”

泽纳斯说:"卢森堡开发和利用太空资源的法律弥补了这一缺陷,在国家层面上做出了澄清,是进行太空资源活动的第一步。""卢森堡的法律并非有特别的目的,而是要为国家私自占有天体铺平道路。该法律框架仅说明了太空资源的所有权,也制订了批准和监督太空任务的条例。"

Luxembourg’s small size may help it take the lead in this new goldrush for the riches of space. “Along with the United States, Luxembourg has proven to be a forward-thinking country, and their success will enable private companies to conduct deep space missions,” says Bill Miller, CEO of US-based Deep Space Industries, which uses Luxembourg as its European headquarters.

卢森堡面积小也许有助于它在太空资源的"淘金热"中一马当先。米勒(Bill Miller)是美国深空工业公司的首席执行官,公司的欧洲总部设在卢森堡,他说:"美国和卢森堡都是有前瞻性的国家,他们的成功能让私人企业进行深度太空任务。"

The debate may not hit fever pitch for some time: space-mining companies have had a habit of touting overambitious launch schedules. But if the profits start rolling in one day in the near future, it’s probably a prudent bet that Luxembourg will be somewhere in the picture.

这场争论可能在短时间不会引发热议,因为太空采矿公司总是鼓吹其过于野心勃勃的发射计划。但是如果在不远的未来,太空计划果真利润滚滚,卢森堡一定会在这个行业占有一席之地。

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