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FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2016 file photo, Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross waits for an elevator in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. Propelled by populist energy, President-elect Donald Trump’s candidacy broke long-standing conventions and his incoming Cabinet embodies a sharp turn from the outgoing Obama administration. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

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U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Tuesday said moon landings by multiple countries could trigger a “Wild West” scenario with few rules to keep key discoveries from being stolen.

He said the Commerce Department and NASA plan to ask Congress to approve a public-private partnership to fulfill the National Space Council’s goal of a permanent U.S. presence on the moon during the next five years. Ross spoke Tuesday at the Space Symposium, the second day of the four-day convention at The Broadmoor.

Ross said he expects the commercial space industry to grow in value from $24 billion today to $3 trillion during the next 20 years as U.S. companies continue to develop innovative products and service, including space tourism. He said department leaders plan to meet soon with financial industry executives to find ways to finance innovation while reducing the risk of funding such projects.

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The secretary said he is “committed to making sure the U.S. remains the flag of choice for innovative space companies” even though competition in the global commercial space industry is intensifying. That includes working with allies to build common practices for the growing industry. He pointed to a Japanese company that is working to clean up space debris as an example of the cooperation needed for the commercial space industry’s growth.

The Commerce Department wants to become a resource for commercial space companies for traffic management to avoid collisions with other spacecraft and debris in orbit, Ross said. That doesn’t mean the department will tell private companies to move their satellites, but instead create an open network for all to know the location of items in space.

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Contact Wayne Heilman 636-0234

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