Who owns the moon?

Who owns the moon?

Image: NASA

Laws try to regulate claims in space – but what right man actually has is another question

For the first time since the ara of the Apollo flights in the 1960s, the conquest of space is again occupying the zeitgeist. Scientific foundations and imaginative fictions are presented by the media in a colorful mixture. The focus is less on the noble spirit of exploration than on the pursuit of profit. Private companies want to invest in asteroid mining, and individual groups are looking for ways to make money colonizing Mars. Space has never seemed so accessible or so promising as it does today.

In addition to all the technical challenges, however, there are also some much more prosaic hurdles to overcome. As soon as man moves beyond Earth orbit, the once rather academically formulated space law comes into play (Sun, Moon and Stars). So let’s take a look at existing laws and what they mean for space mining or planetary colonization. Without a clear international legal situation, some entrepreneurs with their lofty expectations would very quickly find themselves embroiled in endless legal disputes – not to mention the potential for interstate conflict.

Outer Space Treaty commits to peaceful use

The 25. November of last year may not be remembered by most people as a historical date. But on this day, President Obama signed the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act; it also includes the Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act, which had already passed Congress the previous May. It is the first attempt by a terrestrial nation to establish a legal framework for the private exploitation of space mineral resources.

Whether and to what extent U.S. laws affect the rest of the world­The question of whether the use of space should be a matter of peace remains another matter. When the first rules for space activities were formulated, mining on other celestial bodies was pure science fiction. At the end of the 1950s, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPOS) defined the.Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), under the auspices of the United Nations, ied various regulations that served as a basis for the next sixty years.

Who owns the moon?

The American astronaut Dale Gardner holds a "For sale"-Shield in the camera. It was meant jokingly. Image: NASA

The UNO is still financed by the USA. The resolution at that time at least shows a consensus of the members that no nation may claim space for itself alone. In addition the obligation to the "peaceful" Use (although full demilitarization was not mandatory) and accountability for all activities.

For the majority of the signatories, space flights were beyond all possibility anyway. The basic idea of space legislation thus goes back to the agreement signed in 1967 by more than a hundred UN member states and known today as the Outer Space Treaty. (The original title reads much more unwieldy: "The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies".)

The real background, of course, was the tension between the U.S. and the Soviet Union: they were trying not to let space become an extended arena for the superpowers of the time (a project later made absurd by Ronald Reagan’s Hollywood-inspired SDI program – continued under Bill Clinton and George Bush Junior). Single­nations should be able to be held accountable for their activities. In particular, the use of nuclear weapons in space was strictly prohibited.

Who owns the moon?

According to international law, no one can make territorial claims in space; a flag on the moon therefore has purely symbolic value. Image: NASA

The highly commendable effort to expand peacefully into space is already evident in Article 1 of the Outer Space Treaty. It stipulates that the exploration and use of outer space shall be for the benefit and in the interest of all states and shall be the responsibility of all nations. The gentle words, however, do not entail concrete obligations, which is why the will for the work must stand here.

Article 2 is more precise. Its interpretation can also be applied to the ie of resource extraction. It essentially states that space and the celestial bodies "No aim of national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, for the purpose of exploitation and appropriation or for other purposes" allowed to be.

Translated into practice, this legal jargon means that no state can lay territorial claims to the moon or other celestial objects. The starry banner planted by the Apollo astronauts on our satellite thus has a purely symbolic character. Also the United States can never reach the moon "own".

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