Let me ask you this: 'Who controls land ownership on the moon?'

 

The law of outer space is governed primarily by the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. Commonly referred to as the 'Outer Space Treaty', the agreement was opened for signature in 1967 and entered into force that same year.

Article I of the Outer Space Treaty declares that the exploration and use of outer space shall be "the province of all mankind". [It] designates outer space and the bodies contained therein, including the Moon, as res communes, ie, the property of everyone. What this means in practice is that space is treated just like a commons on Earth. Anyone can make use of the commons, but no one has any property rights while they are in situ. Subsequent practice has established, however, that resources, once removed, become the property of the removing party.

The Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (the 'Moon Treaty'), opened for signature in 1979 and entering into force in 1984, attempted, without great success, to redefine the nature of property rights for outer space. The Moon Treaty expressly prohibited any form of property rights for in situ outer space resources pending the creation of an international property rights regime. That regime has yet to be developed. Moreover, such a regime is unlikely ever to be created under the auspices of the Moon Treaty, given that the agreement has been ratified by (and thus only applies to) a tiny handful of states – none of which has significant, independent, space-faring capability.

While it is currently impossible for any entity to purchase or claim a fee simple interest in non-terrestrial property, there is, nonetheless, one small loophole that would entitle an entity to temporarily exercise rights similar to a property claim for a limited region on, for example, the Moon. The OST does permit a nation, and by extension one of its citizens, to exercise a zone of control around a landing site for safety purposes. Thus, as long as you were actually present, you could exercise effective control of the landing site and its immediate environs. You could prevent others from intruding and extract mineral resources for use at the site or even for sale. You might even be able to sell your lunar installation to a new occupant so that they, in turn, could make use of the local environment. That said, no official fee simple interest accrues as a result of your presence. As soon as you (or your successor) abandoned the site, it would be legally indistinguishable from any other portion of the Moon, ie, it would have the status of a commons.

Lawrence D Roberts, Space Law & Policy Academic

These answers all come from quora.com, the popular online Q&A service. Ask any question and get real answers from people in the know

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine