Ownership of the Moon

When I spoke on space law the day after the 48th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, this article was making the rounds about the legal status of claims to outer space, including moon-related artifacts.

Here’s a recent update about a group working to get the UN involved in designating certain lunar areas as heritage sites.

These are fascinating, ongoing issues that, as one can see, are making the news regularly.

Hat tip to Ed for sharing the initial article with me. His book is available on Amazon.

A special shout out also to my fellow panelist Wayne White, who has written extensively on this topic (pdf).

Luxembourg Passes Private Appropriation of Space Resources Law

The law permitting private commercial actors to exploit space resources is a first for Europe, and follows America’s lead.

Forbes reports that Luxembourg’s Parliament approved a law permitting commercial entities to exploit space resources (resources such as water and minerals found in space). The appropriation of resources found in outer space is a major topic of contention in the legal industry.

While technical challenges remain, a legal framework for private actors reaching, utilizing, and owning materials in space (such as commercial mining of asteroids or other celestial bodies) will be imperative. Though we won’t see mining on any asteroid for awhile, it is only a matter of time.

These types of law are not without contention. Some contend that they run afoul of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, a foundational document in space law. That document states, at Article 2, that “[o]uter space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”

I’ve gotten opinions across the board on this provision. Some adamantly hold that this bars ownership or appropriation only by national governments. Others view this law as prohibiting any actors, including individuals and companies.

Recall that the United States passed legislation in 2015, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (I’ve sometimes seen it called the SPACE Act (for “Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship” Act)). While dealing largely with commercial space transportation (its own complex and important area), that legislation also provided for “exploration” and “recovery” of space resources by private actors.

Want some further reading? Planetary Resources has an OpEd with Space Watch about gulf countries getting involved inĀ  space mining. Beyond capturing the public imagination, space mining and the ability to exploit space resources is a real topic being heavily investigated and even invested in by private companies.