Monday, August 1, 2016

Who owns the moon?

According to Article II of the 1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (thankfully known as simply the “Outer Space Treaty”): 
Outer 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.

Of course, this treaty only binds those countries who have signed it.  And it appears to bind only nations and countries, not individuals.

Several of those enterprising individuals sell “deeds” to property on the moon, Mars, Venus, Mercury, and Io (one of the moons of Jupiter).  A single acre on any of these “properties” costs about $20.

As  anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of a “good deal to buy the Brooklyn bridge” knows, a person can't sell something unless he owns it.  And he can't own something unless he obtained it from someone who owned it before him, either by purchase or by other means, including conquest.

But a person can't simply file a document and claim ownership.

How does that explain the proliferation of websites purporting to sell outer-space real estate?

So, yes, you can intend to own the moon, you can even “buy” land on the moon and receive a deed in the mail to commemorate your purchase. But it does not mean the deed is worth anything other than the paper it’s written on—or that you, as holder of the deed, actually own a piece of the moon. You don’t. After all, written in small print on each of the Lunar Embassy deeds is a copyright and the notation “Novel Gift.”

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