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Who Owns the Moon? A Space Lawyer Answers

Friday July 20, 2018. 10:40 PM , from Slashdot
An anonymous reader shares a report: While the legal status of the Moon as a 'global commons' accessible to all countries on peaceful missions did not meet any substantial resistance or challenge, the Outer Space Treaty left further details unsettled. Contrary to the very optimistic assumptions made at the time, so far humankind has not returned to the moon since 1972, making lunar land rights largely theoretical. That is, until a few years ago when several new plans were hatched to go back to the moon. In addition at least two U.S. companies, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, which have serious financial backing, have started targeting asteroids for the purpose of mining their mineral resources. Geek note: Under the aforementioned Outer Space Treaty, the moon and other celestial bodies such as asteroids, legally speaking, belong in the same basket. None of them can become the 'territory' of one sovereign state or another. The very fundamental prohibition under the Outer Space Treaty to acquire new state territory, by planting a flag or by any other means, failed to address the commercial exploitation of natural resources on the moon and other celestial bodies. This is a major debate currently raging in the international community, with no unequivocally accepted solution in sight yet. Roughly, there are two general interpretations possible. Countries such as the United States and Luxembourg (as the gateway to the European Union) agree that the moon and asteroids are 'global commons,' which means that each country allows its private entrepreneurs, as long as duly licensed and in compliance with other relevant rules of space law, to go out there and extract what they can, to try and make money with it. On the other hand, countries such as Russia and somewhat less explicitly Brazil and Belgium hold that the moon and asteroids belong to humanity as a whole.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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