Legal and Political Issues
Section 3.5.
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Property Ownership on the Moon

Moving the mission forward is clearly a way to demonstrate that the law needs to be clear. We have seen that laws are made and court decisions are made only on the basis of need. If no one is harmed by the lack of provision for property rights on the Moon, nothing will change. If we demonstrate we are for real, are being harmed, and have a proposal to fix the problem, we may create a change.

US Policy

As the US did not sign the Moon Treaty it means the US favors property rights in space. But we did sign the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, so the US has agreed to make no claims of sovereignty in space. Thus the US has no standing to enforce property rights in space. Of course, the US could repudiate or renegotiate the Outer Space Treaty. It probably won't, though, because of the provisions for the return of astronauts.

"... whether the UN supports or opposes property rights on the moon is only relevant if they go to the moon to enforce their opinion."

It is very possible that property rights in space will be established. Ultimately, by going there and claiming land and improving it, we establish the right to property using de facto mechanisms that are widely recognized by common law. If sovereignty cannot be claimed by a signatory to the UN treaties on space, we can establish a new sovereignty. The UN Charter provides for the recognition of the de facto sovereignty of a government in place in any territory on Earth. Careful reading of these provisions is worth the indignity of the effort.


Long ago, Andrew Jackson spoke volumes on the issue with one pithy sentence. He wanted to send the US Army to move Seminole Indians from Florida to the West. The Seminoles didn't want to go. They stood on the legal grounds of treaties signed by the US. They appealed successfully to the US Supreme Court. The Court ruled for the Seminoles. Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the majority opinion.

But popular support was with Jackson. He said, "Mr. Chief Justice Marshall has issued his decision. Now let him enforce it." The Army was sent and the Indians were moved.

I'm not big on colonialism or the forced relocation of indigenous peoples. For the most part, I'm against it. But the point should be clear: whether the UN supports or opposes property rights on the moon is only relevant if they go to the moon to enforce their opinion. Given their inability to settle the conflict in Bosnia, it is questionable if they're up to it or not.

Commerce can clearly exist over the vast distances of space. Information, entertainment, and even physical commodities can be projected over planetary distances on a paying basis. That has increasingly been recognized as a good thing for the world; capitalism is now widely recognized as a successful economic approach.

We're not worried that the UN or any other power will decide to go to war to prevent private property from being developed on the Moon or elsewhere in the Solar System (and beyond!). We are worried that investors will find the matter of great concern.

By working to finance the mission at the same time we work to change the laws and treaties, we stand to have parallel efforts that build on each other. The marketing opportunities from the lobbying activities seem fascinating.

-- Jim Davidson

Legal and Political Issues

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