With several countries eyeing the lunar surface for anything from exploration to essential research, the ownership issue over the Moon is getting more complicated.

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Anyone can love gazing at the Moon. But can they assume ownership of it? Learn about the rules that control nations and citizens in space and why 'purchasing' a piece of land on the Moon may not be as simple as it appears.

Who Owns the Moon?

Space law expert Dr. Jill Stuart underscored in The Moon Exhibition Book that no country could lay claim to a celestial body. Other space law experts emphasized that if nation-states can't claim outer space, neither can their residents or corporations.

The Conversation said the United States, the Soviet Union, and all other space-faring nations decided not to make the same mistake as the old European imperial powers when it came to deciding on the Moon's legal status. At the very least, another world war could be stopped by avoiding a "land grab" in outer space.

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 states that space exploration and utilization must be carried out in all countries' interests: space is the "province of all mankind."

As a result of the Outer Space Treaty, no country will assert ownership of the Moon, regardless of what national flags are planted on its top.

As of 2019, the Treaty binds 109 countries, with another 23 having ratified but not yet been formally recognized.

What is the Outer Space Treaty, and What Does It Mean?

The Outer Space Treaty is a series of rules that control what countries can and cannot do in space. Planets and celestial bodies such as asteroids and the Moon are also used.

The Convention on Principles Governing States' Activities in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, is the official name of the Treaty.

The Treaty was signed on January 27, 1967, during the Space Race, by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, and it has served as the basis for laws regulating space operations ever since.

The paper is made up of only 17 brief papers. The International Law of the Sea Protocol, on the other hand, includes over 300 articles that regulate the usage of the world's oceans.

The Outer Space Treaty, in a nutshell, states:

  • Exploration and use of space shall be conducted for the good and in the interests of all countries and shall be the domain of all humanity.
  • Both nations shall have unrestricted access to and use of outer space.
  • Outer space is not subject to national possession or appropriation.
  • Nuclear missiles and other weapons of mass destruction must not be used in space.
  • The Moon, as well as other heavenly bodies, will be used only for benevolent purposes.
  • Both nations recognize astronauts as members of mankind, and all necessary assistance must be rendered in the case of an accident or disaster. States are responsible for all national space operations, whether performed by governmental or non-governmental organizations.
  • States will be held responsible for the harm their space objects do.
  • Any entity sent into orbit by a state remains the property of the state and is subject to its authority.
  • States must prevent contaminating space and celestial bodies in dangerous ways.

Have People Attempted to Buy And Sell Lands on the Moon?

Martin Juergens, a German resident, assumed possession of the Moon for his family. In the year 1996. According to Royal Museums Greenwich, Juergens said that Prussian King Frederick the Great gave it to his forefathers as a service gift in 1756. Juergens asked the German government to take the case to the United States. Neither government has taken some measure, which is unsurprising.

Meanwhile, since at least the 1950s, private corporations have been selling land plots on the Moon. Dennis Hope's Moon real estate firm Lunar Embassy is one of the most well-known examples.

Hope began selling plots on the Moon for $25 per acre, claiming he had discovered a loophole in the Outer Space Treaties. He appears to have sold over 611 million acres of land on the Moon since the 1980s.

Hope argues that since his business is a commercial one, it is not subject to the Outer Space Treaties. The existence of Hope's backdoor is contested by space attorneys, and the United Nations has never accepted his claim.

What Is The Law's Function In Space?

Since space is not owned, there is no clear solution to the issue of which country's authority and jurisdiction apply where a crime is committed. Space, like the open ocean, is called "res nullius," or "no one's ground."

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty defines the legal basis for space exploration. Nations agree to "retain authority and power" over any entity or staff launched into space, for example, in article eight of the deal.

However, the truth of 21st-century space exploration varies greatly from that of the Treaty's inception in the 1960s. Dr. Stuart, a space policy specialist, explains.

Every state is supposed to have criminal authority over citizens from its own region. An alleged crime committed by a NASA astronaut, for example, will be investigated by the US. In contrast, an alleged crime committed by a cosmonaut will be investigated by Russia.

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