Extraterrestrial Property and Space Law: Fact and Fiction
In the last year, the Lunar Embassy as well as many other bodies have been receiving much attention with regard to the sale of extraterrestrial property.
The discussions in several articles are productive to the furthering of the discussion of the subject to say the least. This in itself has stimulated very positive and productive discussions all over the planet. The Lunar Embassy have however noticed, that many discussions are sometimes tainted with simple untruths that are unfortunately said by people who have not researched the subject in depth. As a result, some untruths sometimes get mixed up with what is fact today.
As the market leaders in the area of extraterrestrial property sales, the Lunar Embassy feel it is therefore necessary to dispel a few myths, if only to help our customers to make a correct and informed choice.
At this stage we feel it may be a good idea to let you know that what follows, is a discussion of the legal aspects of owning extraterrestrial property. It is the only area on any of our webservers where we will leave the "fun" aspect of the entire story aside for the moment for a reality check. It is meant for the hard and fast skeptics out there, to whom we owe so much. This is a long page, but if you read it you will note it's well worth the read and your time. (it gets pretty heavy in parts though...sorry...legal stuff never seems easy does it..)
Perhaps you have heard someone once say something like "The Moon cannot be sold" or "The Moon Treaty absolutely forbids exploitation of lunar resources for profit".
Would it not be great if life was that simple? Well here is the truth about some myths and we do explain them, as we know them to be fact to the best of our ability as well as many space expert's abilities.
What is the Law today?
With regard to extraterrestrial property sales, two treaties exist today.
These treaties do not refer to "ownership" as such, they more commonly refer to the "exploitation of the Moon and other celestial bodies for profit purposes", and extraterrestrial property sales distinctly fall under that section. The treaties are, The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and the Moon Treaty of 1984.
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 explicitly forbids any government from claiming a celestial resource such as the Moon or a planet.
What does this mean? Well it means that governments can not appropriate the Moon or other celestial bodies. Effectively, governments have signed to the fact that they have no rights to these bodies at all. As a law expert will tell you, what is actually important here is what the Outer Space Treaty does not say. It explicitly does not say whether commercial enterprises or private individuals can claim, exploit or appropriate the celestial bodies for profit. (Note that the Lunar Embassy are not a government.)
You may think that this is a real stretch of the law but fortunately it is not. The UN and all countries that signed the Outer Space Treaty became aware of this vital ommission almost immediately after the treaty was ratified in 1967. In fact, the United Nations have expended a large amount of time trying to ratify an amendment to the treaty ever since, that would explicitly include corporations and individuals. Unfortunately, all attempts at ratifying such an amendment failed because member states did not agree with it. So, in the end, all the ratification attempts were summarized into the famous Moon Treaty some 15 years later. This information is well documented fact today.
However of course all this is not to say that some governments dont appreciate our efforts! Have a look at the Prestigious Republican Award Mr. Hope and the Lunar Embassy have recently received from the US Congress. Its a great start for us.
The Moon Treaty forbids the exploitation of Space, the Moon and other celestial bodies for profit motives. According to the Moon treaty, individuals may not claim the Moon and other celestial bodies.
This is not a Myth. This is the absolute truth and as a result, some people name the Moon Treaty as a common objection to many private commercial enterprises that are or wish to exploit Lunar or planetary resources for profit.
Theres just one small, minor problem: Of all the approximately 185 member states of the UN only six states supported it. All others, including all spacefaring nations (USA, Russia, China etc) refused to sign it and did not sign it. That is something that does not seem to be well known. The USA explicitly refused to sign it as it would inhibit the exploitation of Lunar and other celestial resources for profit by corporations and individuals. Some websites actually incorrectly list the Moon Treaty as ratified. (Far more worrying...this includes Nasas own, published archives.)
We feel that the non ratification of the Moon Treaty is a good thing...imagine we found oil on the Moon and a company were by law prohibited from mining it? Surely, that is not in the publics interest. (and if you find it on your property...well congratulations...you are now rich!)
Here is what historical websites have to say about it: "The Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies is the infamous "Moon Treaty". It was killed by a handful of L5 Society activists who were the first to see that it would outlaw property rights in the rest of the universe and indefinitely bog down space settlement in a "common heritage of all mankind" morass. When as a result of the L5 Society efforts the US congress failed to ratify the treaty, the USSR also breathed a sigh of relief. They likewise did not ratify. The soviets were so surprised at the impact of this relatively unknown organization that they sent very obvious KGB members to chapter meetings in New York City to find out who they were. The Soviet Embassy in Washington DC subscribed to the L5 News for years afterwards."
The USA at the time said that they would prefer to see "How public opinion develops". Well it has. Many people on planet earth, from all walks of life love owning a property on the Moon or a property on another celestial body such as Mars. Many people also like to name stars, and this falls into the same category. You can not name something and charge for it, if it is illegal to exploit celestial resources for profit, which of course it is not, and therefore that's just fine. Regarding the naming of stars though you should be very careful. No matter what you are told, there is only one body that has the authority to name stars/craters/stellar objects etc. and this is the IAU (The International Astronomical Union), and the many companies that claim they will name a star for you do name it, but this name is not officially recognized. So yes, in regard to naming stellar objects, the planet is pretty organised, however with regard to extraterrestrial property rights, it is a different matter.
That is why the Lunar Embassy are not breaking any laws today...and you can look at a summary of that in Quicktime Movie format here.
This all sound nuts....is this really what is going on?
Fortunately yes. We say fortunately, because it allows the common public access to these resources. In the end of the day, it is all of our responsibility to ensure these bodies are taken care of. It gets more interesting. Many companies are gearing up to exploit lunar and celestial resources for profit. This is not a bad thing. In all cases we think it is a good thing. Take the Lunar Rover Initiative for example. NASA, the Robotics Institute and LunaCorp plans to launch the first "private" mission to the Moon in 2005. The plan is to put several remote controlled buggies onto the Moon, so that you can visit a kind of fun park, where you can, for money, with a Virtual Reality helmet on your head, cruise your own personal remote controlled buggy across the Lunar surface. (Yes, this is cool to say the least.) These companies could not do this, if it was illegal by any treaty to exploit the Moon for profit motives. And of course they know this, otherwise investors would not place over 900 million dollars into such a project. Note also that if these companies were affiliated with governments (like NASA was), the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 would prohibit their actions. But, they are private corporations now. This is therefore perfectly ok. (And hey, we can not wait to try one of those buggys..) Again they also protect all of mankinds right to this: anyone can go and pay to have a cruise across the Lunar Surface. Whether it is exploration or exploitation, is not for us to decide really, but the line seems to be getting thinner by the year. (And why this difference is of importance will become more clear below.)
Visit their website at : http://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/projects/lri/ The by now rather famous Artemis project will also launch to the Moon in the next few years, to get some rocks back to earth that they will happily sell to you as collectors items, mainly to fund their organization. Again they are a private organization.
Visit them at : http://www.asi.org/adb/j/02/legal-roadblocks.html
So what laws actually exist on the Moon or on Mars?
On the Moon itself or on any other planets apart from Earth, apart from the laws of the HEAD CHEESE, currently no law exists.
If we settle on the Moon and Mars for example, such laws must be established to ensure peoples rights. Again, that can not be done unless ownership rights are addressed and settled. That is where all our customers and the Lunar Embassy have made a start at forming public opinion.
Others have suggested that it would be a good idea, that when extraterrestrial claim laws are established, they should be linked to the proximity of the individual to the property in question. That means if you have the money to go there, you can have it. The Lunar Embassy think this is not a good idea, because it would give precedence to corporations and financially capable organizations to file and receive an extraterrestrial property, because they can afford to go there. The normal member of the public would therefore lose out on any claims if such a suggestion were followed, because it is much more difficult for us mortals, physically and financially, to reach the Moon or the other eight planets.
It has therefore become an objective of the Lunar Embassy, if and when such laws are established, to help to protect the right of the general public to be allowed to claim and use these extraterrestrial resources, regardless of whether you are in proximity of the property or not.
From our experience, we feel, that this reflects the public opinion that we have found to be very present and real in the past years.
OK, so what about NASA. How do they fit in? If this is all true then can I not "get them" if they land on my property?
In short - No you can't. This is quite simple. No celestial body is owned by NASA and they have never claimed them. (Some seem to have the distinct belief that the Moon belongs to NASA). It does not and NASA never said it does.
Further, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which is law, clearly states that the Moon and the other celestial bodies are the heritage of all mankind for the purposes of exploration. Well there we are. NASA can do what they like and where they like, as long as they are exploring which is in general what they are doing of course. If someone though wants to build a house on your property, that is quite a different issue altogether.
However, lets keep something in mind?
We feel, the people at NASA risk their lives every single day to make the new frontiers available to all mankind. There is nothing that the human race could be more proud of, and we, as responsible humans should not hinder, interfere or dispute this great endeavor and intention at any time. Think of where we would be without these brave and exceptional men and women today: Stuck on planet Earth. If this gives others like us the chance to make many people a little bit happier by selling Extraterrestrial Properties, and if it allows others to make people happy by letting them drive lunar buggys around the Moon, then we should all remember in a responsible manner, that it is them who made all of it possible at all in the first place. We are grateful to them. If the Lunar Embassy were ever to attack NASA for landing on our property, we would be ashamed of ourselves.
This is the reason that the Lunar Embassy has never and will never sell a past or planned NASA landing site on any celestial body.
Currently, our planet is going through vast changes. Crime is up, thousands of people sue each other every day, and we all must make changes so we can perhaps all get along somehow. More tolerance would be a good start.
So what about the future? What guarantuees are there? Will new laws be established?
Well, so far, we are not aware of anyone trying to make them, nor are we aware of anyone who has the jurustiction to make them.
But public opinion is forming big time and that is a very good start.
What the future brings, we do not know, and we can try to quantify that by telling you a true story that happened to us recently.
We in the Lunar Embassy recently bought a toaster for the kitchen. It's neat, silvery and shiny and great and works just swell. We felt good about that because it came with a one year guarantee. We were assured to have our toast for a very long time.
When it broke, we trodded back to the shop only to find that it had gone out of business. Needless to say, we have, since then, moved into the microwave age.
In short, there are no guarantees (except our 30 day moneyback guarantee of course). Noone can see into the future. All of a sudden (though unlikely), 180 Nations may decide noone is to go and exploit Lunar or Celestial Resources. Then many things would change. All of a sudden, we may actually decide the absence of current law is a good thing. (Which we think, as the absence of current law allows access to the general public to the properties in question.) All of a sudden, the US government may actually come clean about the Roswell incident. As usual in our lives...anything can happen.
And the most important point?
In all of that, lets all not miss the most important point of all....and it specifically applies to the Moon:
What is the Moon to us? The Moon is a symbol of hope, romance, achievement and change, all rolled into one. And wow, it even lights up at night! There is nothing more symbolic and romantic on Earth one can give to a loved one. It is not a fad we can toy with, it is not something that will ever lose its appeal. When you buy your property on the Moon or any other planet, please enjoy it, because that is, what this really is all about.
In the meantime, whenever the Lunar Embassy can contribute to the discussion of the subject in a productive manner, we will always love to do so.
With best wishes from the Moon,
Your Lunar Embassy Team