American astronaut on the Moon
Who Owns the Moon?
While the answer seems obvious, it may be more of a topic for conversation and water cooler debate than one would think.
If you ask the United Nations, no one owns the moon. According to the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (often referred to as the Moon Treaty), which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979,
“The exploration of the Moon shall be the province of all mankind and shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries…”
The treaty also goes on to state that,
“The Moon is not subject to national appropriation by any claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means…Neither the surface nor the subsurface of the Moon, nor any part thereof or natural resources in place, shall become property of any state, international intergovernmental or non-governmental organization, national organization or non-governmental entity or of any natural person.”
Countries engaged in exploration of the Moon are prohibited from:
- The threat of, or use of force and hostile acts on the Moon
- Establishing military bases
- Conducting military maneuvers
- Testing weapons
- Inform the Secretary General of the United Nations of any indication of organic life or any phenomena discovered on the Moon or in outer space
- Not make adverse changes to the Moon’s environment
- Notify the Secretary General in advance of any radioactive substance placed on the Moon
The Moon Treaty however, didn’t stop Dennis Hope from submitting a claim to the Moon, to the United Nations in 1980. After his registered claim received no response, his company, the Lunar Emabassy Corporation, began selling 1 acre plots of “prime view lunar properties.” In 1990, CNN reported that the company had sold more than 300,000 pieces of lunar property. According to Wikipedia, as of 2009, Hope has claimed to sell over 2.5 million 1 acre plots of the lunar surface. The company currently sells Deeds for $22.49, plus a $1.51 lunar tax.
In an apparent attempt to solidify his position, Hope formed the Galactic Government which claimed sovereignty over the Moon in 2004. The Declaration of Galactic Independence and the Constitution of the Galactic Government seem to have been “recognized” (to some small degree) by the United States, in a Department of State document, that was signed by Hillary Clinton in December of 2009.
The United States and the Moon Treaty
With the Lunar Embassy selling off prime locations for space vacation resorts, and areas for mining regolith for helium-3, one might conclude that the United States would be ready to defend the Moon Treaty. That simply is not the case. For all of the grand and sweeping language that was included in the United Nations document, the treaty was not ratified by any of the nation states that are capable of launching people into space. It’s been 32 years since the treaty was adopted, and it has yet to be ratified by the United States, The Russian Federation, The European Union (collectively), the United Kingdom, Japan, India, and the Peoples Republic of China; all of which are spacefaring countries.
This means that an enterprising country such as China, with their ambitious plans for space exploration, and healthy budget, will not be bound by the United Nations or any other international authority, if its people succeed in reaching the Moon.
When Americans landed on the Moon in 1969, they did so using computer technology that essentially equates to a modern day calculator. Today, China, Russia and other spacefaring countries would be far more capable of setting up a permanent moon base for their national interests.
Will astronauts from a country other than the United States choose to moon walk through the foot prints of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, essentially destroying the defacto historic landmark that many Americans consider the Apollo 11 lunar landing site to be? (although the lunar environment will ultimately do that itself). There is no international document that requires the preservation of the landing site and the equipment that was left behind for the sake of posterity.
Additionally, none of the space-capable countries have signed away their ‘right’ to weaponize the natural satellite.
So, the next time that you gaze up at the Moon, or look at its craters through a telescope, consider whether or not the answer to the question ‘who owns the Moon?’ will be ‘no one,’ 100 years from now, or 50 years from now for that matter.