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Can anyone "own" the moon?



  Buzz Aldrin, 1969 Copyright
NASA

Caption

Buzz Aldrin was taken by the Moon's emptiness

Companies look at mining of the Moon's surface for precious materials. So what rules are there for people who exploit and claim ownership?

It's almost 50 years since Neil Armstrong became the first man to go on the moon. "It is a small step for man," said the American astronaut famously, "a great leap of humanity."

Shortly afterwards, his colleague Buzz Aldrin joined him in delimitation of the Tranquil Sea. After falling from the steps of the Eagle Moon Module, he looked at the empty landscape and said, "The Magnificent Desert."

Since the Apollo 1

1 mission in July 1969, the Moon has been largely untouched – no people have been there since 1972. But this could change soon, with several companies expressing interest in exploring and possibly the mining surface of resources including gold, platinum and the rare earth minerals widely used in electronics.

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Earlier in the month, China landed a probe, Chang & # 39; e-4, on the distant side of the Moon, and managed to germinate a cotton seed in a biosphere on its surface. It looks like establishing a research base.

The Japanese company iSpace is planning to build an "Earth-Moon transport platform" and perform "polar water exploration" on the moon.

Moving is underway, then there are rules to ensure that Aldrin's desert remains undisturbed, or can Earth's only major natural satellite be involved in a commercial and politically driven land and resources?

Potential ownership of celestial bodies has been a problem since space research began during the Cold War. While NASA planned its first manned moon missions, the UN put together an outer space treaty signed in 1967 by countries including the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom.

It stated: "The outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty by use or profession or otherwise."

Joanne Wheeler, director of space specialist Alden Advisers, describes the treaty as "Magna Carta of space". It makes planting a flag on the moon – as Armstrong and his successors did – "meaningless," as it does not give any "binding rights" to individuals, businesses or countries, she adds.

Practically, land ownership and the Moon's rights to patterning did not matter too much in 1969. But as technology evolved, its resources are being exploited, and profits have become more likely – but still fairly distant -.

In 1979, the United Nations presented an agreement on the activities of the States on the Moon and other celestial bodies, better known as the Moon Agreement. This stated that they should be used for peaceful purposes and that the UN itself should tell where and why someone planned to build a station.

The agreement also said that "the Moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of mankind" and that an international regime must be set up "to manage the exploitation of such resources when such exploitation is feasible." 19659007] However, the problem with the moon agreement is that only 11 countries have ratified it. France is one and India is another. The biggest players in space – including China, the United States and Russia – don't. Nor is it Britain.

Anyway, Ms Wheeler says that enforcing the rules outlined in the treaties is not so easy. Different countries incorporate the documents they enter into the law and have the job of ensuring that businesses and individuals comply with them.

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Prof Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz, former editor-in-chief of the Journal of Space Law, agrees that international agreements offer "no guarantees". Enforcement "is a complex mix of politics, economy and public opinion," she adds.

And the existing treaties that deny national ownership of celestial bodies have been subjected to an additional challenge in recent years.

In 2015, the United States adopted the forthcoming law on anticompetitive competition, which recognizes the right of citizens to own resources that they can recall from asteroids. It does not apply to the Moon, but the principle may be extended.

Eric Anderson, co-founder of the exploration company Planetary Resources, described legislation as "the greatest recognition of property rights in history." [19659007] In 2017, Luxembourg adopted its own action and gave the same right to ownership of resources found in space. Deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider said this would make his country "a European pioneer and leader in this sector".

The will to explore and make money is where countries seem to be more eager to help businesses.

"It is clear mining, whether it is intended to return the materials to Earth or to store or produce them with the Moon, is the opposite of not doing any harm," said Helen Ntabeni, a lawyer at Naledi Space Law and Policy.

She adds that it could be argued that the United States and Luxembourg have "bullied" their way out of the outer space treaty provisions. "I'm quite skeptical that the world's high moral notions of exploring space together as equal nations will be preserved," she says.

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