From modern day cartoons to black and white classic movies, plot lines continue to revolve around man’s obsession with the moon. In Despicable Me, main character Gru is a professional felon who plans his biggest heist ever, the moon. It’s a Wonderful Life’s George Bailey tells Mary, in a moment of romance, that he will lasso the moon and give it to her. Will this foreign sphere always be slightly beyond our reach? Who owns the Moon?
In 1967 the Outer Space Treaty of the United Nations was created and provides staple principles about the exploration and use of Outer Space. According to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, the Outer Space Treaty structures the, “basic framework on international space law”. That framework includes the principle that, “the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind; outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States; and outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means”.
The Outer Space Treaty seems to embody similar ideas as are represented in the United Nation’s Convention on the Law of the Sea. Can space be compared to international waters or the high seas? Perhaps one day the same deep sea mineral mining debate, which currently concerns international waters, will turn to natural resources on the moon. If economically valuable resources are found on the moon what will stop private companies, instead of world nations, from traveling to the Moon themselves? Since private companies cannot hold UN membership, it would lead that, they are not directly bound by the Treaty. Mining the moon of its natural resources could have terrible consequences on our tides and environment on Earth. Interfering with the solar atmosphere could throw our existence out of balance.
President Obama ended NASA’s plans to build a base on the Moon, but that won’t stop other countries or companies from attempting the same goal. The Moon could be used as a launch site for even further space exploration. If this occurs could the property law idea of adverse possession be an issue? As stated above, the Outer Space Treaty of the United Nations prohibits appropriation in Space by nations through a claim of sovereignty or occupation. These are hypothetical concerns now, but they could be reality in our future.
Neil Armstrong Quote