“That’s One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Mankind”


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.


United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs

1962 General Assembly Resolution (XVIII)

General Assembly Resolution 2222 (XXI)



Blog Title:

Neil Armstrong Quote



  1. This is such an interesting matter! Your connection between the seas and the moon is fascinating! Yet, aside from that, there should be some concern as to the future. This issue touches are a lot of undefined and complex legal issues and you point to some of those potential challenges. I think that we should also bring the cost of going out to space into the picture. Will that slow nations and companies down? Maybe cost will incentivize more collaboration, between nations and private entities.

    In addition, I think that another concern is the possibility “routine exploration expeditions” and the possible effects of that. Golden Spike, a private company, plans to work with anyone that wants to make a trip, be it nations, corporations and/or individuals. There are some individuals out there who can afford to take “the trip of a lifetime.” We can only imagine, what can that possibly lead to…

  2. I too agree that your connection between the moon and the international seas is a great comparison. It really helps you realize the complexities that may exist in the future if technology and mankind permits further activity on the moon. Will something like the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea come to fruition for the moon in our near future? What countries would be willing participants?

    I would hope that the treaty’s notion that prohibits appropriation in Space would trump such legal concepts such as adverse possession, but as life on Earth expands, there may come a time where some type of apportionment may have to occur to prevent conflict or unfairness. There may need to be some conservation efforts that would involve the law that would prevent humans from activity such as extracting resources, in order to preserve the moons natural effect on our planet. The issues are complex, and it seems as if some of them need to be addressed sooner rather than later before harmful and conflicting actions might be taken.

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