Dennis Hope, a man from Nevada with a bit of off-beat ambition, petitioned the UN a while back under the assumption that the United States was the rightful owner of “lunar real estate.” He was hoping that, with the blessing of the UN, he would be able to create a government on the moon, to be run in absentia. Never hearing back from the UN, he assumed he had every right to the property, and started selling deeds to it for less than $30 an acre.
Unluckily for him (but probably luckily for the rest of us), the UN hadn’t responded because it had already been decided–over fifty years ago, in 1967–that “outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.” In other words, the U.S. doesn’t own the moon and neither does anyone else.
The treaty lays out a number of rules for what our interactions with the moon can and cannot do. Here are a few select bits:
- outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States;
- States shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or station them in outer space in any other manner;
- the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes;
- astronauts shall be regarded as the envoys of mankind;
- States shall be responsible for national space activities whether carried out by governmental or non-governmental entities;
- States shall avoid harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies.
Frankly, I’m relieved that such precautions have been taken to assure the preservation of the big cheese ball in the sky. I am also relieved that this in no way will stop sci-fi writers from writing about what happens when the treaty fails.
(Photo via Wright and Left Report)