Tag Archives: Space Law

Did the United States just steal the Moon?

Last month Congress passed a law stating that commercial companies can own moon rocks and asteroid bits if they go into space and mine it themselves.  This ticked a lot of people off because the U.S. is a signatory to the Outer Space Treaty.  The Outer Space Treaty says (kinda, sorta, if you squint at it really hard) that commercial companies cannot in fact own moon rocks and asteroid bits.  Because of this, a lot of excitable people on Twitter kind of went nuts saying that the U.S. wants to ignore the Outer Space Treaty and instead wants to consume all the resources of the entire universe all for itself.

hair on fire
Uninformed person learns U.S. law enables space mining.

Everyone take it easy.

What the Outer Space Treaty actually says is that no national government may claim the Moon.  By enabling commercial companies to keep (relatively tiny) portions of the Moon for commercial purposes, the U.S. Congress is not claiming U.S. sovereignty over any celestial body.  In fact, if those people on twitter actually read the law they will see that it says, right there in section 403 that, “It is the sense of the Congress that by the enactment of this Act, the United States does not thereby assert sovereignty … or the ownership of, any celestial body.”  Translation: you can mine it, you can keep what you mine, but the Moon and the asteroids are not not not U.S.-owned territory.

It’s sort of like commercial fishing.  You can take a ship out to international waters and extract fish from the ocean.  You will own the fish, but you can’t claim the international waters.

Stop!!! He’s stealing the ocean!
So what will this law do? Peter Diamandis, one of the godfathers of commercial space, said it best:

“A hundred years from now, humanity will look at this period in time as the point in which we were able to establish a permanent foothold in space. In history, there has never been a more rapid rate progress than right now.”

Agreed. Well done Congress. Haters gonna hate, don’t worry about it. You got this one right.


featured image credit: peoplesgeography.com