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Space Science

Property Rights In Space? 269

ATKeiper writes "A number of companies have announced plans in the last couple of years to undertake private development of space. There are asteroid-mining proposals backed by Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, various moon-mining proposals, and, announced just this month, a proposed moon-tourism venture. But all of these — especially the efforts to mine resources in space — are hampered by the fact that existing treaties, like the Outer Space Treaty, seem to prohibit private ownership of space resources. A new essay in The New Atlantis revisits the debates about property rights in space and examines a proposal that could resolve the stickiest treaty problems and make it possible to stake claims in space."
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Property Rights In Space?

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  • TL;DR? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @04:19PM (#42339793) Homepage Journal

    Short version (it's a very long article)

    There is precedent in the U.S. federal government's history of land grants to railroad corporations -- once the corporation owned the land, it had a strong incentive to increase the land's value by laying track. The situations are not quite parallel: in that case, the land rights only covered surface uses, not mineral rights; and of course, in the case of the Moon, the federal government has no land to grant. But while the general recognition of secured property rights would here take the place of grants from a previous governmental owner, the central premise still applies.

    In the scenario envisioned here, the government would recognize claims and register titles, and claimants could then begin to grant, sell, and trade property deeds.

  • Homesteading (Score:3, Informative)

    by tmosley ( 996283 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @04:21PM (#42339829)
    Governments tend to prefer to pretend that natural rights don't exist, imagining that the rights of the people come from THEM. But the truth is that they do exist. Homesteading is one such right. By mixing one's labor with the land, whether it is rolling plain, or an asteroid, one gains ownership of that land.

    Governments have the guns though. But then, the space miners would have the asteroids, so I would guess that they would leave them be after the first asteroid made a near miss of the planet.
  • Re:Homesteading (Score:5, Informative)

    by Niris ( 1443675 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @04:31PM (#42339965)
    Read "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" by Heinlein. They had prisoners who mined on the moon, and when they rebelled against the government, they hurled down moon rocks. Good little story.
  • by Fluffeh ( 1273756 ) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @06:12PM (#42341521)

    I'm pretty sure but not 100% sure helium 3 is there in some abundance.

    Actually, the amount of it is amazingly tiny (one to fifty parts per billion) but that is vastly more concentrated than anywhere on earth.

  • Re:TL;DR? (Score:4, Informative)

    by garyebickford ( 222422 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (cib73rag)> on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @07:25PM (#42342571)

    Nope - according to the Moon Treaties, no nation may lay claim to any part of the Moon. But there is no language, or precedent, applying to private entities. I.e., nobody knows. This is a huge area of concern for everyone involved in space development. One fairly obvious outcome, should this not be resolved soon, will be "first come, first served - who's going to stop me?" And shortly thereafter, declarations to the effect, "We hereby declare the area of Tycho Brache to be sovereign territory." And then the wars. Hopefully a legal structure will be agreed before we get that far - that's essentially what happened in the European colonial period, but over five centuries a large body of treaties, laws and legal precedents were worked out that should be useful as a prototype.

The moon may be smaller than Earth, but it's further away.