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Moon Government Space The Almighty Buck

FAA Could Extend Property Rights On the Moon Through Regulation 283

MarkWhittington writes When the Outer Space Treaty which, among other things, forbade claims of national sovereignty on other worlds, was signed and ratified by the United States in 1967, little thought was given to the idea of private property rights. Now, with companies like Moon Express and Bigelow Aerospace contemplating private lunar operations, that question has become a concern. According to Reuters, the FAA may have discovered a way to enforce private property rights on the moon without, it is hoped, violating the Outer Space Treaty. The idea is to extend the FAA's current launch licensing authority to cover commercial activities on the moon. The agency would license, for example, a helium 3 mining facility, giving the company running it control over it and as much adjoining territory as necessary to run the operation. The size of that territory, for which a particular company would hold property and mineral rights, could be considerable.
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FAA Could Extend Property Rights On the Moon Through Regulation

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @09:40AM (#48968635)

    I wasn't aware the US owned the Moon or the rights to it...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @09:57AM (#48968843)
      Naturally, whoever is on the Moon will control the Moon. But US companies that operate on the Moon would be subject to US law back at home so US law is important to them.
    • by mlts ( 1038732 )

      I thought Russia's SCAA (State Civil Aviation Administration) might have a say as well. Mainly because they are the -only- country able to actually make a manned moon landing these days.

      The last thing the world needs is another pissing contest over new territory. However, I have a feeling that there will be enough retarded players who will try to send stuff into space and blow up their rivals (yes, and I am using the "R" word here) that Kessler Syndrome will kick in soon, and nobody will be able to get pa

      • by khr ( 708262 )

        The last thing the world needs is another pissing contest over new territory

        It'd be something new instead of the existing pissing contests over existing territory...

      • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @10:38AM (#48969275)

        I thought Russia's SCAA (State Civil Aviation Administration) might have a say as well. Mainly because they are the -only- country able to actually make a manned moon landing these days.

        I'm curious - what makes you think the Russians are capable of making a manned moon landing, given that they've never done so, and don't actually have a launcher capable of doing so?

        It's not like Energia is still being made or anything, even if it matched the performance of Saturn V, which it didn't.

        At present, noone has the capability of making a manned moon landing, though China is developing a booster in the Saturn V range, as is the USA.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

          Considering that the US doesn't have the ability to land humans on the moon and has apparently either lost or destroyed a lot of the original designs for that tech, not to mention that it wouldn't want to re-use that same 1960s technology now and has shared all the knowledge gained from it... I don't see how the US is in a better position than any else really.

          Russia could probably do it with their current rockets, just. It would need multiple launches to get everything in orbit and assembled. Chances are Ch

          • Note that current US rockets are pretty much comparable to current Russian rockets. So we're no worse off than they are, and we've at least done it before.

            Probably the most capable of putting together a quick and dirty lunar flight (politics and money aside) are the French. Current Ariane is at least as good as anything the US or Russia has.

            Note also that, absent a burning need, SpaceX is probably closer than anyone else right now. Falcon Heavy is more likely to actually be finished on time than any of

        • I doubt that China will be giving much of a shit about the FAA either.
    • The FAA should read The Man Who Sold The Moon [wikipedia.org]. This problem, like so many others, has already been envisioned by sci-fi writers.
    • They think they not only own the world now, but all other worlds. Truly the Ferengi of human society...

      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

        Yea that is the problem... People outside the US don't really learn history. Britain used to own islands even when people were already their. Russia today just goes in with tanks and takes places that are full of people even when they said they would not...

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      Technically the US does since we landed people on it first at least that is how it worked with islands on earth. Heck even if there were people on them all you need was a flag and it was yours.
      That is how Britain ended up owning Australia, New Zealand, and so on. At least the moon didn't already have a bunch of people on it.

    • by Megane ( 129182 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @11:27AM (#48969907) Homepage

      Because the Monolith said so!

      "ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT EUROPA"

      I think that's clear enough!

    • by mbone ( 558574 )

      I wasn't aware the US owned the Moon or the rights to it...

      It doesn't, and the Outer Space Treaty is very clear on that.

      The weakness in this FAA scheme (if it is something they would actually implement, which I doubt) is that it would apply to US companies only. I would argue that the '67 OST already gives a right to non-interferance to your operations on a celestial body, and that the FAA does not have the power to grant more than that, except within a purely US context.

      • by jythie ( 914043 )
        Which is really all it can do. It can define where US companies are allowed to go and refuse launch clearance to companies who go outside their allotted space.
  • by Translation Error ( 1176675 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @09:40AM (#48968637)
    Well, if the FAA says so, I'm sure the rest of the world will respect it.
    • The FFA is just as relevant in this discussion.

  • by lazarus ( 2879 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @09:41AM (#48968645) Homepage Journal

    Following this to its logical conclusion, this means that one day the moon could be entirely controlled by corporations, but not governments. I can't decide if this is a good thing or not...

    • by drunk_punk ( 2841507 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @09:45AM (#48968691)
      If you live in the US, you're already used to this...
    • Your outlook is correct. good example if how the FAA is reaching outside of "rights" is. I have a london based firm, I launch from russia, and products produced in space are imported via south american landing zone. Really the FAA has some rights???

      So some US corp starts mining on my moon dirt claim, Heavy Impact rail gun slug solves that issue since Colt has not produced a space pistol yet. ( if i'm mining, a 1 ton slug sent via the launcher should do the job, aiming might be difficult.

    • All you need to do is form a country on the moon, then protecct its sovereignty. It would be a government just like any other and withing the spirit of the treaty.

      This FAA regulation will have about as much force behind it as a ship in open ocean. You fon't claim to own the entire ocean but an attack on the ship would be treated as an attack on the country.corporations owning the ship really doesn't change that.

      • All you need to do is form a country on the moon, then protecct its sovereignty.

        Right - I doubt the FAA is going to enforce any court orders on the moon. Although, if that gave the FAA incentive to have its own Space Army, well, don't bet against their thirst for power.

        I suspect some bureaucrats in England thought they could dole out parcels of land in the New World as well, by keeping a ledger of registrations. History rhymes.

    • Following this to its logical conclusion, this means that one day the moon could be entirely controlled by corporations, but not governments. I can't decide if this is a good thing or not...

      Bad thing if things go haywire and you are in Venusville.

    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      It's a Libertarian paradise [wikia.com]. People could renounce all citizenship and live effectively by the rules of International Waters. What could possibly go wrong?
    • Following this to its logical conclusion, this means that one day the moon could be entirely controlled by corporations, but not governments.

      If anyone is actually living on the Moon, if anyone calls it home, they'll form a nation, possibly working their way up from clans and tribes first. That nation might be temporarily under corporate control, but that kind of arrangement isn't really stable.

      Bees make beehives, ant make anthills, humans make nations (and then usually deify them). Corporations can't comma

  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @09:42AM (#48968663) Journal

    FAA can do anything they fucking want; nobody else in the world will give a shit. Do you really think if the Russian, Indian, or Chinese equivalent of the FAA pulled this that the US would take it in stride? Of course not. We'd claim they still don't have any right to reserve property on the moon.

    And it would come down to who had the guns and is willing to use them. Which, to be honest, is all property rights really is anyway.

    • I find it funny, we finally have territory that isn't already occupied and we're fighting over not being able to claim it. I'm sure if there were native mooninites we'd already be slaughtering, enslaving, and sending them gift blankets just like every other territory ever inhabited by modern humans.

      I guess we has humans can't have something unless it is taken away from someone else.

      • The Mooninites are sure to hunt down all the Bostonians going to the moon. They hate those suckers!

      • I find it funny, we finally have territory that isn't already occupied and we're fighting over not being able to claim it. I'm sure if there were native mooninites we'd already be slaughtering, enslaving, and sending them gift blankets just like every other territory ever inhabited by modern humans.

        I guess we has humans can't have something unless it is taken away from someone else.

        This is why I say that if Humanity is ever to advance far enough that we can get off this planet in a meaningful way, it will require a paradigm shift away from power-seeking and towards cooperation. We'll see.

        • by mlts ( 1038732 )

          Sadly, it seems that the times in history where people cooperate are after the human population is so decimated that it is either cooperate or go extinct. This happened after the Black Plague where the dukedoms and duchies just couldn't continue squabbling with one another and had to merge into larger nations.

          I have a feeling we will see space exploration and such happen after some event nearly wipes humanity off the globe. Hopefully I am wrong, but history doesn't show many examples of cooperation, espec

  • Where the Fedzilla Government has dominion over everything, from the bedroom to the moon. Im sure there is a Federal Government, INC. flag at the bottom of the marianas trench.

  • How did it get there?

    Come on, MST3k fans, you wanted to say this.

  • Providing we could actually send people & machines up to the moon to do crap, it would be just like the colonies. Remember that? Remember how all the countries left the New World alone since "Columbus" discovered it? Oh wait, I didn't get that text book, if I recall correctly, there was a lot of fighting over this new land.

    So yes, let's fight over the moon also, because we have run out of things to fight over here on earth.

    • by pmontra ( 738736 )
      You also have to defend the land you grab. UK, Spain and France grabbed vast expanses of North America and lost it in wars and rebellions. They were lucky to have sold part of it. Of course they already made a profit by exploitating the resources of those territories but (among the others) you have Lousiana and Quebec as part of the USA and Canada now, not as France Occidentale. I think you got the idea.
      Any land grab on the moon will have the fortunate outcome of starting a new space era with the launch o
  • First of all, how do you "mine" Helium-3? Isn't it a gaz? That's like the old joke "How do you mine for fish?".

    Secondly, I think I saw that movie [wikipedia.org].

    • by Svartalf ( 2997 )

      It's sequestered in the regolith and rock on the surface. You could call it mining, since that's the same premise behind most mining- you peel rock/sand out, you extract what you were after and leave behind tailings. Fortunately it's largely in the regolith, so you wouldn't disturb it too much and the Sun's always in the process of replacing it over time. You could also call it extraction- which would also be accurate.

      • by rossdee ( 243626 )

        Most of the SF I have read recently suggests that the Gas Giants (Jupiter and Saturn in this solar system) are the best places to 'mine' He3
        Of course you can also get Deuterium in quantity there too.

    • This whole topic is really putting the cart before the horse.

      Nobody has yet demonstrated viable D-T fusion. He3 fusion is orders of magnitude harder than that.

      It will be many decades before this could possibly be an issue.

      • by Megane ( 129182 )
        This. "We need to go to the moon so we can get all the He3!" is one of my pet peeves as well. He3 fusion will probably not be achieved until the late 21st century at the earliest.
  • There is a way around anybody's law, regulation, or treaty. IMHO, the only reason the FAA is getting involved in this is to make money in the same way that the only reason the FCC is weighing in on net-neutrality is because they have figured out a way to make money off of it, initially in regulatory fees (which will be passed on to the consumer) or in a few years some sort of national internet sales tax.

  • I have no problem with companies having property on the moon, as long as they realize that they have precisely zero ability to actually enforce any property rights or hold anyone personally accountable for violating any such rights unless there is somebody who is personally there, or at least until they personally return to the earth.

    In general, such ownership rights should immediately dissolve when nobody who represents said ownership is living there, only becoming permanent once large enough permanent settlements are built on the moon that a 24/7 law-enforcement infrastructure can be implemented to enforce such property rights.

    Until that time, if you mess around with property that belongs to somebody else on the moon when nobody who represents them is there to physically stop you, without authorization from the company that owned it, you would probably encounter a lot of difficulties when you returned to earth, unless you happened to live in a nation that didn't respect the laws of the country that the company belonged to anyways.

    The entire notion of property is a consequence of civilization, and if you don't have a civilization living there, then you can't really have any permanent property there either.

    • by dAzED1 ( 33635 )
      is it just about the moon which you feel this way? What about near-space? No one is touching a satellite, so if you go up and touch it you can claim it? What about the space station - if it was temporarily empty and another country rushed up there, could they call dibs? The UN simply needs to make some sort of organization for regulating this, since we're way too close to commercial entities being up there. The idea that the FAA would do it is absurd.
      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        If they had no intention of returning to esrth, sure....
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      It's more likely that they would sue for property damage and lost revenue resulting from it. If they set up some kind of operation on the moon they might not have property rights, but if someone else damaged any of that property while trying to exploit the same land it could be pretty expensive for them... Assuming they were in a jurisdiction that allowed the US owner of said property to sue them.

  • I can imagine it now. "Right, so we can't claim sovereignty over the moon. What now?" "We're a republic." "So?" "We have no sovereign, and we sold off the national reserve, so there's no gold sovereigns either." (Open champagne, toast to sell...regulating the moon.
  • ...and when the "FAA-decreed" property rights conflict with, say, the property rights "granted" by Putin to his oligarch friends, or that Beijing gave to the company in China that'a a front for the PLA?

    At least we'll finally see what combat in space looks like.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 03, 2015 @10:48AM (#48969421)

    Space lawyer here, writing in personal capacity hence posting as AC.

    The OST already has provisions guaranteeing a right to non-interference with legal activities in space (as opposed to say militarization, which is illegal under the OST).

    What the FAA is proposing is merely a mechanism to enforce these existing rights under current regulatory regimes. There are no cops, courts, or administrative agencies in space - in fact there is no room under current treaty regimes for such entities to exist, since they all would entail claims of sovereignty, which are strictly forbidden. And even if such things were theoretically possible, they are impracticable for the foreseeable future.

    So what we are left with is a situation where any jurisdictional claims and regulatory authority are explicitly tied to and derive from the citizenship of the people in space, the ownership of man-made objects launched into space, and the licensing authority of the states from which spacecraft are launched.
    In the U.S., the FAA already is the regulatory body charged with licensing space launches. In the absence of an explicitly-defined specialized body in charge of enforcement of U.S. laws/regulations, including treaty-derived ones, with respect to space activities under US authority, the FAA has said that they will step in and leverage their existing status as the U.S. launch regulation authority to also fill this role in space as well.

    Whether the FAA making this claim is appropriate or allowable under U.S. administrative law is a separate question from whether the U.S. has the authority to regulate its citizens and property in this way, which it certainly does. In fact, nothing is to stop the U.S. from writing laws that allow it to fine or otherwise punish strictly foreign entities, provided they interfere with activities that do fall under U.S. jurisdiction. Of course these would have to be enforced in American courts, but given the extremely international nature of most private organizations operating in space, that is not necessarily a huge barrier. As far as interference committed by one completely non-U.S. entity against another non-U.S. entity, the U.S. would likely have zero jurisdiction or authority, except the remote possibility that they would entertain such a private tort suit between them under the Alien Tort Statute [wikipedia.org] - pun not intended!

    As it stands, the FAA's main weapon to enforce these kinds of claims would be to merely deny launch licenses to entities it saw as violating the right to non-interference. This is by no means a trivial weapon, since it effectively denies any assistance from U.S.-regulated satellite companies, ground control, etc. etc., and most countries would be disinclined to pick a fight with the agency that could in theory cut off all of their air traffic to and from the U.S. But this is nothing resembling an attempt to create property rights in space. It's merely a clever way to enforce already existing and widely-recognized rights in absence of a better enforcement mechanism. And really, who else is there to do this kind of thing currently? NASA? They are in the exploration business, not the regulatory business. Until Cognress steps in to clear things up, the FAA is the logical choice to handle this kind of thing.

    Incidentally, this is not a new idea - we discussed this very idea at length in a space law seminar I attended at a very well-known D.C. law school I attended few years ago. Frankly, I'm rather surprised that it's taken this long for the FAA to publicly articulate it.

  • From the article; "However, for the system to work, a lot of legal and diplomatic work has to be undertaken so that other countries would agree to such an arrangement and participate in it. "

    In other words... the FAA has an idea. It needs lots more in the way of international treaties to *work*, but they have an *idea*.

  • I'm not sure how the FAA will regulate anyone whose on the moon, with say, that Helium 3 mining facility. It seems it would be terribly costly to send inspectors, and if they're not a US-based company, how will they ever have any hope of having jurisdiction with regulations? It seems like a crazy idea to me.

  • Let's read the treaty [nasa.gov], shall we?

    Article I
    [...] Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies. [...]

    Article II
    Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any

  • basically *every* private entity or public entity, be it the FAA or some guy selling property fall under the sovereignty of a nation state, which fall under the moon treaty. Checkmate. Trying to redefine term by saying "yeah but I am not a sovereign natioN" fail the litmus test : you are a sub entity, belonging to a sovereign nation. You are not an independent entity in a vacuum.

  • Oh, I'm sorry did I not show enough concern for the details of your multilayered legal maneuvering? Should I pay more attention to your Federal Lawyers and Corporate Lawyers.giving each other handjobs over coffee? Because for a second there I thought we were actually talking about EATING AWAY AT THE FUCKING MOON.

Let's organize this thing and take all the fun out of it.

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