Thursday, February 18, 2016

Who "owns" outer space?




This does have something to do with space. Honest.

Just give me a moment here. I have been teaching a series of classes that are steeped in history. This has included talk of colonization, ownership, revolution, and property rights. Those have been complicated enough matters here on Earth, but I began wondering what would happen in terms of law and property in space? That was a question asked in an article at NOVA.

As the race to the Moon accelerated, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty handled several matters in terms of the "law of nations" in space. You can't take nuclear weapons up there, planting a flag on something doesn't make it yours, and so forth. None of that allows for private business. What happens when a corporation mines an asteroid? There doesn't seem to be consensus yet on who can do that and profit from it. From the article:

"As it currently stands, two private companies operating in space couldn’t even sue each other without the prior approval of their governments, says Michael Listner, an attorney and the principal of Space Law and Policy Solutions, a legal think tank."

You can wade through the legalese aspects of that article. I once fancied myself a legal autodidact but more often than not now I find my eyes glazing over with such things. The basic question still lingers with me. Can a private entity own an asteroid? More than that, if private enterprise makes it to Mars first, and there's plenty of indication that may be the case, does the corporation own the section of Mars they land on?

Colonies tend to revolt or at the very least break away. Would the denizens of corporate-owned Mars colony do the same? Would present it's own unique set of sticking points, I would think. The very material you live inside would be the property of someone else. What happens then? Can you, private citizen, leave your employers and stake your own claim on Mars? Assuming you had the means, of course.

Just things to ponder. Maybe the beginnings of a book or short story.


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2 comments:

  1. On FB, JC said: "good question, I'm sure some small minded shadowy organisation has staked a claim."

    A possibility. One I'd really like to write about eventually.

    ReplyDelete
  2. On FB, JC said: "good question, I'm sure some small minded shadowy organisation has staked a claim."

    A possibility. One I'd really like to write about eventually.

    ReplyDelete