Friday, October 15, 2004

Outer Space Land Not So Far Out

Homo Sapiens will buy anything. A few questionable products I can think about include the Chia pet, pet rocks and lunar plots of land. Of course, I had never heard about the lunar plots until a few days ago, when I came across an article from Agence France-Presse, republished on a web site called

It seems that an American entrepreneur has hit pay dirt with a scheme to sell lunar plots to Earthlings for about $25 a pop – and these aren’t cookie cutter pieces of property, either, measuring out to around 700,000 square metres each (150-plus acres). While, the sale is actually old news, Dennis Hope, the American who came up with the idea, claims he’s found a loophole in the United Nations Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which makes his parcels legitimate.

Purchasers of the plots (including about 1,200 lunar land owners in Germany) became concerned about their claims when President George Bush began talking about returning to the moon, building a space station and launching missions to Mars from the Moon. They’ve begun a letter-writing campaign to the White House, requesting that the U.S. respect their “land rights” and to at least not leave rusting space junk on their property.

Further research reveals that the quest for owning space bodies is beginning to heat up in the 21st Century. In fact, in 1993 three Yemeni brothers sued the United States government for trespassing against their property - Mars. They claimed to be the owners since they had inherited the Red planet 3,000 years ago from their ancestors. Did our government take it seriously? Well, we sent lawyers to Yemeni to deal with the issue.

It seems laughable, but where there’s potential development, of course, lawyers are soon to follow, which brought me to another piece in the Christian Science Monitor about outer space law makers. Now, these guys are serious – so serious that students can major in accredited studies in college – the University of Mississippi being one of the institutes of higher learning that offers a degree in space law.

It appears the lunar landowners could have saved their money if they had looked up the Outer Space Treaty and found out that it “provides the basis of all space law with its clear decree that no nation can claim ownership to any part of it, and all nations must agree to its peaceful use. The treaty was signed by all major space powers and remains the guiding light of space initiatives,” according to the Monitor.

The idea of space law is to prevent the free-for-all type colonization of heavenly bodies the way our Earthly history has been marked over the last several hundred years. At this point, the nations that could actually develop any type of intergalactic property have signed on to the treaty. But that was nearly 40 years ago when no one had even been to the moon yet.

The treaty is about to truly be tested as the International Space Station becomes operational and the idea of building improvements on the lunar rock near reality.

Think about it – who really owns the Moon and who can tell anyone else what to do if they decide to start development? Enter the laser-toting, brief-packed space attorney. When you consider that it’s going to take billions of dollars to traverse and develop a building lot more than 13 million miles away – I say to the victor go the spoils. Whoever can get there first and build something, go for it.

Realistically, though, while it all may seem like sci-fi today, if the Outer Space Treaty prevails, it means we all will own a piece of the rock and that’s probably how it should be.

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