Individuals are legally permitted to own moon property under international law, say two legal scholars familiar with the ins and outs of space law, and the establishment of lunar property rights is necessary to provide financial resources for eventual lunar settlement.
According to authors Dave Wasser and Douglas Jobes of the Space Settlement Institute, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 does not forbid nations from recognizing land claims made by private organizations that raise money to pay for future lunar exploration and settlement initiatives.
“Nations could recognize land ownership claims made by private space settlements without being guilty of national appropriation or any other violation of the Treaty,” write Wasser and Jobes. Their report appears in a recent issue of the SMU Journal of Air Law and Commerce, published through Southern Methodist University.
One organization doing what Wasser and Jobes suggest is Lunar International. The company’s system of selling lunar land claims to fund lunar exploration allows regular Earth-bound citizens to own moon property. Should the group succeed in its efforts, those who purchased land claims through Lunar International would enjoy full property rights to their slice of real estate on the moon.
“The sale of private property rights is the only realistic means through which mankind will explore and settle the moon,” said Jackson James, president and chief moon officer of Lunar International. “It is not reasonable to assume that governments will ever be able to overcome political pressures to consistently allocate the necessary funding to such costly projects.”
According to Wasser and Jobes, systems such as the one developed by Lunar International could spark massive private investment that would lead to the establishment of permanent lunar settlements. James agrees, noting that purchases of moon property through Lunar International have nearly tripled during the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008. The company offers land claims to property on the moon in several geographic regions, including the famed Sea of Tranquility where man first stepped foot on the moon, starting at less than $20 an acre.
The system established by Lunar International is not unlike those used to colonize the United States a few centuries ago, said James.
“The people buying lunar land claims are today’s pioneers,” said James. “They dream about a better future for themselves and their children, and they understand the importance of developing settlements in space to protect us against Earth-bound catastrophes like nuclear war and radical climate change.”