June 1, 2012
SPACE CASES: The Weirdest Legal Claims In Outer Space:
“Every now and then, someone thinks no one has claimed the moon before, and then rushes to claim it,” wrote Virgiliu Pop, a space law researcher at the Romanian Space Agency, in an email to Wired. “Humankind has a short collective memory, so the claimant is able to create some buzz before the story dies out — to be followed by a similar story, years later.”
As we enter an era when people are seriously advocating that the U.S. establish property rights on the moon and scholars debate the legality of mining asteroids, it’s interesting (and relevant) to look back at the people who have tried to assert ownership of the moon, Mars, other planets, and stars throughout history.
In 2006, Pop literally wrote the book on this matter, titled Unreal Estate: The Men Who Sold The Moon, which he describes as “a serious analysis of a trivial subject.” The compendium offers plenty of outrageous stories, and here we look at some of the book’s most spurious and strange space cases.
Pop’s a smart guy. If you’re seriously interested in space property rights, you should check out his Who Owns the Moon?: Extraterrestrial Aspects of Land and Mineral Resources.
Meanwhile, here’s an interesting argument for treating asteroids as chattels instead of real property, which would take them outside the Outer Space Treaty’s non-appropriation rule.