Monday, November 12, 2007

More Lunar (Mis)Deeds

From Arkansas comes a story about another company claiming to own the Moon. (Here.) Not content to just own the Moon, Space Pioneers is in the business of selling parcels of lunar land at $28 per acre.

The company's claim to own the Moon is, of course, utter legal nonsense, regardless of what its ownership may believe. (Read the entertaining legal babble at the company website here. Their "claim is for all of mankind which includes the planets in the Milky Way Galaxy; with an amendment to specify the inclusion of the moons.")

In the real world, consumers are either being fooled by Space Pioneers out of $28 for a worthless piece of paper or they are willing buyers of a novelty gift. Maybe what the company is doing counts as fraud and maybe it doesn't. It doesn't matter in the United States because law enforcement officials don't seem to be interested in pursuing companies selling worthless deeds to land in outer space. China had the right idea when it gave Lunar Embassy the boot and shut down the company's nascent operations there in 2005, a decision upheld by a Chinese court in a victory for the rule of law just this year. (Here.) But the real harm from schemes like this one isn't to the pocketbooks of individual consumers it's what the publicity does to the vision or real private space development.

Humanity has a future in space. One day we will live up there and use the resources of space to better our lives there and down here on Earth, and to make money. When that day comes legal issues involving ownership of land or minerals will have to be resolved. I can assure you of one thing. When some legitimate company finally has the wherewithal to put a mining operation on the Moon and lays claim to the minerals it is extracting, some $28 per acre owner of a deed from Space Pioneers won't be able to stop them and won't see a dime in rents or profits no matter how many cease and desist letters the owner writes and how many lawsuits get filed.

The current legal regime governing space will change when the vision of humans making space our home becomes a reality. Schemes like those of Space Pioneers and Lunar Embassy make a mockery of that vision. The sooner these kind of operations are shut down the better.


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