If planting a flag on the Moon is not an act of marking sovereignty, then what does determining sovereignty mean, and can anyone really own the Moon?
Two flags of two countries flutter on the deserted and eerily calm surface of the Moon. An American flag full of stars and stripes, a crimson flag of China, but if you ask any official from those two countries, they will tell you that the flags here do not represent territorial ownership or sovereignty.
Illustration of an astronaut’s footsteps on the Moon.
Illustration of an astronaut’s footsteps on the Moon. (Photo: Caspar Benson).
When the Soviet ship Suputnik 1 – the world’s first artificial satellite – took to the sky in October 1957, it opened up completely new fields. One of them is scientific, but there is also a legal one. Over the next decade, the international community drafted the Outer Space Treaty in 1967. It was the world’s first legal document related to space exploration.
This treaty is the most influential space legal document, although it is very difficult to enforce. “This is not a code of conduct” – Michelle Hanlon, space law expert from the University of Mississippi School of Law, USA, said – “These are just guidelines and principles.”
Despite its lack of practical feasibility, the Treaty contains clear principles regarding land acquisition by nations in outer space. Article 2 of the Treaty excludes the possibility of a country claiming ownership of parts of space or any celestial body. Attorney Halon said “No country can claim sovereignty over the Moon.” But when it comes to building structures like research facilities and habitats on the Moon, things get even more confusing. “From another point of view, it’s kind of territory, isn’t it? – said lawyer Halon.
According to Article 3 of the Outer Space Treaty, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has some influence when applied to properties on the Moon. Accordingly, individuals have fundamental rights to property. Hypothetically, this means that anyone could build a house on the Moon and own it. In fact, some people claim to own parts of the Moon. Among these people is Robert Coles, former president of New York’s Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, who attempted to sell part of the Moon sample for $1 a piece in 1955.
However, Article 12 of the Outer Space Treaty contains a clause limiting this effort. This clause states that all parties can use anything installed on other celestial bodies. In other words, it will become a public place. The Moon Treaty of 1979 helped harmonize Articles 2 and 12 of the Outer Space Treaty by stipulating that any commercial entity or individual operating in space is considered part of the nation to which that entity or this individual belongs, rather than as an independent entity.
But so far the United States, Russia and China have not ratified this agreement and therefore most of the Outer Space Treaty is still considered invalid. When NASA’s Artemis program and the joint Russian-Chinese lunar base project begin operating, space lawyers will need to do everything possible to obtain regulations that reconcile Articles 2 and 12 of the Treaty.
An astronaut aboard Apollo 17 walks on the surface of the Moon, with the American flag behind him
An Apollo 17 astronaut walks on the surface of the Moon, with the American flag behind him (Photo: NASA/JPL).
More recently, NASA has attempted to fill gaps in space law with the Artemis Accords, an international agreement aimed at facilitating future space exploration. Based on the Outer Space Treaty, Treatise of Artemis published a series of non-binding principles governing operations on a number of celestial bodies, including the Moon. Among these principles is the recognition of certain areas of the Moon, such as the landing site of the Russian Luna probe and Neil Armstrong’s footprint, as protected space heritage sites.
It is worth mentioning that this treaty also allows entities to mine and use extraterrestrial resources, but not all countries are enthusiastic about this prospect. To date, 21 countries have signed the Artemis Accords, although some participants, including Russia, have rejected the provision, which they say gives an unfair advantage to the United States.
And there are other ways to claim ownership that don’t seem to claim ownership of assets on the Moon, for example, the use of scientific equipment on the Moon could also become a land policy claim if the team research prohibits others from obtaining it as well. near their equipment. All this will certainly become the subject of space law in the coming decades.
Article source: Dan Tri
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If we put a flag on the Moon without having to mark sovereignty, what is the meaning of determining sovereignty, and can anyone do it?