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FAQ #6: Why not allow smaller, limited land claims for easier steps than settlement?

It would be nice if we could offer a series of graduated rewards for each little advance in space development, but it can't be done legally,... and the claims wouldn't be worth anything much if it could be done. Where the U.S. has sovereignty, and is the source of ownership, the government can give ownership of land, or limited rights to its use, for whatever reasons it chooses. But, since no nation can claim sovereignty on the Moon and Mars, the U.S. has nothing to give. The only thing governments can do is to recognize, or not recognize, a claim made by a private entity which has a good case for making the claim.

This law would not prohibit anyone from making a claim to any space real estate based on anything, or nothing at all, including "I want it, so it is mine". Nor would it require anyone else to pay any attention to such a claim. It would only require that the U.S. government must recognize a claim based on actual settlement and "use and occupation".

It will take hard work to get Congress and the courts to accept even settlement and "use and occupation" as a basis for space land claim recognition, even though that has always been the basis for claims of ownership of new land. Space claims based on anything less than settlement would be virtually impossible to justify to the courts and the world.

More important, human settlement of space is our real goal! We are a lot more likely to actually see it happen if it is the required condition to win anything. Recognizing limited ownership for less could reduce the incentive, for both the winners and losers of the first round, to keep going full out toward settlement. Only when there is a live human being waiting on the Moon for the return flight can we be really sure that there will be a return flight, even if the accountants say, "put it off for a few years, or more."

But the most important reason to reserve claims recognition for actual settlement is answered in FAQ #7: Could Lunar land really be worth enough money to make a difference?

Strip of lunar land
image credit: NASA

Questions & Answers about Lunar Land Claims Recognition

Note: The first 25 FAQs below are reprinted from the Space Settlement Initiative website.

  1. What is the real purpose of enacting a Lunar land claims recognition law?

  2. Will promising property rights be enough to produce the necessary investment in developing affordable space transport?

  3. What does international law say about private property ownership in space?

  4. Can there be property ownership without national sovereignty?

  5. What if other nations refuse to recognize land claims in space?

  6. Why not allow smaller, limited land claims for easier steps than settlement?

  7. Could lunar land really be worth enough money to make a difference?

  8. What conditions should the US set for recognition of a claim?

  9. How much land should a settlement be able to claim... and why?

  10. Why must the Earth-Moon space line and settlement be open to all paying passengers regardless of nationality?

  11. Wouldn't it help if a major company announced that, if a land claims recognition law were passed, it would try to develop affordable space transport?

  12. Are the weaknesses and compromises in this plan likely to be permanent?

  13. Didn't the earliest version of this plan talk about Lunar "land grants"? Why aren't you using that phrase any more?

  14. Did land grants work in the past, on Earth?

  15. You can't farm Lunar land, and Earth doesn't need the Moon's minerals. So how could Lunar land be put to profitable use?

  16. If you can't give figures, now, proving the profitability of the end uses of Lunar land, how could anyone raise big money for Lunar land?

  17. Could other sources of revenue be enough without land claims recognition?

  18. What if the Lunar settlement does not produce enough operating revenue to pay off its debts and make a profit?

  19. Could this law produce a new "space race"?

  20. Why is U.S. legislation, in particular, so important?

  21. Could the U.S. withdraw from the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, claim national sovereignty on the Moon, then award property rights to whomever it pleased?

  22. What about defense? Does recognizing a land claim obligate the U.S. military to defend the Lunar settlement?

  23. What effect would this have on NASA and the aerospace companies?

  24. What do the experts say about this idea?

  25. Who came up with this idea?

More FAQs

The FAQs above cover basic questions about Lunar Land Claims Recognition. The following questions address more advanced issues.

  1. If we really went to the Moon in 1969, why aren't we there now?

  2. What were the assumptions before the Outer Space Treaty, (e.g. Robert Heinlein)?

  3. Should Lunar government be modeled after Antarctica?

  4. Could the UN just give every nation a portion of the Moon to own, thereby creating valuable Lunar property rights?

  5. Why don't space activists convince the public to support a government program to establish a base on the Moon and Mars?

  6. Will changing how NASA works bring the taxpayers back on board?

  7. What would Land Claims Recognition cost the US Government?

  8. What will this legislation do for general economic growth?

  9. Who would issue and record Lunar land deeds?

  10. Why are Lunar land sales necessary?

  11. Could this law force the US to recognize a foreign government's Lunar land claim?

  12. Shouldn't we wait to put such a law into effect until free societies are ready to settle the Moon, to keep it from encouraging the Chinese?

  13. Would Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty prohibit Lunar land claims recognition?


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Every revolutionary idea passes three stages:
  1. It's impossible.
  2. It's possible but not worth doing.
  3. I said it was a good idea all along.
- Arthur C. Clarke
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