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posted by martyb on Monday July 23 2018, @01:58AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the ask-Heinlein-who-sold-it dept.

Did the Stars and Stripes on the moon signify the establishment of an American colony?

Most likely, this is the best-known picture of a flag ever taken: Buzz Aldrin standing next to the first U.S. flag planted on the Moon. For those who knew their world history, it also rang some alarm bells. Only less than a century ago, back on Earth, planting a national flag in another part of the world still amounted to claiming that territory for the fatherland. Did the Stars and Stripes on the moon signify the establishment of an American colony?

[...] Still, the simple answer to the question of whether Armstrong and Aldrin by way of their small ceremony did transform the moon, or at least a major part thereof, into U.S. territory turns out to be “no.” They, nor NASA, nor the U.S. government intended the U.S. flag to have that effect.

Most importantly, that answer was enshrined in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, to which both the United States and the Soviet Union as well as all other space-faring nations, had become a party. Both superpowers agreed that “colonization” on Earth had been responsible for tremendous human suffering and many armed conflicts that had raged over the last centuries. They were determined not to repeat that mistake of the old European colonial powers when it came to decide on the legal status of the moon; at least the possibility of a “land grab” in outer space giving rise to another world war was to be avoided. By that token, the moon became something of a “global commons” legally accessible to all countries—two years prior to the first actual manned moon landing.

So, the U.S. flag was not a manifestation of claiming sovereignty, but of honoring the U.S. taxpayers and engineers who made Armstrong, Aldrin, and third astronaut Michael Collins’ mission possible. The two men carried a plaque that they “came in peace for all mankind,” and of course Neil’s famous words echoed the same sentiment: his “small step for man” was not a “giant leap” for the United States, but “for mankind.” Furthermore, the United States and NASA lived up to their commitment by sharing the moon rocks and other samples of soil from the lunar surface with the rest of the world, whether by giving them away to foreign governments or by allowing scientists from all over the globe to access them for scientific analysis and discussion. In the midst of the Cold War, this even included scientists from the Soviet Union.

Case closed, no need for space lawyers anymore then? No need for me to prepare University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s space law students for further discussions and disputes on the lunar law, right?

[...] The very fundamental prohibition under the Outer Space Treaty to acquire new state territory, by planting a flag or by any other means, failed to address the commercial exploitation of natural resources on the moon and other celestial bodies. This is a major debate currently raging in the international community, with no unequivocally accepted solution in sight yet. Roughly, there are two general interpretations possible.

Countries such as the United States and Luxembourg (as the gateway to the European Union) agree that the moon and asteroids are "global commons," which means that each country allows its private entrepreneurs, as long as duly licensed and in compliance with other relevant rules of space law, to go out there and extract what they can, to try and make money with it. It's a bit like the law of the high seas, which are not under the control of an individual country, but completely open to duly licensed law-abiding fishing operations from any country's citizens and companies. Then, once the fish is in their nets, it is legally theirs to sell.

On the other hand, countries such as Russia and somewhat less explicitly Brazil and Belgium hold that the moon and asteroids belong to humanity as a whole. And therefore the potential benefits from commercial exploitation should somehow accrue for humanity as a whole—or at least should be subjected to a presumably rigorous international regime to guarantee humanity-wide benefits. It’s a bit like the regime originally established for harvesting mineral resources from the deep seabed. Here, an international licensing regime was created as well as an international enterprise, which was to mine those resources and generally share the benefits among all countries.

[...] While ultimately it is up to the community of states to determine whether common agreement can be reached on either of the two positions or maybe somewhere in between, it is of crucial importance that agreement can be reached one way or another. Such activities developing without any law that is generally applicable and accepted would be a worst-case scenario. While not a matter of colonization anymore, it may have all the same harmful results.


Original Submission

Related Stories

Could Corporations Control Territory in Space? Under New US Rules, It Might Be Possible 58 comments

Could corporations control territory in space? Under new US rules, it might be possible:

First, the Artemis Accords go beyond simply rejecting the unpopular 1979 Moon Agreement, which declared lunar resources to be the "common heritage of mankind" and committed parties to establish an international regime to oversee space mining. Only 18 countries have signed the treaty.

In its place, the accords envisage a US-centric framework of bilateral agreements in which "partner nations" agree to follow US-drafted rules.

Second, the accords introduce the concept of "safety zones" around lunar operations.

Although territorial claims in space are prohibited under international law, these safety zones would seek to protect commercial and scientific sites from inadvertent collisions and other forms of "harmful interference". What kinds of conduct could count as harmful interference remains to be determined.

Previously:
(2020-06-02) Third European Service Module for Artemis Mission to Land Astronauts on the Moon
(2020-05-16) NASA Wants Partner Nations to Agree to "Artemis Accords" for Lunar Exploration
(2020-03-12) CoronaVirus (SARS-CoV-2) Roundup 2020-03-12
(2018-07-22) Who Owns The Moon? A Space Lawyer Answers
(2018-03-07) China to Recruit Civilian Astronauts, Partner With Russia on Upcoming Missions
(2018-01-09) Russia Assembles Engineering Group for Lunar Activities and the Deep Space Gateway
(2017-10-18) Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022
(2015-11-26) Who Owns Space? USA's Asteroid-Mining Act is Dangerous and Potentially Illegal

Robert Heinlein explored the notion in a novel. Does the future of space exploration lie with governments or corporations?


Original Submission

ESA Plans to Send Mining Equipment to the Moon 10 comments

The European Space Agency plans to start mining for natural resources on the moon

The European Space Agency plans to start mining for water and oxygen on the moon by 2025.

The agency announced Monday it has signed a 1-year contract with European aerospace company ArianeGroup to explore mining regolith, also known as lunar soil or moon dust.

Water and oxygen can be extracted from regolith, potentially making it easier for humans to spend time on the moon in the future, according to ArianeGroup. The research could also make it possible to produce rocket fuel on the moon, enabling future expeditions to go further into space, the aerospace company said.

[...] The mission would be a collaboration between aerospace scientists and technicians in France, Germany and Belgium. The project is now in the research phase, with scientists hoping to use an Ariane 64 rocket in coming years to send mining equipment to the moon.

Previously: New ESA Head Wörner: 'We Could Build All Kinds of Things with Moon Concrete'
ESA Expert Envisions "Moon Village" by 2030-2050

Related: Moon Base Could Cost Just $10 Billion Due to New Technologies
How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently
Who Owns The Moon? A Space Lawyer Answers


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @02:58AM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @02:58AM (#711031)

    What are you going to do when a space rent-a-cop chases you off an asteroid mining rig (or whatever that exclusive economic zone equivalent is)? Throw some legal papers at them? Since corporations are people, I'm sure they count as one of the "global commons" too.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by MostCynical on Monday July 23 2018, @04:24AM (3 children)

      by MostCynical (2589) on Monday July 23 2018, @04:24AM (#711058) Journal

      "space police" jobs will be very hard to fill.
      Life expectancy will be very low.
      "Accidents" will be very common.

      It will be the early stages of any gold rush on earth, with more certain death ("running away" becomes problematic, and survival far less likely)

      Miners will have more money behind them, and therefore better equipment (or at least bigger guns), and be prepared to "protect" their claims against all comers- including the law.

      Until "the law" has a sufficient presence and an effective method *for* enforcement, it will be worse than the wild west.

      --
      “I've learned from experience that asking politely never works unless you have the upper hand.” Daisuke Aramaki, GIS:SAC
      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @02:19PM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @02:19PM (#711231)

        In the end, the miners will have to sell their stuff on Earth. And unlike on Earth, it's hard to cover your traces in space.

        • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @10:08PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @10:08PM (#711461)

          No, the miners can sell their stuff to intermediaries, perhaps on a permanent satellite in Earth orbit. Or on the Moon outpost. And those can sell it back and forth a few times, before someone gets around to selling it on Earth. Whatever you need to avoid any Imperial entanglements.

        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday July 24 2018, @04:16PM

          by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Tuesday July 24 2018, @04:16PM (#711765) Journal

          What the other AC said. I don't see it being very cost effective to ship goods or minerals back to Earth. Maaaaaybe, a BFR-like fully reusable ship could be used to haul tons of precious metals for a controlled landing... 150 tons of gold would be worth about $6 billion, for example. That's pretty far above the ~$400 million estimated cost of building a BFR.

          --
          [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @09:27AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @09:27AM (#711117)

      Then you get to play "King of the Hill".

      Someone who's already on an asteroid mining rig has already paid the cost of climbing out of Earth's gravity well. From there, it's a simple, and inexpensive, matter to drop a massive rock on almost any part of Earth you please. Countries, or companies, sending out Space Cops can be taught not to do that anymore. Or to no longer exist. Whichever.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by realDonaldTrump on Monday July 23 2018, @03:05AM (8 children)

    by realDonaldTrump (6614) on Monday July 23 2018, @03:05AM (#711036) Homepage Journal

    America, the Indians lived here for thousands of years. But they didn't own the real estate, they had no idea what it meant to own a piece of land. Until we came, we gave them that idea. And they gave us so much land. Tremendous gift. Although, sometimes we had to fight for it. But, now it's ours.

    Space, it's much easier. There's nobody there. No funny languages to learn. And nobody to fight.

    And people say, "oh, there's a treaty!" My predecessors made many treaties with the Indians too. Many many treaties. And as soon as they got what they wanted, they forgot all about the treaties. Like they never existed. Believe me, we can still do that -- as I did with the horrible Iran Deal. Which, by the way, wasn't even a treaty. If you look at the legal of that one, not really a treaty. Just another Obama number.

    I'll tell you what we're gonna do, right -- we get greedy, right? Now we're gonna get greedy for the United States. We're gonna grab and grab and grab! We're gonna bring in so much money and so much everything, we're gonna make America great again folks, I'm telling you, we're gonna make America great again. I want our great Corporations out there. In outer space. Taking outer space and making it American. And our great Space Force will protect them -- so long as they pay their Space Taxes. I mean, everybody pays taxes, right? I pay, and you pay. Very fair!

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @03:25AM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @03:25AM (#711041)

      Would be funny if it wasn't sad.

      • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @03:31AM (3 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @03:31AM (#711045)

        They were pulling one on the 'white man'. If you look at it as if they were selling you the Brooklyn bridge. What they did made more sense. It was a big con to them. Right up until they found out 'ownership' meant get the fuck out of here. I did quite a bit of research on this in college. I too believed we 'stole' their land. Until I found out who was doing the selling and what really went down. There was plenty of shame to go around. However, I think they are doing just fine now. They were able to turn a vice into a virtue. Gambling was a long held tradition amongst them. But you do not have to take my word for it. You can research it yourself. Look into gaming and indians. You will find out quickly what really went down.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @03:58AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @03:58AM (#711052)

          They were able to turn a vice into a virtue.

          Heh, perchance, are you talking about:

          we get greedy, right? Now we're gonna get greedy for the United States.

          when you mention turning the vice into a virtue?

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @03:02PM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @03:02PM (#711260)

          how the fuck is this offtopic

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @08:20PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @08:20PM (#711424)

            what the fuck does it have to do about the Moon and who owns it? Digressed pretty heavily there, didn't we?

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @07:45AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @07:45AM (#711098)

      It might be the case that Native Americans didn't have a sense of *individual* land ownership or title; but it seems quite obvious they had a sense of collective ownership over certain territories. If tribe A started hunting on tribe B's land without permission, that's war.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by DannyB on Monday July 23 2018, @02:32PM

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday July 23 2018, @02:32PM (#711238) Journal

      Londo Mollari: ". . . but treaties . . ."

      Lord Refa: "Ink on a page."

      --
      Employers should not mandate wearing clothing. It should be a personal choice. It only affects me. Junk can't breathe!
    • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Monday July 23 2018, @05:30PM

      by DeathMonkey (1380) on Monday July 23 2018, @05:30PM (#711330) Journal

      Space, it's much easier. There's nobody there....

      He thinks America is going to get there first..... How quaint!

  • (Score: 2, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @04:24AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @04:24AM (#711057)
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @05:09AM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @05:09AM (#711065)

    Everything is owned by those who can defend their claim to it.

    You may own it until there's a fight, and you lose.

    In old days, the fights were physical, and your stuff was simply taken. Not much different than a cat losing its dinner ( and sometimes its life ) to a more aggressive animal.

    These days, you can be literally stripped clean with a pounding of a judge's gavel.

    In our own little world of the USA, I feel we are led to believe we "own" stuff like our homes or cars, but in order to continue to have it, we have property taxes, licensing, or whatever to pay. Not only that, having property mostly makes me accountable because its something that can be legally taken away should someone else be able to convince a court that I wronged them.

    To me, ownership is just an enforcement mechanism, and those who own are signalling they play the game, and have something to lose should they not behave.

    Whereas "renters" are seen as having no incentive or enforcement mechanism to honor commitments. They can promise and commit to anything, and simply walk out, and what can you do? No handle on 'em. Nothing to go after. Throw 'em in the pokey, and now you've gotta feed 'em too!

    Janis Joplin once sung "Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.". My area is experiencing a surge in homeless people, many of which are stripped from having a thing, and now live almost like animals. Funny thing is once they start living this way, many seem quite reticent to return to their former lifestyles. They have tents set up, often in the most inappropriate places, and have churches bringing food to them daily, and other trucks bringing in supplies.

    I understand the pain of losing things you had is even greater than the joy you experienced by acquiring it... so dangling "ownership" in front of the average guy is a great way to motivate him to get out of bed early in the morning and spend his day doing what someone else wants him to do, so that he may keep his stuff.

    Gone forever is the day of my ancestors ( American Indian ) where one paid his respects to the Great Spirit instead of the Tax Collector. I see "ownership" as just one of the tools used to organize civilization and to motivate them to help make someone else rich. Compare to the homeless camps, which require resources from the public sector, but build nothing nor provide any services. However the resource bite is quite modest, given food is in such great supply over here in America that most of it goes to waste - the fact some got rerouted to the homeless is so negligible of a drag that I would find it difficult to measure.

    So, like Trump stated above... make all the treaties you want... but its he who has the guns that ultimately makes the decision as to how anything is to be used. And America has the guns. We have enough firepower to blow up the rest of the planet if it comes to that. So obey our wishlists, make our stuff for us, and we will let you live your lives as you see fit.

    Is America unique in this? No. Anybody who has this kind of power - which exists today thanks to modern technologies - can and will use it to maintain that power. Its part of the human condition. Same pecking order that appears to exist in all life. As far as tyrantship goes in this new technological age, my guess is that any political system having a sufficient number of pissed off people will be quite unstable, as the technology exists for both leaders and followers to retaliate should things get too out of line.

    Hardly a day goes by we don't read of all the fighting going on over a populace revolting against their leadership.

    God created all men, and Sam Colt made them equal. [historyandheadlines.com]

    • (Score: 2) by acid andy on Monday July 23 2018, @09:42AM

      by acid andy (1683) on Monday July 23 2018, @09:42AM (#711119) Homepage Journal

      I agree with you about the legal concept of ownership and its associated enforcement mechanisms taking away freedom. As I said in another discussion, it's an approximation of what you truly morally own. If you own a car, does anyone else really have the moral right to impound or crush it?

      True ownership still exists in the absence of human society, as you noted:

      In old days, the fights were physical, and your stuff was simply taken. Not much different than a cat losing its dinner ( and sometimes its life ) to a more aggressive animal.

      I suppose you could say the cat fighting off another animal to protect its dinner is another enforcement mechanism but it's very different from a centralized state holding all the power.

      --
      Where did that thought come from? And that one? What about this one? Woah, man...
    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by PiMuNu on Monday July 23 2018, @11:07AM (1 child)

      by PiMuNu (3823) on Monday July 23 2018, @11:07AM (#711159)

      I agree with most of your statements, but

      > ownership is just an enforcement mechanism

      Except that snow is cold and beds are warm. Without ownership, there is no mechanism for supporting and protecting investment in infrastructure (e.g. bricks, insulation, farmland). Without infrastructure life is pretty grim.

      > And America has the guns.

      If America pisses off a sufficiently large number of countries, that won't be the case. EU could probably field a reasonable army if they could gang up. The Putin strategy seems to be to fracture the EU to erode American power base. Maybe turn over the NATO alliance and make it America + Russia vs EU and China. Such turnovers have happened before e.g. 1740 Austria+Britain vs France + Prussia; 1756 Prussia+Britain vs France+Austria was a turn over of a century of French/Austrian foreign policy, reflecting the growth of Britain as a major European power.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by VLM on Monday July 23 2018, @08:43PM

        by VLM (445) on Monday July 23 2018, @08:43PM (#711431)

        The Putin strategy seems to be to fracture the EU to erode American power base.

        Joke's on him, Europe is going to be majority Muslim in a generation or two, a second northern "middle east". The locals seem hell-bent on cultural suicide. He can have it.

  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Monday July 23 2018, @02:37PM

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday July 23 2018, @02:37PM (#711244) Journal

    It's not Countries. It is Corporations that want to exploit resources.

    Countries no longer run things. They are merely legal conveniences for corporations to exploit, just like natural resources.

    You think you've seen global mega concentrations of wealth and power here on Earth which corrupt entire governments? Just wait until you see interplanetary mega corporations that exploit inter planetary resources.

    --
    Employers should not mandate wearing clothing. It should be a personal choice. It only affects me. Junk can't breathe!
  • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Monday July 23 2018, @02:59PM (2 children)

    by tangomargarine (667) on Monday July 23 2018, @02:59PM (#711258)

    This is why we can't have nice things. Because greedy assholes would rather make money off the moon than advance the human race through science.

    --
    "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
    • (Score: 3, Funny) by DannyB on Monday July 23 2018, @06:42PM (1 child)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday July 23 2018, @06:42PM (#711381) Journal

      For maximum squabbling, administrivia and delays, be sure to have many lawyers involved over lunar rights.

      Let's consider an example. Suppose a discovery of significance to all humanity were unearthed! I can see the lawyers getting into a serious dispute that could escalate into a planetary level court case. Should something dug up on the moon be called "unearthed" or "unmooned"? Only a court could decide. And being unmooned is the opposite of being mooned.

      I cannot give legal advice. 2 disclaimers: iANAL and iRECTAL

      iANAL - I Am Not A Lawyer
      iRECTAL - I Recommend Engaging Credentialed Trusted Authorized Lawyer
      iRECTAL - I Recommend Everyone Contact True Actual Lawyer

      --
      Employers should not mandate wearing clothing. It should be a personal choice. It only affects me. Junk can't breathe!
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @07:28PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23 2018, @07:28PM (#711402)

        Should something dug up on the moon be called "unearthed" or "unmooned"?

        Unearthed.

        If you were wanting to distinguish something that was "un-Earthed", whatever that might mean, then your question might be valid, but "earth" with a lowercase "e" refers to the ground (or in English, electrical grounding), not the planet.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by acid andy on Monday July 23 2018, @10:27PM

    by acid andy (1683) on Monday July 23 2018, @10:27PM (#711467) Homepage Journal

    Sorry for this pessimistic comment but I can't help but think all this wonderful global cooperation over outer space and agreements to share its resources are only in place because it's still damn hard to get lots of people and equipment there and back (for various values of "there"). Once it's nearly as easy and cheap to travel to other planets as it is to travel to another continent, everyone will start behaving like total pricks again and fight over it all. I hope I'm wrong but I'm sure I'm right!

    --
    Where did that thought come from? And that one? What about this one? Woah, man...
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