Edwin E. ‘Buzz’ Aldrin Jr. He poses for a photograph next to the American flag that was deployed to the moon during the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969. Neil A. Armstrong / NASA / AP Photo Probably, this is the most famous image from a flag ever taken: Buzz Aldrin stands next to the first American flag implanted on the moon’s surface. For those who know the history of their world, it has also sounded some alarm bells. Just less than a century ago, back on Earth, planting the national flag in another part of the world still amounted to claiming that land to the motherland. Did the stars and stripes on the moon mean the establishment of an American colony? When people first hear that I am a lawyer practicing and I know something called “space law,” the question they ask a lot, often with a big smile or a flash in the eye, is: “Tell me, who owns the moon?” Of course, the claim to new national lands was a largely European habit, applicable to non-European parts of the world. In particular, the Portuguese, Spaniards, Dutch, French and English created huge colonial empires. But while their position was centered on Europe, the legal notion that raising the flag was an act of establishing sovereignty soon stuck and became accepted throughout the world as an integral part of the law of states. The astronauts clearly had more important things on their minds than thinking about the legal meaning and implications of that implanted science, but fortunately the issue was taken care of before the mission. Since the start of the space race, the United States has known that for many people around the world, the sight of the American flag on the moon would raise major political issues. Any suggestion that the Moon might, legally speaking, become part of the US backwaters could fuel such concerns, and possibly lead to international conflicts detrimental to both the US space program and the interests of the United States as a whole. By 1969, decolonization may have destroyed any notion that the non-European parts of the world, although inhabited, were not civilized and thus came under European sovereignty – however, not a single person lived on the Moon; Even life itself was absent. However, the simple answer to the question of whether Armstrong and Aldrin turned the moon, or at least a large portion of it, into American soil, is “no.” They, neither people, nor the US government intended the American flag to have this effect. The first lunar sample return container for a NASA sample of outer space with a display of lunar soil in a vault at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. OptoMechEngineer, CC BY-SA Most importantly, this answer is enshrined in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, to which the United States, the Soviet Union, and all other spacefaring nations are parties. The two superpowers agreed that “colonialism” on Earth was responsible for immense human suffering and the many armed conflicts that broke out over the past centuries. They are determined not to repeat this mistake made by the ancient European colonial powers when it comes to deciding on the moon’s legal status. He at least avoided the possibility of a “terrestrial grab” in outer space, which would lead to another world war. Through this symbol, the moon has become something of a “global commons” legally available to all countries – two years before the first actual manned landing on the Moon. Businessman Rajzeev V. Baagree, who bought five acres of land on the Moon for 1,400 rupees (the US equivalent in 2005) per acre, stands next to the proof documents, at his home in Hyderabad, India. It turned out that he had been tricked. Mustafa Qureshi / Associated Press Photo, The American flag was not an expression of a claim to sovereignty, but a tribute to the American taxpayers and engineers who made the mission of Armstrong, Aldrin and third astronaut Michael Collins possible. The two men carried the painting “Come in Peace to All Mankind” and of course Neill’s famous words echoed the same sentiments: “His small step for the man” was not a “giant leap” for the United States, but “for” humanity. “Moreover, the United States and NASA have fulfilled their commitment By sharing moon rocks and other soil samples from the lunar surface with the rest of the world, either by giving them away to foreign governments or by allowing scientists from all over the world access to them for scientific analysis and discussion. In the midst of the Cold War, this included even scientists from the Soviet Union. Case closed. No space attorney needed anymore? I don’t need to prepare students of space law at the University of Nebraska Lincoln for further discussions and disagreements about moon law, right? No space attorney needed? Not so fast. While the legal status of the moon as a ‘global commons’ is available. For all countries on peace missions facing no major resistance or challenge, the Outer Space Treaty left more details unresolved.Contrary to highly optimistic assumptions at the time, mankind has not yet returned to the Moon since 1972, thus making land rights Lunar z theory largely. This 1964 file photo from the World’s Fair in Queens, New York shows views of the moon colony on GM’s Futurama 2 voyage. That is, until a few years ago when many new plans were made to return to the moon. In addition, at least two US companies, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, which have serious financial backing, have begun targeting asteroids with the purpose of mining their mineral resources. Geek Note: Under the aforementioned OST, the Moon and other celestial bodies such as asteroids, legally speaking, belong to the same basket. None of them can become a “territory” of one or another sovereign state. The very basic prohibition under the Outer Space Treaty on the acquisition of the territory of a new nation, by flying a flag or by any other means, fails 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 unambiguously acceptable solution in sight yet. Roughly, there are two general explanations possible. Do you want an asteroid mine? Countries like the United States and Luxembourg (as a gateway to the European Union) agree that the moon and asteroids are “global commons”, which means that every country allows private entrepreneurs, as long as they are duly licensed and in compliance with the rules of space law, to get out there and extract what is in They can, to try to make money by using it. It is somewhat similar to the law of the high seas, which is not under the control of a single country, but is completely open to the duly licensed, law-abiding fishing operations of the citizens of any country and its companies. Then, once the fish are in their nets, it is legal to sell them. Osiris Rex will travel to a near-Earth asteroid called Benno and return a small sample to Earth for study. The mission took off on September 8, 2016 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. As planned, the spacecraft will arrive at Benno in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023. NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center / Associated Press On the other hand, countries such as Russia, Brazil and Belgium believe that the moon and asteroids belong to all of humanity. Consequently, the potential benefits from commercial exploitation must somehow accrue to all of humanity – or at least must be subject to a strict international regime that is supposed to guarantee benefits on a human scale. It is a bit like the system that was originally created to harvest mineral resources from the deep seabed. Here, an international licensing system was established as well as an international institution, which was aimed at mining those resources and generally sharing the benefits among all countries. While in my opinion the previous position would certainly make more sense, both from a legal and practical standpoint, the legal battle was by no means over. Meanwhile, interest in the moon has been renewed as well – at least China, India and Japan have serious plans to return there, raising the stakes even further. Therefore, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, we will need to educate our students about these issues for many years to come. While it is ultimately up to the community of states to determine whether a common agreement can be reached on either position or perhaps somewhere in between, it is vitally important that an agreement be reached one way or the other. Developing such activities without any generally applicable and accepted law would be a worst-case scenario. Although it is no longer a matter of colonialism, it may have the same perverse consequences, and this article has been republished from The Conversation, a non-profit news site dedicated to the exchange of ideas from academic experts. Read more: If the Earth fell, would interstellar space travel be our salvation? Mining the moon to obtain rocket fuel to take us to Mars, and the new telescope will scan the sky for asteroids on a collision course with Earth. And politics.