Almost 50 years have passed since Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the surface of the moon. “This is a small step for a person,” said the famous American astronaut, “but, a giant leap of mankind.”
Shortly thereafter at puppo.ru, his colleague Buzz Aldrin joined him on a journey through the Sea of Tranquility. Descending from the steps of the lunar module, he gazed steadily at the empty landscape and said: “Magnificent desolation.”
After the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969, the Moon remained virtually untouched – since 1972 not a single person has been there. But this may change soon, as several companies are interested in exploring the possibility of mining resources on its surface, including gold, platinum and rare earth minerals, which are widely used in electronics.
Earlier, China sent the Chang’e-4 probe to the opposite side of the Moon, and he managed to germinate cotton grain in its biosphere. He plans in the future to create a research base on the moon.
The team from Japanese company iSpace plans to build a “Earth-Moon transport platform” and conduct a “polar water survey” on the Moon.
The question quite naturally arises – “To whom does the moon belong?”
Potential ownership of celestial bodies has been a problem since space exploration began during the Cold War. While NASA was planning its first manned lunar missions, the UN developed the Outer Space Treaty, signed in 1967 by countries, including the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom.
It said: “Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, by virtue of its sovereignty, is not subject to national appropriation, use, occupation or any other means.”
Joan Wheeler, director of space at Alden Advisers, calls the treaty the “Great Charter of Space.”
The installation of the American flag on the moon by Armstrong does not give any rights to use the lunar surface to individuals, companies or countries, she adds.
In 1969, land ownership and the right to develop the moon did not matter much. But with the development of technology, the use of its resources for profit has become a more likely, albeit rather distant, prospect.
In 1979, the UN issued an Agreement on the Activities of States on the Moon and other celestial bodies, better known as the “Agreement on the Moon.” It says that they should be used for peaceful purposes, and that the UN should itself say where and why anyone is planning to build the station.
The agreement also states that “the Moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of mankind” and that an international regime should be established “to manage the exploitation of its resources when such exploitation becomes possible”.
Eric Anderson, co-founder of exploration company Planetary Resources, described the law as “the single greatest recognition of property rights in history.”
In 2017, Luxembourg adopted its own law, granting the same ownership of resources found in space.
Deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider said that this would make his country “a European pioneer and leader in this sector.”
There is a desire to research and make money, and countries seem to be more and more eager to help their companies.