Can You Own Land on the Moon?

Updated on January 17, 2020
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

I write about employment issues, ways to earn money and how to get best value when spending it.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon, July 20th 1969
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon, July 20th 1969 | Source

The First Men to Walk on the Moon

The moon landing in 1969 proved that humans could get to the moon. What had been a dream for generations had now become reality. Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had the honor of being the first people to touch-down on the lunar landscape. The photos they took show a barren landscape with no living creatures, and no man-made pollution.

The event triggered a race between nations to colonize the moon. The potential for development seemed immense. But there have been many set-backs, not least a worldwide economic slowdown that has resulted in reduced investment by governments in space exploration. But the cause has been taken up by wealthy individuals, and maverick dreamers. They aim to create a permanent settlement on the moon within the next 10-20 years.

In the interim, chancers have begun selling certificates purporting to give ownership of a lunar plot of land. Most people accept that these title deeds are for entertainment only. However, there are some who genuinely believe they have made a valid investment for their children. The legal situation is not clear-cut.

Neil Armstrong: First Moon Landing 1969 in Apollo 11

Can You Buy Land on the Moon?

Lawyers point to international agreements stating that no one nation shall own land on unexplored planetary bodies. But some bullish lay-people say this is incorrect. They believe the law is unclear as current treaties remain unratified by key partners. So, the answer to whether you can own a plot of moon real estate depends on who you ask.

What seemed like a binding international treaty is under pressure. Different countries want to claim ownership and development rights on the moon, as there are potentially rich deposits of valuable minerals to be found there. Private individuals are pressing lunar real estate claims hoping to escape the rat-race and create new towns on the moon. Opportunistic commercial companies claim they are legitimate sellers of plots of land on the moon, even though international law relating to such sales remains vague.

The key piece of legislation relating to land ownership on the moon is the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. This was drawn up by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). The aim of the treaty was to prevent land on the moon being claimed and then colonized by sovereign nations. However, the wording of the 1967 treaty makes no mention of individual people. This omission has been used as a loophole by companies claiming to sell plots of land on the moon to private citizens.

International discussions resulted in a new moon treaty being drafted to rectify this oversight. The Moon Treaty 1979 was adopted by the United Nations General Council, but it has never been signed or ratified by any of the major space exploration nations. These non-ratifying nations include the United States, Russia, China, India, and most of the countries which form the European Space Agency. The Moon Treaty 1979 has therefore not resolved the legal anomaly created by the original 1967 treaty.

How We Could Build a Moon Base Today

Buying Real Estate on the Moon

If you want to buy real estate on the moon there are plenty of companies who are eager to sell it to you. A quick search on the web shows that there is a flourishing market in so-called lunar deeds. For a small sum of money, usually less than $30, you receive a highly illustrated land registration certificate. This allegedly gives you ownership rights to property on the moon.

It’s best not to start making plans to bequeath your new lunar property to your kids, as ownership has yet to be tested in the courts. Treat the registration certificate as a novelty gift rather than as a serious purchase. The legal situation regarding buying and selling of land on the moon is still a murky and uncertain area of international law.

A good overview of the story so far of lunar exploration is in LIFE magazine. The 2019 special issue celebrated 50 years since the original moon landing. The magazine discusses the technical difficulties faced by the NASA space program, the rivalries between nations to be first in the race to the moon, and the bounty future missions may bring to investors.

Many people don’t think they’ll see settlements on the moon anytime soon. But others disagree. They believe that although there are a few technological issues to overcome, people will be living and working as permanent lunar residents within the next 20 years.

Jeff Bezos Wants to Colonize Space

Celebrities and Lunar Colonies

Some celebrities and wealthy individuals believe that establishing a human settlement on the moon is not only possible but necessary. They believe a lunar colony would provide a fresh start for mankind; an opportunity to create a non-polluting settlement that’s in harmony with its environment. They using private finance to develop more reliable ways to get to the moon and beyond.

Jeff Bezos to Profit From Commercial Payloads to the Moon

The American entrepreneur and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, is in the business of creating lunar towns. He and his other company, Blue Origin, have created the Blue Moon Lander spacecraft; the aim being to make regular flights to and from space with a human payload. Blue Origin plans to make their first moon-landing in 2024.

Jeff Bezos claims he is developing the space shuttle for altruistic reasons. He said the lander is part of his vision for saving humanity and Earth, and he is also pioneering steps in space technology that will benefit later inter-galactic entrepreneurs.

Al Globus and Lunar Settlements

Al Globus, Director of the National Space Society, believes that lunar settlement is achievable in the near future. Globus argues that it’s worth buying land on the moon now before prices rise. He views lunar real estate as being the ultimate gated community and says it would be ideal for people who want to shut out the ills of modern society.

He accepts that low cost, reliable shuttle vehicles are still some way off. However, once space travel becomes more affordable, he predicts there will be a market for lunar tourism, and for moon retirement settlements.

Elon Musk Competes With NASA to Send First Woman Into Space

Also in the space race is American Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX. His project is financed by Japanese multi-billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who wants to be the first non-astronaut space traveler. Maekawa won’t say exactly how much he’s invested, but the development costs of the rocket are thought to be more than US$5 billion. The SpaceX craft won’t actually land on the moon, but will merely circumnavigate the celestial body. The flight is predicted to last five days and 23 hours. Maezawa recently organized a contest to choose a “girlfriend” to accompany him; there were more than 20,000 applications.

NASA plans to send an all-female flight to the moon in 2024. Elon Musk plans to steal a march on them, by sending his rocket around the moon by 2023 at the latest. That way his venture can claim to have sent the first women into space.

A composite photo showing two lunar phases; a crescent moon and a half moon.
A composite photo showing two lunar phases; a crescent moon and a half moon. | Source

The Future of Space 2060 and Implications for U.S. Strategy

The following is a quote from the Report on the Space Futures Workshop, 5 September 2019, Air Force Space Command.

  • The U.S. must recognize that in 2060, space will be a major engine of national political, economic, and military power for whichever nations best organize and operate to exploit that potential.
  • The U.S. faces growing competition from allies, rivals, and adversaries for leadership in the exploration and exploitation of space.
  • China is executing a long-term civil, commercial, and military strategy to explore and economically develop the cislunar domain with the explicit aim of displacing the U.S. as the leading space power. Other nations are developing similar national strategies.
  • A failure to remain a leading space power will place U.S. national power at risk. To avert this, the U.S. coalition must promote and optimize the combined civil, military, and commercial exploitation of space to best serves the nation’s interests.
  • The U.S. military must define and execute its role in promoting, exploiting, and defending the expanded military, civil, and commercial U.S. activities and human presence in space.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Comments

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  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 

    4 weeks ago from SW England

    Interesting article. I wrote a tongue-in-cheek one about an advert for land on Mars some time back but it doesn't seem so far fetched these days!

    Ann

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    5 weeks ago from UK

    I grew up in the era of moon landings. We had a model lunar base to plsy with, so I have read your article with interest. Time will tell what the future holds for man on the moon.

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