Moon Colonization and Sovereign Rights: NASA vs The Lunar Embassy

It appears that NASA’s Moon colonization project, currently planned for around 2020, may tread on the sovereign rights of the Galactic Government and the property rights of everyone who has purchased Lunar property from the Lunar Embassy.

I first posted an article excerpt about Dennis Hope and the Lunar Embassy four years ago.  At the time, I thought he had made an interesting use of a loop-hole in the 1967 “Outer Space Treaty,” to which all signing countries agreed that they could not claim sovereignty or control over any of the other planets, moons, or solar bodies in our solar system.  Hope realized the treaty only prevented governments from claiming them, but nothing prevented him, as an individual, from claiming ownership.

So in 1980, he filed a claim declaration at his local courthouse and sent letters to the governments of the United States, the Soviet Union, and United Nations stating his ownership rights and his intention to subdivide and sell parcels of the Moon, Mars, and other planets in the solar system; that if they had a problem with this, they should contact him.  According to the 2003 article, he never heard from any of them regarding his claim. So he setup shop has been selling acreage on the Moon for $19.99, plus $1.51 in Lunar tax, an acre for more than 20 years.

However, I recently learned — gotta love the Discovery Channel — that NASA has begun a long term project to return to the Moon: beginning further exploration to locate rocks that contain water, learning how to extract water and oxygen from them, and figuring out ways to deal with lunar dust, all with the intent of eventually building a permanent outpost or colony.  Their first experiment, looking for water, happens next year.  They expect to have a mostly self sustaining colony in place by 2020.  All very cool stuff.

But to me, this seems to be somewhat at odds with the goals and direction of Dennis Hope and the Lunar Embassy.  Mind you, exploration itself doesn’t seem to be a problem.  The FAQ page of the Lunar Embassy indicates that NASA is allowed and encouraged to explore the Moon and other Celestial bodies — providing they don’t permanently setup shop there.  So I was curious what the “official” stance of the Lunar Embassy was concerning NASA’s planned colonization and asked them about it via their website:

Eric: How does NASA’s new lunar colonization program affect your ownership of the Moon and, ultimately, other extraterrestrial bodies?

Dennis: First of all NASA is an extension of the US Government.  According to the 1967 “Outer Space Treaty,” of which the USA is a signatory, article two states, “No nation by appropriation shall have sovereignty or control over any of the satellite bodies.”  This means no government on Earth may own, control, of have the right to create or effectively enforce laws on these planetary bodies.  So to answer the first question, NASA has no control over what we do with the claimed properties of Dr. Dennis M. Hope in 1980.

Eric: I see that they are planning further exploration, beginning next year, and expect to semi-permanently house colonists by 2020.  Have they purchased land for this colonization or negotiated rights to do so? If not, do you expect to take legal action to enforce your property and rights?

Dennis: We are planning to start building a City on the Moon in 2012.  Again because of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 they are not allowed to own land.  Their words, not mine.

Eric: I’m also curious of the ramifications if the chosen NASA colony site happens to be on property already deeded to someone else …

Dennis: By the time NASA is funded to create a colony on the Moon we will have been there for 8 years.  The Galactic Government is the governing body for all planets except Earth in this solar system.

That part about building a city is pretty cool.  I double-checked the Lunar Embassy site and found that they plan on building a large pyramid shaped city (enclosed, of course), that would be 3 kilometers wide at the base and a little over 2 kilometers tall.  They expect it to house up to 2 million people!  This is a huge project and would be very expensive — There are apparently other programs underway at the Lunar Embassy that are expected to eventually pay for this extraterrestrial construction job.

While researching the NASA site to see if they would be cooperating with the Lunar Embassy, I found a document from the NASA Oral History Project[PDF], where Edward Frankle is being interviewed by Sandra Johnson on November 18, 2003.  Near the end of the interview, pages 67-70, they briefly discuss ownership of celestial bodies and even mention the Lunar Embassy.  Unfortunately, it’s pretty plain from this discussion that NASA has little regard for Dennis’ ownership claims.

In light of this, I’ve sent off a very short list of follow-up questions to Dennis Hope, but unfortunately, I have not yet received an answer.

I am also trying to find an appropriate person at NASA for a similar list of questions.

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