New York Times
Who can own Earth's Moon? Or an asteroid? Or a homestead on Mars?
According to the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, no nation can claim sovereignty over any part of any celestial rock. But the treaty is less clear on what a company or an individual can do in space — possibly because in the 1960s, the drafters of the treaty might have thought it hard to imagine a space race led by entrepreneurs rather than governments.
For companies today hoping to set up a Moon colony or to mine asteroids for platinum, the ambiguity is one more hurdle in attracting investors.
“There has been a chicken-egg conundrum to create a lunar legal framework,” said John Thornton, the chief executive of Astrobotic Technology, a Pittsburgh company that hopes to become the first private company to land a robotic spacecraft on Earth's Moon and win the Google Lunar X Prize. “How do you get businesses to invest in Earth's Moon if there is no legal framework versus how do you get a legal framework if there are no business operations?”
The Federal Aviation Administration, which licenses private space launchings in the United States, has now provided some clarity.