33 thoughts on “Lunar Property Rights”

  1. How can the FAA grant rights to property it doesn’t own or control? Hubris much? Seems to me it’s a no-man’s-land, free for the taking for anyone with the courage and industry to claim (and hold) it.

    1. Property rights are created by human action, when an individual mixes his labor with previous unowned property or resources. The function of government is to protect property rights, not to create property rights.

  2. Not really property rights, according to the article. More like ATC for the Moon:

    It just means that somebody else isn’t licensed to land on top of you or land on top of where exploration and prospecting activities are going on

  3. They may not control the lunar properties, but they can surely destroy the launch business end here on Earth.

    He who can destroyed a thing, controls a thing. (Dune)

    1. AST has destroyed the launch business here on Earth? When did that happen? I seem to have missed it.

  4. The technical term for this is ‘just more horseshit.’

    Using launch regulations to define property rights is typical idiocy.

    First principles should rule… not pretzel law.

    1. They aren’t defining property rights. They’re just saying they won’t give you a launch license if it appears you’re going to land on top of someone else’s spacecraft, personnel, etc.

      In other words, they are protecting the safety of “uninvolved third parties” on the Moon — the same as they do for third-parties on Earth. (The FAA won’t issue a launch license that allows you to land in the middle of Times Square. Why should they issue a license that allows you to land on top of a Bigelow habitat?)

      1. Newsflash: Their job is not to protect safety (a common misconception.) Their job is to provide a service. But as with govt. everywhere they mission creep their way to monster status.

        I would also say this has nothing to do with property rights except that it infringes on them which means (as much as I dislike the idea) it actually is (as T. Sowell would point out.)

        Typical dirty bureaucratism. I prefer my law clean.

        1. You are not familiar with the Commercial Space Launch Act if you believe that.

          It’s puzzling why you would even care about this, given your oft-stated opinion that the Moon and other parts of the solar system (except Mars) are not worth bothering with.

          When you finally build your Illudium Q-36 Space Modulator, you may change your mind and decide you do not want other people’s rockets crashing into your site, as well.

          1. your oft-stated opinion that the Moon and other parts of the solar system (except Mars) are not worth bothering with.

            Not my position. Which just proves you don’t care enough to understand what I’ve been saying. If it were important to you, you certainly do have enough intelligence to discern my meaning (which includes every gram in the solar system and beyond.) To assist you, it’s more about politics and human behavior than rocket science or even economics.

            you may change your mind and decide you do not want other people’s rockets crashing into your site

            It’s laughable that you think this FAA regulation accomplishes that. It’s fundamental purpose is to deny launch to those unworthy… in other words, just the same old expression of govt. tyranny.

      2. tldr: protect space property rights with tort law and criminal law, not prior restraint regulation, which is harms everyone and introduces moral hazards.

        My first glance gut reaction was that this is absurd (the FAA limiting launch licenses to protect extra-terrestrial property rights). I developed a somewhat positive view after finishing the article. I’ve since decided my initial reaction was right, with an added bit of disgust (“good people” in government patting themselves on the back gets my bile up).

        Given the current state in which the FAA grants launch licenses, and the proper purpose of government being ‘to secure our rights’, I think it can be rationalized that preventing launches that intend to infringe upon other’s rights (i.e. crashing your moon probe into my lunar sand castle) is a ‘good’ action for government to take, regardless of the absurdity of it currently being a complete non-issue for space development as George wittily pointed out.

        But our current state is not legitimate. Launch licensing by the government is an unjust prior restraint on our action, and *does nothing* but increase the barrier to entry to the legal industry, wasting precious wealth and stifling development (Bastiat’s “unseen” consequences). The FAA does not have positive control over launches and flights as they occur, and even if they did (which isn’t possible) could not prevent accidents or malicious intent from causing rights infringements. Government’s unique capabilities (legal use of force) are certainly not needed for creating a standard for acceptable goods or services in the marketplace (another rights infringement).

        What is actually needed, is a legal regime in which actors that violate the rights of others, either intentionally or not, are held accountable and liable for their actions. Governments sole role here should be in determining whether rights infringements that have occurred are no-fault accidents with no liability, reasonably foreseeable accidents with liability, criminal negligence or intentional malicious action.

        Actually, my “does nothing” comment above isn’t quite right, licenses can provide a perverse protectionism racket for a captured industry if the government grants legal limitations to liability along with their license stamp of approval. This effect of this of course is the exact opposite of protecting 3rd parties’ rights, as it makes marginal risk an externalilty.

        Ultimately, accepting FAA’s assumption of this regulatory role will have negative consequences for the industry and its customers, and set a bad precedent, enabling further government control. Balk now, because it will be harder to fight it off later after they’ve captured more of the industry.

    2. One of the issues that has held back lunar exploration has been the paralyzing fear that once you’re on the moon, somebody else is going to land right on top of your head. I’m glad someone in government has finally addressed this concern so we can start moving forward again.

        1. I understand the next HTML standard will have <sarcasm> tags to avoid this kind of discourse malfunction. 😉

  5. I don’t see how this will help. No other sovereign nation will recognize the American FAA’s “launch licence”. When the Chinese show up with photon torpedos and phasers the game will be over.

    We need to bail out of the United Nations Outer Space Treaty. Or BYOB (Bring your own Blaster). How this plays out should be amusing. I expect PETA to be involved.

  6. I’m not seeing much in enforcement power outside flights launching from the US, but it suggests an implicit recognition by the FAA of rights over extraterrestrial real estate being occupied and worked.

    Has king Barrycade seen this? it would be out of character for him to recognize any kind of property rights not connected to patronage.

    1. I’m not seeing much in enforcement power outside flights launching from the US,

      The enforcement mechanism is called prison. FAA-AST has licensing authority over all launches conducted by US persons, anywhere in the world. and there are serious legal penalties for unlicensed launches.

  7. The control freaks never think things through. If space becomes serious and the FAA tries to interfere with launches they will just take their business someplace else.

  8. Outer Space Treaty, Article I:

    The exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind.

    Outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies.

    There shall be freedom of scientific investigation in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, and States shall facilitate and encourage international co-operation in such investigation.

    I’m not a lawyer, to say nothing of a space lawyer, but it’s hard to read that as much other than “no property rights in space”.

    This clearly isn’t going to hold up over historical time, but withdrawing from the treaty will almost certainly scuttle any possible framework for an international agreement on extraterrestrial property rights. To that end, FAA licensing isn’t a horrible first step, especially since the FAA works with foreign aviation and space agencies on a regular basis. “We promise not to land on each other’s missions” is a lot easier to negotiate than a full framework.

    Withdrawal from OST and blowing off a property rights framework is always an option, but it triggers a wild-west-style land rush. That will probably be great for the launcher business, but claim-jumpers with kinetic energy weapons probably won’t generate what you’d call a stable environment for the exploitation of space. That, and that little nuclear issue, are why we signed the treaty in the first place.

    1. it’s hard to read that as much other than “no property rights in space”.

      Assume that the case. It only means rational people should actively ignore it like any other load of crap. Just because a subset of humanity (regardless of certification) believes we should be constrained by unnatural law doesn’t mean we should. Europe may plan to solve the world’s problems by making it illegal for America to ever go to war. It would make as much sense.

      Anybody can claim. Defending the claim can be done in many ways. No amount of paper saying you can’t defend a claim means anything when faced with a determined defense. Usually paperwork comes later to affirm reality after the fact. Lawyers try to game reality with paperwork as if that changes reality in any substantive way. That so many others buy into it is the amazing thing?

  9. So long as the US is party to the Outer Space Treaty this is about as good as it can do. Discussion about what the OST means in practice in regard to Luna has generated a general agreement that “keep-away zones” can be enforced by the first party that gets there, as a matter of practice, just as there is a keep-away zone around the ISS. There is no consensus about how big a Lunar keep-away zone could be, although some people have suggested a 100-km radius. So what the FAA could do by this is not create property rights, about which the treaties have created nothing but confusion, but a sort of pseudo-property right. It is also not clear whether such rights would sufficiently property-like that the US Government couldn’t take them away again without due process of law, or whether bureaucratic fiat would be enough. It’s also not clear whether the pseudo-property rights would be transferable. If they can be bought and sold, then a market can be created around them, and they can be used to collateralize financing, and their value can be stated (in fact, must be stated) on the company’s books as an asset. This would help the financing of space projects enormously. So, although hardly perfect, they are a step in the right direction. If they become transferable, there is a chance they might evolve into something like real property rights over time.

  10. Is this about the Google Lunar Prize? A couple of those robots MIGHT goto Luna and now the FAA can say “we have something in place” so the launches will not be slowed down but can actually be processed faster?

    1. Did my landing ellipse step on your exclusion zone? Oops, I’m sorry. But now you’re in my exclusion zone as well, so we’ll just have to let the lawyers sort it out. Meanwhile, thanks for removing all that top regolith for me. I’m really only interested in gathering that exposed ore underneath.

      1. a brillant solution to solving the problem of two enitites wanting to land on the same square inch of ground at the same time.

  11. …it triggers a wild-west-style land rush.

    You suggest this is a bad thing???

    The advantage we have now is the land is close to worthless and there’s always more of it, so…

    No nation is going to nuke a handful of people to take it away. That opportunity is lost if nations decide the land is worth fighting for. We may only have a short window here.

  12. Was this topic discussed at the Commercial Space Transportation conference? Has anyone other than Irene Klotz seen the letter from the FAA? I have many questions and would like to see the quotes in the article in the context of the full letter. I don’t have much confidence that the mainstream news media will understand space law, although Klotz’ articles are usually very good.

Comments are closed.