The Moon as seen by an observer from Earth. It is claimed as private property by several individuals.[1][2]

Extraterrestrial real estate refers to claims of land ownership on other planets, natural satellites, or parts of space by certain organizations or individuals. Previous[clarification needed] claims are not recognized by any authority, and have no legal standing. Nevertheless, some private individuals and organizations have claimed ownership of celestial bodies, such as the Moon, and are actively involved in "selling" parts of them through certificates of ownership termed "Lunar deeds", "Martian deeds" or similar.

While personal claims have little weight, whole countries could potentially lay claim to colonizing certain bodies. Extraterrestrial real estate not only deals with the legal standpoints of potential colonization, but how it could be feasible for long-term real estate. There are multiple factors to consider in using another planet for real estate including transportation, planetary protection, astrobiology, sustainability, how to create a real estate market, and the orbital real estate of the planet, as well.


The topic of real estate on celestial objects has been present since the 1890s. Dean Lindsay made claims for all extraterrestrial objects on June 15, 1936. The public sent offers to buy objects from him as well.[3]

Law and governance

Main articles: Space law and Common heritage of mankind

The United Nations sponsored 1967 Outer Space Treaty established all of outer space as an international commons by describing it as the "province of all mankind" and forbidding all the nations from claiming territorial sovereignty.[4] Article VI vests the responsibility for activities in space to States Parties, regardless of whether they are carried out by governments or non-governmental entities. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 had been ratified by 102 countries by 2013,[5] including all the major space-faring nations. It has also been signed but not yet ratified by 26 other nations.[6]

The Outer Space Treaty established the basic ramifications for space activity in Article 1:

"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."

It continues in Article 2 by stating:

"Outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means."[7]

The development of international space law has revolved much around outer space being defined as the "province of all mankind". The Magna Carta of Space presented by William A. Hyman in 1966 framed outer space explicitly not as terra nullius but as res communis, which subsequently influenced the work of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.[8][9]

A subsequent treaty document, the international Moon Treaty—finalised in 1979 (just five countries had ratified it by 1984, but five countries was sufficient for it to be considered officially in force)—went further and forbade private ownership of extraterrestrial real estate.[10] This agreement has not been widely ratified,[5][11] with only 18 countries having ratified it by 2018.[12]

Several individuals and private organizations claimed ownership of the moon and other extraterrestrial bodies, but no such claims have yet been recognized. A white paper by the Competitive Enterprise Institute suggested legislation whereby the US would recognize claims made by private entities, American and others, which meet certain conditions regarding habitation and transportation.[13]

Private purchase schemes

Some individuals and organizations offer schemes or plans claiming to allow people to purchase portions of the Moon or other celestial bodies. Though the details of some of the schemes' legal arguments vary, one goes so far as to state that although the Outer Space Treaty, which entered force in 1967, forbids countries from claiming celestial bodies, there is no such provision forbidding private individuals from doing so. However, Article VI of this treaty states "The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty." Thus, while it does not explicitly prohibit such schemes, the treaty does require they be authorized by the schemers' government.

The short story The Man Who Sold the Moon by Robert A. Heinlein, which was written in 1949, offers a portrayal of such plans or schemes, and created the concept of a Lunar Republic. Heinlein's 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land also refers to a space law case called the Larkin Decision.

Since the 1970s, various companies and "star registries" claiming to sell stars or naming rights to them have been created.[14][15]

Geostationary orbits

Main articles: Space law § Geostationary orbit allocation, and Bogota Declaration

A space ownership issue of current practical importance is the allocation of slots for satellites in geostationary orbit. This is managed by the International Telecommunication Union. The 1976 Declaration of the First Meeting of Equatorial Countries, also known as the Bogota Declaration, signed by several countries located on the Earth's equator, attempted to assert sovereignty over those portions of the geostationary orbit that continuously lie over the signatory nation's territory.[16] These claims did not receive wider international support or recognition and were subsequently largely abandoned. Instead thereafter slots have been internationally allocated.

Orbital real estate

A spot of space debris illuminates in the night sky.

Two problematic issues arise regarding derelict spacecraft: In orbit around the Earth, 'dead' and abandoned satellites threaten future travel in the same orbits with a spray of deadly debris. In orbit around extraterrestrial planets, non-sterile orbiters in decaying orbits threaten to pollute the remote planets they orbit with Earth-organisms, and hence create a false 'signal' of alien life, possibly destroying or supplanting native life, or infesting its remains.

Build-up of hazards in orbit around Earth

A prominent environmental problem in near-Earth orbital space is 'space junk'. Human-made refuse left in space endangers prime orbital 'real estate' for future satellites, causing big problems for future use of nearby space. In the case of debris cluttering orbital space, if the orbiting debris continue to build up without remediation, orbits near the Earth will become so crowded with deadly missiles that some operations in space will no longer be attainable.[17]

To remediate the damage already done by human-made objects, astronauts will need to bring specific hardware into space to exterminate the debris. Once cleared, the surrounding space around a planet can then be used for more real estate opportunities. There are specific orbits, however, that have caused ownership debate.[citation needed]

Contamination of planets with terrestrial life

Another issue is the crashing of abandoned orbital debris on extraterrestrial planets. Before the 21st century, exploration of other planets in the Solar System raised little concern about contaminating planets with life from the Earth. Since then experiments have shown that some terrestrial life is astonishingly hardy, and the time spent in transit in space is not a guarantee of a sterile spacecraft on arrival. Some 'bugs' will survive the trip, potentially invade the planet, eliminating the chance of determining whether life arose independently on other planets, or in the deep geologic past has spread between the planets of the Solar System via the hypothetical "panspermia" processes. If an old, contaminated orbiter crashes onto an extraterrestrial planet, except in extreme cases, it will no longer be possible to test the panspermia hypothesis with any confidence in the outcome.[citation needed]

Notable claims

Map of Linokhod 2's path in Le Monnier crater at the eastern rim of Mare Serenitatis

See also


  1. ^ "Who owns the moon? It's 'complicated', say experts". CNN. 2008.
  2. ^ "This man claims he owns the Moon". Newser. 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Pop, Virgiliu G. (2009). Who Owns the Moon? Extraterrestrial aspects of land and mineral resources ownership. Springer Publishing. pp. 2–3. ISBN 978-1-4020-9134-6.
  4. ^ "United Nations Treaties and Principles on Outer Space" (PDF). United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. 2002. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  5. ^ a b "Status of international agreements relating to activities in outer space". United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. 2013-01-01. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  6. ^ "Status of international agreements relating to activities in outer space as at 1 January 2005" (PDF). United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. February 2005. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  7. ^ "Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies". United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  8. ^ Durrani, Haris (19 July 2019). "Is spaceflight colonialism?". The Nation. Retrieved 2 October 2020.
  9. ^ Alexander Lock (6 June 2015). "Space: The final frontier". The British Library. Medieval manuscripts blog. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  10. ^ "Moon Treaty". NASA Ames Research Center. 2001-08-31. Archived from the original on 2013-06-06. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  11. ^ "Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies". United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  12. ^ "Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies". United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. Retrieved 2018-08-19.
  13. ^ Foust, Jeff (9 April 2012). "Staking a claim on the Moon". The Space Review. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  14. ^ Golden, Frederic (1982-01-11). "Science: Stellar Idea or Cosmic Scam?". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2022-09-18.
  15. ^ Daley, Beth (May 1, 2000). "New round of star wars: Entrepreneurs battle over celestial naming rights". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2022-09-18.
  16. ^ "Text of Declaration of the First Meeting of Equatorial Countries". Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. 2007-01-23. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  17. ^ Klinkrad, H. (2006). "The current space debris environment and its sources". Space Debris. Springer Praxis Books. Berlin & Heidelberg DE: Springer. pp. 5–58. doi:10.1007/3-540-37674-7_2. ISBN 978-3-540-25448-5.
  18. ^ Yans, Cindy (2001-04-13). "Lord British, we hardly knew ye". Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  19. ^ David, Leonard (2010-03-22). "Privately Owned Soviet Moon Rover Sparks Space Law Talks". Retrieved 2023-11-03.
  20. ^ Tull, D. (1996). "The Moon is mine". Parascope. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  21. ^ Pop, Virgiliu G. (2006). Unreal Estate: The men who sold the Moon. Exposure Publishing. p. 17. ISBN 1-84685-095-9.
  22. ^ "Chicago man stakes claim to outer space". Science Illustrated. May 1949.
    cited by
    "republished". (blog). Archived from the original on 2013-04-29. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  23. ^ "Robert R. Coles pointing to Moon Map". Corbis. 1955-11-17. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  24. ^ "[no title cited]". Newsweek. 5 December 1955. p. 31.
    cited by
    White, W.N. Jr. (1985). Real Property Rights in Outer Space (Unpublished academic ed.). Footnote 79, p. 41. The quotation of the primary source is inexact.
  25. ^ Jaggard, Victoria (2009-07-17). "Who owns the Moon? The Galactic Government vs. the U.N." National Geographic News. National Geographic. Archived from the original on July 21, 2009. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  26. ^ "Lunar Embassy - World Headquarters" (main page). 2006-07-17. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  27. ^ "Meet the man who owns the Moon". U.S. News & World Report. 25 March 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  28. ^ "Dennis M. Hope has owned the moon since 1980 because he says so". VICE. 11 April 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  29. ^ "3 Yemenis sue NASA for trespassing on Mars". CNN. 1997-07-24. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  30. ^ "Yemenis claim Mars". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 1998-03-22. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  31. ^ "Orbital Development". August 2007. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  32. ^ "The Eros Project: Legal Actions". 2004-03-08. Retrieved 2013-06-04.