For now at least, the moon is like the sea: everyone can use it, but no one can own it. In 1967 the U.S. and the Soviet Union negotiated the Outer Space Treaty, which states that no nation can own a piece of the moon or an asteroid. “You have a right to go up and take the lunar soil, but you don’t have any right to draw a square on the surface of the moon and say, ‘That square is mine,’” says Stephen E. Doyle, a retired lawyer who served as NASA’s Deputy Director of Internal Affairs. If the Space Settlement Institute—which lobbies for private industry to develop land on other planets—has its way, new laws will allow space colonists to stake moon claims and start a colony.
Alan Wasser, the Space Settlement Institute’s chairman, says that a private company should build a “spaceline,” similar to an airline, between the Earth and moon. And because a corporation is not a nation, the Outer Space Treaty would not apply. Corporations have settled new worlds before.