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Who Owns the Moon? And Other Exotic, Barely Inhabitable Places.

Good primer on Space Law in Slate’s Explainer column today. India launched a moon mission yesterday, wherein an unmanned orbiter will map Lune’s polar regions. Also on the agenda: detecting subsurface uranium. But, if found, who’d own it? Who does our bright, white, phase-shifting satellite belong to, for that matter? Does planting a flag on the lunar surface (or elsewhere) have fifteenth-century legal consequences? To the extent we’ve overcome the Law of the Jungle since then, no. But ambiguities abound.

If a country—or a private company—were to try opening a mine on the moon, it would be stepping onto uncertain legal ground. The Outer Space Treaty is silent on the question of extracting natural resources in space, and legal experts differ over what language mandating “free access” to all areas of space might mean for mining. 

The Explainer column links to and discusses various international treaties including the Outer Space Treaty, the Moon Treaty, the Antarctic Treaty, and the Law of the Sea with regard to ownership of the Arctic sea bed. Barely inhabitable but potentially or actually resource rich! Fun stuff.