Law and Property Rights in Outer Space, Celestial Bodies and Natural Resources

Ray Taylor

Recent moves by NASA to develop international co-operation around its Artemis lunar programme have again raised the question of whether international law would allow commercial extraction and use of space resources such as water ice. The Artemis Accords, announced on 15 May 2020, set out NASA’s intentions in respect of these and related issues.

Ray Taylor’s 2018 dissertation ‘Law and property rights in outer space: celestial bodies and natural resources’ provides a detailed discussion of the legal issues involved and includes a useful introduction to the concept of ‘space law.’
Announcement of the Artemis Accords makes it clear that any moves by NASA will be alongside commercial and international partners. As Space Lawyer Michelle Hanlon explains “By exploring these bilateral accords, the US is building upon the successful model of the International Space Station Intergovernmental Agreement.”

credit NASA

NASA says that any future agreement with international space agencies that join NASA in the Artemis program will give a shared vision for principles “grounded in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967,” to facilitate “exploration, science, and commercial activities for all of humanity to enjoy.”
The Accords also include provisions to protect lunar heritage such as the Apollo 11 landing site and to establish agreed ‘safety zones’ to protect lunar installations. “The emphasis on heritage is particularly important,” says Hanlon, “because there will be activities on the Moon that endanger heritage sites.”

Ray Taylor recently completed (2018) an extensive research project and dissertation on property rights in outer space for his Law Master’s degree is available here. He can be contacted via LinkedIn

Michelle L.D. Hanlon, Space Lawyer, is co-founder of For All Moonkind
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