This is probably the most famous image of a flag ever made: Buzz Aldrin stood next to the first US flag on the moon. For those who knew their world history, some alarm bells sounded. Less than a century ago, back on Earth, the planting of one national flag in another part of the world still meant claiming that territory for the Fatherland. Have the stars and stripes on the moon symbolized the founding of an American colony?
When people hear for the first time that I, as a lawyer, are practicing and teaching the "Spatial Law," they often ask, often with a big smile or a twinkle in their eyes: "Tell me, who owns it Moon?"
Of course, the demand for new national territories was a European custom applied to non-European parts of the world. In particular, the Portuguese, the Spaniards, the Dutch, the French and the English created huge colonial empires. But while their attitude was very Europe-centered, the legal notion that flagging was an act of sovereignty establishment quickly remained firm and was accepted worldwide as part of the law of nations.
Obviously the astronauts had more important things in their minds than thinking about the legal significance and consequences of that planted flag, but fortunately the problem had been resolved before the mission. Since the beginning of the space race, the US has known that for many people around the world, the sight of a US flag on the moon would cause major political problems. Any suggestion that the moon could legally become part of the American backwaters could reinforce such concerns and possibly trigger international disputes that damage both the US space program and US interests as a whole.
Decolonization could take place until 1
Yet, the simple answer to the question of whether Armstrong and Aldrin have turned the moon, or at least a large part of it, into American territory through their small ceremony, turns out to be "no." NASA or the US government wanted the US Use this flag for this effect.
So you want to mine an asteroid
Countries like the United States and Luxembourg (as the gateway to the European Union) agree that the moon and asteroids are "global." commons, "meaning that every country allows its private entrepreneurs, as long as they are properly licensed and in accordance with other relevant rules of space law, to go there and extract what they can to earn money A bit like the law of the high seas, which is not under the control of a single country, but is completely open to properly licensed law-abiding fisheries by citizens and companies of a country. Once the fish is in its nets, it is legal to sell.  On the other hand, countries like Russia, and somewhat less explicitly Brazil and Belgium, keep the moon and the asteroids of the human race t belong as a whole. And that is why the potential benefits of commercial exploitation for all of humankind should be created – or at least subjected to a presumably stringent international regime – to guarantee the benefit to all humankind. It's a bit like the regime originally created for harvesting natural resources from the deep ocean floor. It has created an international licensing regime, as well as an international company that should reduce those resources and generally share the benefits between all countries.
In my opinion, the former position would certainly make more sense, both legally and practically the litigation is far from over. Meanwhile, the interest in the moon has also renewed – at least China, India and Japan have serious plans to return there and to increase the stakes even further. Therefore, we will have to teach our students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln about these topics for many years. While ultimately the international community must decide whether to reach a common agreement on either or both of these positions, it is crucial that agreement can be reached in one way or another. Such activities, which are developed without generally applicable and accepted law, would be a worst-case scenario. Although it is no longer colonization, it can have the same harmful consequences.
Frans von der Dunk has a consulting firm dealing with issues of space law and space. This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original article.