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The two primary documents regarding legal niceties on the Moon and often mentioned are:

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967, seems to prohibit land ownership (Article II; "is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.") and Article VI puts all non-governmental entities under the control and responsibility of their home country. This would seem to preclude land ownership.

Questions of a legal opinion are out of scope here. This question relates solely to the existence of other documents and treaties.

Are there any other documented agreements or treaties between a majority of the nations which have the technologies to travel into space which would allow for, or do not specifically prohibit owning land on the moon?

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    $\begingroup$ Buy it from whom? $\endgroup$ – Keith Thompson Sep 16 '13 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ Buy now before it's all gone. lunarregistry.com $\endgroup$ – user6972 Sep 16 '13 at 18:36
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    $\begingroup$ Yes. Please send me $1000 per acre using Paypal. I have some very scenic and historic Mare available. $\endgroup$ – Mark Adler Sep 17 '13 at 2:52
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    $\begingroup$ I have to assume the bottom line is the same as any other piece of land in the history of land grabs: You have to fight off the person living there claiming it or buy it from them to own it. Titles get sorted out later. Otherwise no one really owns it. $\endgroup$ – user6972 Sep 21 '13 at 4:00
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    $\begingroup$ I will happily sell you land on the Moon. How many acres do you want to buy? $\endgroup$ – Jay Dec 9 '14 at 20:34
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In 2013, Bigelow Aerospace Inc. sought permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to claim property on the moon for lunar mining. Bigelow's legal staff had advised that the FAA is the place to start asking for permission, while the FAA insisted that they have no jurisdiction over spacecraft--despite their involvement in launches.

James Dunstan of Mobius Legal Group claimed that the FAA has no authority over the moon, and likely would not make a determination on the matter.

But in December 2014, they did. In a letter to Bigelow, the FAA stated that they intend to "leverage the FAA’s existing launch licensing authority to encourage private sector investments in space systems by ensuring that commercial activities can be conducted on a non-interference basis."

Others have pointed out that both officially and practically speaking the FAA has no jurisdiction outside of the U.S. To clarify what role the FAA is playing, the author of the letter to Bigelow told the press:

We didn’t give (Bigelow Aerospace) a license to land on the moon. We’re talking about a payload review that would potentially be part of a future launch license request. But it served a purpose of documenting a serious proposal for a U.S. company to engage in this activity that has high-level policy implications

In the long run, then, the FAA will probably not exert much more control over space than they already do, but in the short term they are going to do what they can to work with commercial companies to bring greater visibility to the issues of commercial space.

Sources:

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    $\begingroup$ And why would they? The only place the FAA has any jurisdiction is US-controlled airspace. The only reason they are used elsewhere is because international traffic either uses US airports or sees the FAA as a de facto standards body. $\endgroup$ – Erik Jan 8 '15 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Erik Apparently, Bigelow knew where to look. The FAA is indeed going to go forward with this: reuters.com/article/2015/02/03/…. Edit soon to come. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jun 5 '15 at 13:40
  • $\begingroup$ Bigelow is just covering their backside because they conduct business in the US. The FAA has no jurisdiction over anything outside of US territory. This is just another example of how bureaucracy, if allowed, will expand to fill a void. $\endgroup$ – Erik Jun 5 '15 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Erik In regards to FAA having no jurisdiction outside of US territory, agreed. But the US does have an international responsibility for its citizens, so any US space business would be expected to follow US space laws--and it appears the FAA, for better or for worse, has agreed to step in and fill the void for now. Of course, practically, enforcing things from that distance is a problem--and working out issues with other countries is also a problem. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jun 5 '15 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, US citizens (and anyone else for that matter) are subject to US laws when they step on US territory or someplace that has extradition treaties with the US. But nothing about a piece of paper filed in Washington DC prevents someone else from owning property on the moon. Ultimately, I guess you could say it is the gun in your hand that prevents someone from taking your property on the moon. $\endgroup$ – Erik Jun 5 '15 at 13:57
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In simple words, you cannot buy land on the Moon, because there is no no one to buy from.

However, examine the term 'ownership'. Yes, you cannot have a sale deed or a mortgage paper for your little patch of the Moon, so you technically cannot own it. However, no law stops you from (with sufficient funds) building a rocket, flying over, and camping out in a spot of the Moon, thereby occupying it. So, you can or cannot own land on the Moon, it just depends on your definition of 'own'.

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    $\begingroup$ Did you look at the comments under the question? Some of this is discussed in the last few. YOu need to click (show 6 more comments) to see them. $\endgroup$ – James Jenkins Nov 13 '13 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ So what are you looking for in an answer? $\endgroup$ – Vedant Chandra Nov 13 '13 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ "Are there any other documented agreements or treaties between a majority of the nations which have the technologies to travel into space which would allow for, or do not specifically prohibit owning land on the moon?" $\endgroup$ – James Jenkins Nov 13 '13 at 15:59
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You can't "buy" the land as no one so far owns any lunar property so there are no sellers. However, you can own lunar property by homesteading the property. Private property rights are natural, inalienable, and are not granted by any nation. You, of course, will be responsible for protecting your own liberties once you get there.

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  • $\begingroup$ The homestead principle, from that very article, seems to be somewhat controversial ("part of a series on libertarianism"?); it is certainly not beyond dispute, and the fact that the US had to explicitly pass laws to allow limited homesteading in certain areas shows that it's not something all nations consider automatically valid in all cases. $\endgroup$ – Nathan Tuggy Jun 9 '15 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ What other nations consider valid is immaterial. Their sovereignty is as meaningless on the moon as the US'. These nations' opinions only matter if the owners plan on travelling to or doing business in these nations' sovereign lands. For owners travelling through US lands, the US is a country with the technology to travel in space (per the original question) and does recognize and affirm private property rights in the US Constitution -- which trumps any other agreements, laws, or treaties. $\endgroup$ – Erik Jun 9 '15 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ Then why was the Homesteading Act felt necessary in the first place, if the Constitution already allowed for it? I think this argument is oversimplified. $\endgroup$ – Nathan Tuggy Jun 9 '15 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ If you are referring to the Homestead Acts, these acts covered land that was considered to be already owned by the federal government. Also, laws are often created that are redundant (the Bill of Rights for example). $\endgroup$ – Erik Jun 9 '15 at 18:01
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Can you buy land on the moon?

You can buy.


Entirely from Moon Estates (they sell the Moon acre at £ 16.75):

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 explicitly forbids any government from claiming a celestial resource such as the Moon or a planet.

What does this mean? Well it means that governments can not appropriate the Moon or other celestial bodies. Effectively, governments have signed to the fact that they have no rights to these bodies at all. What is actually important here is what the Outer Space Treaty does not say. It explicitly does not say whether commercial enterprises or private individuals can claim, exploit or appropriate the celestial bodies for profit. (Note that the Lunar Embassy is not a government body.)

The United Nations and all countries that signed the Outer Space Treaty became aware of this vital omission almost immediately after the treaty was ratified in 1967. In fact, the United Nations have expended a large amount of time trying to ratify an amendment to the treaty ever since, that would explicitly include corporations and individuals.

All attempts at ratifying such an amendment failed because member states did not agree with it. So, in the end, all the ratification attempts were summarized into the famous Moon Treaty some 15 years later. This information is a well documented fact today.


Summary:

  • You can buy portions of the Moon.
  • You may sell portions of the Moon, though the law is not clear about that.
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    $\begingroup$ Scams such as the Moon Estates neglect to point out that the only one who recognizes the "claim" to land that you purchased is the scammer themselves. Your "ownership" of the land is useless since you cannot defend your claim against others who contest your claim--therefore you functionally do not own the land. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jun 5 '15 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage: Nobody can claim you're not the owner, and they are. And for you, you're the "owner" of something which is unreachable, and that you cannot protect. So nobody is hurt. Actually they sell a fancy certificate, not too much expensive. What about this one? ($6,716,000). Same idea. $\endgroup$ – mins Jun 5 '15 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ Someone could claim it--Bigelow Aerospace, for example--and actually occupy that space on the moon with permission from more established authorities. Of course, you'd still have rights to the certificate, but the land on the moon that it is supposed to represent would belong to Bigelow. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jun 5 '15 at 19:02
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    $\begingroup$ Of course, Moon Estates could change that by getting permission, similar to how Bigelow Aerospace did, to launch an operation to the moon. Once the Moon Estates actually had a physical presence there, they could sell access to their property remotely via rover or directly via space ferry. But no company is doing that yet. Bigelow is in the position to do something along those lines if their hotel business takes off. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jun 5 '15 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage: I'm sure Moon Estates is ready to exchange your land for a new one, and update your certificate, if your property is squatted by Bigelow. Conciliatory gesture :-) $\endgroup$ – mins Jun 5 '15 at 19:12

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