Elon Musk is currently making plans to to go Mars and set up a permanent colony there.
When he gets there and assuming the colony survives - who will own Mars?

The thought that governments on earth (anywhere from 35 to 250 million miles away), and their treaties, will control the actions of people living on Mars, the moons of the gas giants or the asteroids don't appear to take into account that the pioneers that manage to create viable societies of their own may not take kindly to attempts to assert control by 'foreign' powers.

I think the Earth based governments can make a substantial case for asserting control over the moon, but not over the entire solar system. In either case, treaties and other international agreements are usually broken or simply ignored at the convenience of the participants.

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    $\begingroup$ Who owns the Earth? $\endgroup$
    – JAB
    Mar 30, 2018 at 18:02
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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate: space.stackexchange.com/q/1990/58 (I know it addresses the moon, but the answer is the same) $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Mar 30, 2018 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ Also, don't just look at my answer on that one. Read the others. The "owner" is the one who can enforce their territorial claim. The FAA's license is only meaningful because it is a branch of the US government, and the USA is a world superpower. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Mar 30, 2018 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ Cononies, tsck, you put so much money into setting them up, then yet more keeping them going, but as soon as they start to look just a little self sufficient and you might see a little ROI the little monkeys start going on about independance. $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Mar 31, 2018 at 7:39
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    $\begingroup$ The possible duplicate talks about abstract owning of parts of the planet[oid], and rules out companies based on their home country. That question does not address an established colony. Once a colony is established, then it may no longer have a home country. As a result I do not beleive the possile duplicate answers the question. $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Mar 31, 2018 at 8:00

1 Answer 1


No one will, as long as they have ratified the Outer Space Treaty, which all space fairing nations have. It explicitly states (all text from the State Department page):

Article II

Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.

Additionally, SpaceX is governed by the treaty as well:

Article VI

States Parties to the Treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions set forth in the present Treaty. The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty. When activities are carried on in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, by an international organization, responsibility for compliance with this Treaty shall be borne both by the international organization and by the States Parties to the Treaty participating in such organization.

However, they will retain ownership of there hardware:

Article VIII

A State Party to the Treaty on whose registry an object launched into outer space is carried shall retain jurisdiction and control over such object, and over any personnel thereof, while in outer space or on a celestial body. Ownership of objects launched into outer space, including objects landed or constructed on a celestial body, and of their component parts, is not affected by their presence in outer space or on a celestial body or by their return to the Earth. Such objects or component parts found beyond the limits of the State Party to the Treaty on whose registry they are carried shall be returned to that State Party, which shall, upon request, furnish identifying data prior to their return.

  • $\begingroup$ Straight out of the book - but how could anyone enforce it, given that private actors are likely to beat the government enforcers to the goal? $\endgroup$
    – Robert
    Mar 30, 2018 at 19:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Robert Because Space X is bound by Article VI, if Space X was to blatantly violate it then they would have the US to answer to, in reality when we get much closer to it becoming a problem, I suspect a whole new regulatory framework will be in place, but I expect that will not happen or be required in the next hundred years. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Omo
    Mar 30, 2018 at 19:34
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    $\begingroup$ While they wont, by this treaty, be allowed to own the surface, they will own the infrastructure -- a bit like owning a building under leasehold and renting bits out. So they wont own the planet you live on, but they will own the world you live in. $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Mar 31, 2018 at 7:46

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