Lets say I made a robot with a bunch of tools and landed it on the Moon (Luna). Then using remote control I instructed a robot over video/control channel to extract some resources (metals, oxigen, ...) from Lunar regolith. I figured out a way to separate and store the gases. I've used metals to build a platform for landing.

Question: who owns the supplies and infrastructure if there was no living being involved in immediate proximity.

Any authoritative sources?

EDIT1/PART2: As JBentley has correctly surmised and I did not clearly state above - there are areas of concern with regard to ownership and private property AND automated means of creation of those.

If there is no human presence directly at the site, is the property occupied? Points to consider:

  1. From Squatters Rights Law and Legal Definition | USLegal, Inc. A squatter's right is a legal allowance to use the property of another in the absence of an attempt by the owner to force eviction. The doctrine of adverse possession discourages disuse of property. According to the doctrine, if property was abandoned, and someone else "squatted" on it for a number of years, the squatter could gain control over the land. ... In the United States, squatting laws vary from state to state and city to city.
  2. Claim filing/claim jumping. (same as 3?)
  3. I have a feeling that the Homesteading is not applicable, since no one owns it now.
  4. What can I do to stop it? I would hate to weponize construction equipment, even though there is plenty of precedents in the Sci Fi lit. One example is how ice miners used Laser drills for space defense in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", by Robert Heinlein. But let's come down to Earth. err... Moon? (:-).
  5. If I try to defend any of it and Russia comes knocking with their interpretation of property rights, what then??? I do not want to start WW3. Or would it be Solar System War 1? (:-((

I am beginning to understand why no commercial interrest has materialized yet. And I should (hypothetically) probably partner with NASA or US Space Force.

Any authoritative sources?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It'd be interesting to see this compared/contrasted to current international laws regarding oil platforms in international waters. Presumably there aren't any fully automated oil rigs yet, but once there are, they'd seem analogous. $\endgroup$
    – Nat
    Aug 25, 2019 at 6:47
  • $\begingroup$ Really, there's a bigger question here about legal ownership of land, resources, or structures outside of Earth. An important part of ownership is enforcement. If you claim a patch of the moon and have rovers driving about, it is for all intents and purposes yours unless a government is willing to exert authority there in the form of military or law enforcement officers. $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Aug 25, 2019 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ Here is some historic perspective on part 1 of how we got here: youtube.com/watch?v=h6AWAoc_Lr0 $\endgroup$
    – gene
    Aug 27, 2019 at 21:31

1 Answer 1


There are two schools of thought discussed in Asteroid Mining: International and Legal Aspects by Frans G. von der Dunk:

Perspective 1: The US and countries like Luxembourg believe that any resources mined on the moon are global commons which allows licensed entities to make a commercial business out of mining the moon. (see page 96 in the document and footnotes #59 to 61 including 1, 2, 3)

Perspective 2: Other countries like Russia and Belgium believe any resources mined on the moon should be the property of all humanity or needs to be heavily regulated. (See pages 97 and 98 in the document and footnoted material)

With regards to automated / remote mining, there are no explicit differences (vis a vis manual / human led) as it relates to ownership.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 however I think the OP's question can be divided into two separate issues: (1) mining resources on the moon generally, and (2) mining using automated means. Your answer addresses point (1) but not point (2), which I think the OP is more focussed on (albeit the answer is probably as simple as; it makes no difference). $\endgroup$
    – JBentley
    Aug 25, 2019 at 11:56
  • $\begingroup$ @JBentley is right - I clumsily asked for both. I now think that the 2nd part deserves it's own question as a follow up to this one, since I think it make a difference. Makes sense? Or should I edit this question to clarify??? $\endgroup$
    – gene
    Aug 25, 2019 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ @gene - edited the answer to include your question #2, so you can leave your question as is. $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2019 at 15:58

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