Re: SPACE: Land Claims (Was: SPACE: rumors)

From: Michael S. Lorrey (
Date: Fri Jun 23 2000 - 08:22:38 MDT wrote:
> [[ Also time for only a quick reply on this this morning -- more later ]]
> In a message dated 6/23/00 1:18:34 AM Central Daylight Time,
> writes:
> > Spike Jones wrote:
> > >
> > > Question legal types: if we extropians were the first to land and
> > > stay on Mars, could we legally claim the whole rock? spike
> >
> > You could try, but the Outer Space treaty prohibits extraterrestrial
> > claims, and signatory nations would not recognize such claims. Bottom
> > line is, you'd have to be ready to survive an embargo. Conversely, it's
> > a great big commons that you're free to rape- materials extracted would
> > be yours, ya just can't claim real estate. When the time comes, this
> > treaty could be renegotiated or abrogated, of course.
> I'll check in more detail to confimr this, but I think the treaty only
> prohibits national claims of SOVEREIGNTY. The issue of private OWNERSHIP is
> left untouched, although, naturally, most conventional-minded lawyers assume
> "no sovereignty" = "no property", since they identify property with the state.

The big problem with the Outer Space Treaty and the Moon Treaty is that they
violate a principle of international law called 'dereliction of sovereignty',
whereas a claimant to sovereign power over some piece of property must maintain
some sort of presence or record of regular visitation and maintenance. This is
the legal basis for the claims of sovereignty that the Prince of Sealand made to
support his taking over that gun platform, in that it was outside the
territorial waters of the UK, and that the UK maintained no presence and made no
visitations or maintenance upon the site on an annual basis. It is this
principle that requires that all islands around the world that are not within
the territorial boundaries of some other land must be visited at least once a
year by representatives of the sovereign power that claims them. The US Coast
Guard does this function with all islands the US claims which are uninhabited.

When it comes to space, this obviously brings up an issue of visitation. One
might claim that an automated robot might possibly count as a 'visitation' or
'presence', but robots are not citizens and cannot carry power of attorney or
diplomatic status (though there is the case of a king appointing his horse to
cabinet or some such drivel). This clearly opens up the possibility that these
treaties have no force under international law due to their violation of the
principle of dereliction of sovereignty.

Nations that are signors of the Antarctic Treaty can maintain this principle
there because they have permanent manned presences there.

Mike Lorrey

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