Who Owns Mars? | Outer Space Treaty | Unveiled
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Who Owns Mars? | Outer Space Treaty | Unveiled

November 21, 2019


Who Owns Mars? More than 500 people have now been to space,
travelling into orbit, going all the way to the ISS, or even as far as the other side
of the moon. But these astronauts have never tried to claim the extra-terrestrial landscapes
they’ve visited. As humans today set their sights on Mars, with aims to build colonies
and habitats, it makes you wonder whether we actually have a right to do so? This is Unveiled, and today we’re answering
the extraordinary question; Who owns Mars? Are you a fiend for facts? Are you constantly
curious? Then why not subscribe to Unveiled for more clips like this one? And ring the
bell for more fascinating content! In a different life, there’s an obvious
answer to this question; the Martians own Mars! But there’s one big problem there
because we’re yet to prove that Martians of any kind exist. Where space ethics are
concerned though, even if only microbial life was one day discovered on the Red Planet,
it might be deemed unethical for humans to go to Mars and interfere with their ecosystem.
But it’s a tricky issue with or without the presence of extraterrestrial life. For
example, you probably wouldn’t consider the Earth to be the property of humans. For
a hypothetical, objective outsider looking in, there are so many other lifeforms here
and we’re vastly outnumbered… and even if it was just us, the idea of outright “owning”
our planet is still a little odd, let alone owning one that we don’t even reside on.
Nevertheless, it is an idea that’s been thrown around before by people in power. Back when mankind first set its sights on
actually travelling to other worlds, who should or shouldn’t be able to build in space (and
what they were or weren’t allowed to put there), was decided by the Outer Space Treaty
of 1967. Officially, it has the not exactly snappy title, the “Treaty on Principles
Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including
the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies”. It was laid out by the governments of the United
States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom, and since then has gained 109 parties and
an additional 23 signatories. In a nutshell, this lengthy piece of legislation (written
at the height of the Cold War) sets down important rules banning the detonation, testing or placement
of nuclear weapons anywhere outside of Earth’s atmosphere. But the bit we’re most interested
in is where it stipulates that space is for everyone and has to be used to the benefit
of all mankind. This means that, right now, no nation is legally allowed to claim territory
anywhere in space, including on Mars. Either space doesn’t belong to anybody at all,
or it belongs to all of us equally. However, any resources a country collects
in space they can claim ownership of. If somebody were to set up a mining rig on the Moon to
harvest polar ice, for instance, they’d own the water they gathered, but they still
wouldn’t ever own the land they were mining. Similarly, if a country launches something
into space, they still own whatever that something is. So satellites, space probes, shuttles
and so on don’t automatically become the property of everyone once they’re launched
into orbit or beyond; Something like the Curiosity Rover will always belong to NASA and the US.
All of which means that even if a country builds and populates an entire city on Mars
one day, unless the law changes, they’d own whatever they built but still wouldn’t
be entitled to the land they built it on. It’s similar to the rules on international
waters; you could build and own a rig on the High Seas, but you can’t own the actual
water that rig is built above. But, despite the clear laws detailing outer
space territory, outer space real estate is still a thriving venture. There are a host
of companies selling deeds to plots of land, say an acre in size, on all sorts of celestial
bodies; on the Moon, Mars and even Venus. While it’s true that most who buy the deeds
aren’t actually planning to build on the moon – they’re usually given as fun novelty
gifts – whether or not “space deeds” are a scam is debateable. The businesses themselves
could argue that they’re simply using a loophole because although the Outer Space
Treaty says that no nation can own land in space, it doesn’t specifically say that
no private company can… But, even so, these types of claims to Martian or any other type
of outer space land are not recognised by any established space administration, and
they’re not widely expected to hold up in a court of law. Large-scale private ownership is an issue
that could well reach the courts one day, though. Big brands like SpaceX, Boeing, Virgin,
and Blue Origin are all vying to go to distant celestial bodies while, in 2016, Moon Express
became the first private company to gain permission from the US government to go to the moon,
as part of their bid to land the Google Lunar X Prize. The Moon Express project eventually
fell short of its goals, but the precedent has now been set for companies in the future
liaising with governments to reset the rules of space. Perhaps something like Blue Origin
will one day be powerful enough to lobby to get the laws on space territory changed, though
it would still be Jeff Bezos versus at least the 109 countries on the Outer Space Treaty…
Even the founder of Amazon would have his work cut out! The prospect of letting private companies
run rampant in space perhaps isn’t for everyone. There are plenty that argue that space should
continue to be explored and utilised carefully with all of mankind’s best interests at
heart… but not everyone shares this opinion. Alan Wasser, the chairman of the Space Settlement
Institute, has suggested that letting private companies into space would actually encourage
growth and could trigger faster development and implementation of space travel tech. Advocates
for private ownership have previously proposed a structure like Jamestown, the first permanent
English settlement in the US, where The London Company was put in charge and ferried labourers
over from Europe. Anyone concerned with space ethics might have a thing or two to say about
this idea, though… not least because of how many people died during the formative
years of Jamestown, but also because those colonists proceeded to take as much land as
possible and were ultimately responsible for the Native American Genocide. In this way,
adopting a similar kind of attitude toward expanding out into the solar system perhaps
isn’t the way forward. It could lead companies to believe they have a justifiable claim over
alien landscapes just on the merit of “being there”. If Martians do exist in any form, even if
they’re simply microbes and bacteria rather than fully-fledged, complex beings, then even
attempting to claim ownership of the land they occupy could be seen as morally wrong.
And, if it remarkably turns out that there is an intelligent Martian race, we would surely
have to abandon our plans to go to Mars – or at least rethink them so that we don’t appear
as aggressive invaders. For as long as the situation remains as it
is now, though, there will always be interest in effectively dividing up the Red Planet
between whichever governments or companies manage to get there. But that interest shouldn’t,
under current law, transpire into action. It’s been held for decades that space is
for everybody and nobody can claim the land out there; it’s to be used for the good
of humanity as a whole and not for exploitation or private gain. And that’s why nobody owns
Mars. What do you think? Is there anything we missed?
Let us know in the comments, check out these other clips from Unveiled, and make sure you
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  1. legit question;; you mention gifting a small amount of martian land – can you please link me to one of these sites?? *asking for a friend * ha

  2. I think if 1 nation or company terafored mars than they should be givin 50% of that planet and the other 50% divided between all nation thats signed that space tready

  3. Good luck imposing a law that was not agreed to by all countries now in the Mars race! Also, if China gets there and goodluck evicting them!

  4. No one owns anything. You think you own your house but it can be taken away like your car. You think you own something try not paying taxes on it. Brain washed people quit lying to yourself and the rest of us!

  5. Human race is so stupid when we think something belongs to us. We own a human body for as long as we live. Thats all. All the bad things in history of humanity happened because of money and stupidity of owning stuff.

  6. Mars will be the property of the individual people who get there and settle it. No Earthly nation has a right to claim it, nor do they have the resources to stop future individuals from forgoing allegiance to the rulers of Earth. Mars is the next frontier of human expansion. It is our destiny to dominate the universe. We must not be stopped by idiotic regulations put in place by our masters. Break your chains friends! Settle Mars!

  7. I would say that humans own earth since we run the place. An unless there is another intelligent creature in our solar system we own it to.

  8. What would happen if aliens had visited earth millions of years ago before humans and stuck a flag in the soil and are now on there way back to this planet, my understanding is it's there's as explorers have done with countries around this planet, as far as they know earth isn't this planets name!!!!

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